Bringing back the Successful artist (Part 1)
Perhaps this blog will be more like a manifesto than like a blog post, but I wanted to have a go at it anyway. It is longer than usual, and because I really want to emphasise the text, I am not putting as many pictures as usual. Yes, during these months in Iran, something has happened inside of me that I have definitely in part talked about before in previous bog posts, but that I want to expand on in this one. I believe, even though it’s a very personal thing, that it will resonate with so many people. And the time is ripe enough to bring it out.
Seasonal and Emotional Change
In 10 days, autumn ins starting, and it is the time of transformation. The time where we shed all the unnecessary things and take in the last rays of warm sunlight while welcoming the rains, the dull colours and the cold breeze coming from the mountain once again. We are bringing in the walnuts, hazelnuts, apples and pears from the orchards and also enjoying the last big harvests of aubergines, which i fried up this morning (it took me no less than 3 hours). Autumn prepares us for winter, in which those transforming autumnal thoughts brew and get stronger, to be completely reborn with a burst of energy in spring and shine out in summer, before it all starts again. In 2 months, we will see the first snow on the mountains behind Tehran. It is difficult to imagine, after we have just passed the scorching summers, snow will come so fast. I am still sitting outside in 30 degrees taking up those warm rays, while listening to the many birds inhabiting our mulberry trees.
Something has been on my mind lately. I have noticed I spend a lot of my time lookng at other people, mostly creatives, being so incredibly JEALOUS of what they’re doing, while also in utter amazement of their many beautiful creations. Whether these people are making rugs like we do, or are in fashion design, textiles, painting, jewellery, literature, photography, anything. And it took me by surprise, because I do not recognize this emotion as part of who I am. Jealousy is generally not good for anyone, neither the giver nor the receiver, let alone all that space in between them. I started writing down my feelings, asked myself WHY I was feeling this way, why I couldn’t be so creative and make beautiful things?
Waking up the Unapologetic Creative Child Inside
It wasn’t until a camping trip with some friends that a dear girlfriend told me my diary looked like part of the book “Rah honarmand”, which I suddenly realised is the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I had started reading that book years and years ago and never finished, and was just reminded of it in Farsi! I immediately downloaded the book again, and started with its 12-week program to revamp your creative spirit. The idea is that you take away everything that is blocking your inner artist, and set that creative child that is still inside you free once again. It has been used by many famous artists, including Elisabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray Love and it was time for me to open it once again. Not just to be a more ‘productive’ or less jealous artist, but also to rediscover this artistic side that was inside all this time and that I did not always allow to show itself.
For those of you who are new here, I was never the kind of child you’d label ”a born artist”. Few children are. I devoured books, but also liked subjects such as maths and physics, as well as practiced a lot of sports. I wasn’t particularly obsessed with a specific form of art like drawing or theatre, nor did I have a specific outspoken talent. My grades were always high and consistent across all subjects. Because of this, I almost instantly ‘flowed’ into the scientific subjects at university. I studied theoretical physics, then changed to biochemical engineering, geosciences and then to international politics and law. Indeed, none of that comes close to more ‘creative’ subjects such as design, creative writing, let alone fine arts.
Soon though, I came to realise that, although I do enjoy all these subjects I learne about, the kind of lifestyle they promise in terms of job market, high-level stressful jobs ánd also witnessing daily the many sufferings of people and talking about everything that’s wrong in this world (I remember the cynical conversations in politics classes as well as at many conferences and symposiums), is not something I want to subscribe to for the rest of my life. I can’t look honestly at myself and all the things I enjoy and foresee in the future, while also working for a (likely) big organization and probably having to live in a big, bustling city, attending networking events and getting paid a shitload (not even always) for mostly, talking and not seeing the big results. If you have ever seen a lobby group for the European Commission, you’ll know what I mean.
Redefining our Idea of Artists
I’m going to take a dare here and speak for the majority of people out there. Many of us have been told over and over that art is not a real job. That artists fall under at least one of the following categories: broke, addicted, living from state money, lazy, unrealistic, ruined, weak, obsessive, dependent, difficult, adulterous, poor, devillish and so much more. I know this happened to me, and that for the longest time, this is what I believed. I was even told that artists belong to a set political group of people that “I would rather not be a part of”. Did it really take me starting all sorts of art hobbies on the side and giving them all up one by one, not even reading fiction anymore because i better read “real world, informative ” books, feeling completely devoid of inspiration and motivation, to realise that something isn’t quite right about this equation? I took up a work of fiction yesterday and was immediately transported into this other world with vivid images and smells and sounds. Unsurprisingly, I devoured the book. Realising once again the joys of this transportation through time and space made possible by simple words on paper. It was brilliant. Even if it wasn’t ‘the best work of fiction ever written’, it still made my time so much more valuable and I have more energy because of it.
In my life, I have taken up the following ways of making art thinking I want to really, really continue them because I just enjoy them so much: fiction writing, poetry writing, embroidery, harp playing, dancing, photography, photoshop, graphic design, block printing, mural painting, islamic calligraphy, carpet design, interior design, experimental pastry baking, japanese floristry, textile painting, foraging, pottery and glass cutting. That’s a big, long list. Each of these I enjoy to my core when I am engaged in them, and each of them I have put aside out of fear that they weren’t serious enough, I would never make money with it, I’m not good enough because I’m not obsessed with one of them, I should not “waste my smart brain”, and so so so much more. Why?
The purpose of art
In today’s day and age, where most stuff is mass-manufactured and of low enough quality to make sure you overturn your entire house at least once every 15-20 years, there is such hunger, almost like starvation, for beauty. Today, more and more artists, both independent and in collectives, are showing up and being WILDLY successful with their art. Not because they master painting like Rembrandt or Caravaggio, but because their paintings carry a message and an emotion that an IKEA print simply cannot. No matter how pretty it is! Because their furniture lasts and has a timeless elegance to it. And, in our case, because the rugs both honour tradition ánd get better with age. Art, is indeed, a form of loving resistance.
This answers every question.
Absolutely every question.
If you don’t see it, then read Part 2 (coming out next week) to find out what I mean, and continue this train of thought that I started with this post.
Also, please to tell me in the comments any feedback you may have. I would love to hear which artistic dream or hobby you gave up for a ‘real world’ career, and if you have taken it up again? In some way? Or if you plan to do so?