Recently, I met an artist who claimed to be struggling for nothing. When I asked him to explain, he started off with a story about how he has been disappointed about not getting any art awards and not being able to make good sales. I told him that art and struggle always went hand-in-hand.
More often than not, an artist goes through a state of active non-accomplishment
It is not about failing to reach a specific goal; it’s ongoing failure without an end. This can lead to frustration, disappointed potential, stunted ambition, loneliness, depression and what not. Quite obviously people start giving up their goals. In fact, this is something that happens every day. It is a feeling that I totally understand because I have been in such a situation for quite some time in my life.
There are many artists that I know of, whose work has never been published or even, for that matter, finished. While some have been waiting to publish their work in the near future, there are quite a few who have given up their passion to paint rather happily. Yes, there are certain grey areas when it comes to living the life of an artist and these do push us towards abandonment. But giving up doesn’t really help. It takes more than just a few sunsets to reach your destination, which means you have to stay on the course, come what may.
Here are a few cases of labor-intensive creative achievements that we have put together for you. Going through them might lift up your spirits if you are on the verge of giving up your passion:
Ben Johnson: He is one artist who put in seventeen years of work just on one artwork and during that he painted each and every building that you can see on the Liverpool skyline. He managed to paint all the 30,000 tiles of Dome of the Rock using seven layers of plant for each.
Junot Diaz: He found it very difficult to write his novel after he released his first book of short stories in 1996. Although his first book won a lot of critical acclaim, he found himself unable to finish his second piece of work. He did have his moments when he wanted to give up his writer life; but he plunged back again. It took him an extra five years to finish his novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” However, his efforts were really worthwhile as the book won him the Pulitzer.
Scott Weaver: This man built an entire structure (9 feet tall, 7 feet wide and 2 feet deep) out of toothpicks, although it took him 35 years to finish. It was a complete model of San Francisco that he created. He dared to dream and pursued it to success, despite the struggle.
Brooklyn Bridge: The Brooklyn Bridge of the 1800’s, one of the world’s most brilliant engineering innovations, was completed only after putting in ten years of efforts. It came up in spite of incessant technical setbacks and constant naysaying from the skeptics. It cost the lives of about twenty to thirty men, one of whom was John Roebling, the architect of the Bridge. It has been 125 years now and the bridge is still strong enough to carry traffic across the East River. However, a few modifications have been done to the original design so as to allow modern transportation.
The Sistine Chapel of Michelangelo: This work also took a whole lot of time to get finished. It was completed in two phases. The first one was completed in the year 1512 during which the focus was on the magnificent ceiling Frescos. The second phase, which was the Last Judgement, started only in 1535 and was completed in 1541.
The Cave paintings: The magnificent paintings that we so admire in the ancient caves across the world, took centuries to complete. An artist here or there might have added his/her works later on.
Twenty years is what the Great Pyramid took while the Gothic Cathedral took centuries for completion. The Statue of Liberty, the most famous landmark of the world, took more than twelve years.
There are many art works that are yet to be completed. A few examples include:
Michelangelo’s magnificent tomb for Pope Julius II, which was never completed
The Basilica Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, Barcelona: This was started way back in 1882 and will probably take up to 2026 to get completed.
You can find more examples if you click here.
There are many artists who don’t really know when their artworks are complete. They keep on adding a few touches here and there even after years. However it’s very important to know when an artwork is complete, for it is only then that you know you have achieved your goal completely.
Every artist sticks to a style; there are contemplative artists, action artists and maybe a few who are a combination of both. There are artists, who take years to complete their art work; some that can never seem to complete their work and many who just give up their work in a swirl of self-doubt or frustration. Depression encompasses them until the guilt of abandonment motivates them to start again.
It is quite common for a mountain climber to come across a few rocky gaps while in action. However, the climber doesn’t stop there or give up climbing. He takes the rocky gap as a landmark of his progress and moves on to reach the peak. In a similar way, you will come across a phase where things may not move. However, this should not be the reason for you to abandon your art work.
“Do Not Be Tethered to Your Expectations,” said Leonardo Da Vinci
“Follow the Paint,” said Picasso
You need to look at what the paint has to offer you; not at what you want the paint to offer
You have to find rather than seek!
The line that exists between success and failure is very thin. Do not keep assessing your failures and blaming yourself for them. Instead, look forward towards success and move on. Find your way through those rocky gaps. Don’t just turn back because of boredom. Turn back only if you find a better path that takes you to the top of the mountain.
Most problems that you face while pursuing art are external. Blaming yourself for their existence is utter foolishness. That rocky gap that you saw was there long before you found it; it was never your fault. Congratulate yourself for reaching this landmark and move towards progression. You will find your path even if it takes some time!
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