My brother is two years older than I am and has never stopped teasing me. Ever. When I was much younger and thought I would be a writer, he told me that the less successful I was when I was alive, the more successful I would be when I was dead. And that dying young would help. (“Emily Dickinson,” he would say, looking at me pointedly.)
Then I turned to art and got the same message. (“Vincent van Gogh,” he would shrug.) He also assured me that in the future my work would be authenticated by DNA analysis of the cat hairs caught in the layers of my paint. Okay, that’s probably true.
I just wanted to say thanks to him. Little did he know that he was telling me something valuable: fame and money are not success. I’ve had Henry Darger on the brain this week, along with other artists who worked years in solitude without recognition. What kept them going?
It wasn’t critical appreciation or sales. It wasn’t validation of any kind. So it must have been the drive to create, the striving to make it right, and the joy when it finally (and so rarely) works.
I was in the studio this morning, at a slight loss like most Mondays, when I remembered what was important. I am lucky to be an artist.
So I tell myself: Make something. Anything. And then make the next thing. It’s enough.