A Bearable Life

September 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

I heard a lovely story this week of a friend and fellow creator – discouraged in the process of creating – receiving a note in the mail. In the envelope, on a scrap of paper was nothing but the following quote by Kurt Vonnegut:

“The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

Sit with that for awhile.

I’m reminded of a documentary I keep returning to which follows a group of painters painting advertisements on buildings in the city. Watch Up There below (about 12 min).

I think it’s the mood and music of the piece that strike me – the painters are far removed from the bustle of the city, hanging about on the scaffolding. It’s lonely and painful work, and the video is shot during cold, grey, and rainy days.  The film is a visual representation of the creative process of artists, of the inner, daily battles to move past doubt, loneliness, and frustration and do the hard work of creating.

They face the same obstacles other artists do. Their art is an unnecessary, antiquated one. Vinyl is cheaper, faster. It takes years for a new painter to learn technique and style. Even if all the people watching from the streets below admire their work, few companies want to employ them. Still, what they do is valued and beautiful. “We paint green,” says one artist. I love that.

In the end, they have created something. They have made life more bearable.

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§ One Response to A Bearable Life

  • Danny Sabra says:

    What a great Vonnegut quote! I think people who make art of any kind often struggle with the reason to continue making it. It’s nice to have a reminder that art is worth doing, regardless of the quality or acclaim received.

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