The other day my boyfriend and I talked about what it feels like to work on a project (he’s a sculptor, and I paint) and we came to the conclusion that it is like petting a beast that lives inside us. Not taming it. But calming it. Having this creative beast inside is almost like sharing your body with another entity. You are subjected to its mood swings, its ups and downs, its successes and failures. And you have no control over it. My experience so far with having some sort of creative fire is that if you keep it bottled inside you get burned.
My beast began to grow at an early age. I was a difficult, strange child. Normal, conservative parents would have been afraid of my need to wear odd clothes, cut my own hair (badly) and paint on everything from coloring books to floors, walls, even the car. But not mine. They encouraged my creativity and even joined in. When I decided to strip naked and paint on myself one summer evening, instead of getting reprimanded my mother painted eyes on my chest and lips on my belly button. We then went into the backyard where my father, who is a photographer, took pictures of me dancing. The neighbor who lived in the apartment overlooking our backyard, not understanding what was going on, jumped to the conclusion that I was being exploited and called the police. I grew up being able to express myself totally and safely and I credit my parents and their broad-mindedness and love of art for making it possible.
Now that I’m older and see the pitfalls of pursuing a career in art, I ask myself why I would choose a profession that has one of the highest failure rates of any? My boyfriend and all his friends have Masters Degrees from various prestigious schools and they can barely pay their rent. They work crappy jobs doing their art at night and on the weekends. Well, I guess I owe it all to my taxman. I visited him a month ago and realized I would rather fight, struggle and possibly lose than let my beast eat me alive in a beige room filled with fake plants.