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Expressing The Inner Life

A young artist I know, a very prolific painter whose work is full of energy, colour and joy, recently posted a self-portrait on Instagram. It was a very simple self-portrait in pencil, done quickly, with an admirable economy of line, but very direct. She looked out at the viewer boldly, with no artifice, no self-consciousness. There seemed to be an inquiry in her gaze, some puzzlement, but there was no expectation of an answer. Perhaps the question I saw posed in her eyes was rhetorical, a question to which no clear answer exists.

At any rate, she went on in her post to explain that this self-portrait was the most authentic work she had done in some time. This surprised me, as she paints every day with confidence and self-discipline. But she was discouraged and unsure, afraid that she had made an error in choosing the painter’s life.

We are all unsure at one time or another, and sometimes it seems that yes, indeed, we have chosen a path that is unstable, uncertain, or untenable. This is as true for artists as it is for any other career path, and perhaps more so, as often cultural occupations seem thankless, underappreciated and unsupported. However, the creative self cannot be easily denied, and while plumbers or Wall Street bankers may be passionate about their work, it seems to me that creativity is more the territory of the soul than plumbing or banking. I may be wrong…

To this young artist, I would like to say, stick to the artist’s way. Keep true to the painter’s urging. Know that expressing the inner life is a noble calling, fraught with side-steps and stumbles, but worth the effort. For looking inward can never be a futile task, and the rewards are beyond measure.

Watercolour on paper
The Wrestlers

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