These tweets by David Sandum and Jo Parry inspired today’s post:
They got me thinking that being an artist is like being a marathon runner. In the spirit of full disclosure I should mention that my experience as a marathon runner consists of watching the New York Marathon on TV every year and then checking on the training progress of my neighbors, several of whom are horrifyingly active and have run the real thing! So, with my mountain of personal experience now laid bare, here is how I think being an artist compares with being a marathon runner.
Before attempting to run a marathon it is best to put in a little training (!), hours and hours of training, a lot of it alone, pounding the streets, building your stamina and strength. As an artist you also need training, years of it, learning about your materials and building your skills, with much time spent alone, developing your style and work habits.
Then comes the marathon. The first few miles are plain sailing, with the crowd lifting your spirits and your legs feeling strong but then, later in the race, psychology is all important. At some point it is just about you, your legs and your mental strength. Sometimes it is only mental strength that actually keeps those legs moving, despite the persistent voice in your head telling you how tired you are and how you could hop in a cab. Once again, there are comparisons with the life of an artist. We also have that persistent voice in our head, telling us how mediocre our work is and how much better and more successful other artists are. But unlike the marathon, where people line the course to encourage you, as an artist you sometimes feel like the entire world has lined up to encourage you to quit. It’s ironic that most people consider artists to be sensitive types and yet we have to develop a very thick skin in order to deal with the rejection we experience on a fairly regular basis – from competitions we fail to be accepted for, grants we fail to receive or galleries who don’t want to represent us. Most marathon runners don’t enter with the plan to win the race. they enter with the plan to finish the race, and if they are a sucker for punishment, they enter to improve on last years’ time. Artists need to think the same way. It is the constant progression of your own career that matters, not how you compare to other artists and their careers. Easier said than done, I know!
But there is one major difference between art and marathon running. In art there is no finish line. At the end of my daily art marathon, no-one has ever cheered, held up a placard with an encouraging message or wrapped me in a nice shiny blanket!
But wait…there is one more similarity. Marathon runners speak of a running ‘high’, a zone in which pain disappears and the joy of running is everything. Artists feel that too. It is what you aim for and hope for and can’t describe. It is addictive. If it wasn’t, why on earth would I run an art marathon every day?
Ready? Set. Paint!
Until next time…