Friday, April 9, 2010

An Artist's Vocation is to be Respected

Yesterday, Robert Genn sent his second letter of the week. Twice each week I am a recipient of this artist's newsletters. They are informative and stimulating. Further, his online site permits free listing of my website and for a small price an even better exposure online. Thousands of artists subscribe to his service.

His sent letters provide opportunity for comments and these are always worth a read. I occasionally respond as I did today. Genn cited a letter written by an American teacher of art named Charles Brooks. It can be read in its entirety at this web location.

Today I wrote, "The letter is a classic and it was worthwhile for me to read it but perhaps not with the results you expected for me. Brook’s advice to the artist was to disregard what critics might comment about the artist’s idleness of life when the world outside the artist’s own creative world is troubled, and to dismiss from one’s mind all of those temporal cares in order to focus upon the authentic and legitimate task of controlling that material world briefly in order to see well and then to nobly seize the opportunity to create something that becomes a portion of one’s legacy to others.

As I read this letter, I projected the many unbearable life situations in which many artistic spirits find themselves today. This letter is written to someone in the almost idyllic North American culture where all one has to shut out is extraneous traffic noise or the rumours of wars on CNN. Yet internationally and even personally there are worlds of pain and hurt and destruction that are not easily dismissed in order to gain solitude for a creative moment. The letter caused me to reflect upon artists who have respected their craft so well that they did not have to justify it or even to find solace from a wild world in order to create. I think of the painters of the war experiences of our world, who like photo journalists today, recorded for us a material world coming undone, and faces of beautiful men and women dying, dead or fighting for freedom. I think of Vincent Van Gogh who early in his career tried to pastor the poverty stricken potato farmers and recorded their faces and gnarled hands because he could not ignore his world but found something to be treasured there. An artist is far more than a recluse needing affirmation for a vocation that doesn’t hammer nails or build empires. An artist’s vocation is not merely for the good times, or for the times when you can escape a bad world. It is for every world condition and that is why it is to be respected."


  1. Great article. Incentive to paint what needs to be said.

  2. Your comment, not surprisingly, Ron, is, I think, reflective of a Christian attitude that we are not to (except temporarily) detach ourselves from humanity and its trials.

    Graphic artists have accomplished great things in spite of--or because of--being acquainted with the evil and vexing sides of life. So have poets. I am reminded of Longfellow's appreciation of the kind of poet "who through long days of labor and nights devoid of ease, still heard in his soul the music of wonderful melodies."