Tuesday, January 15, 2013

TenNapel on Artistic Motivation

Over at his blog, Doug TenNapel (Nnewts and Ghostopolis) talks about what motivates artists to keep creating. Excerpts:
I had lunch at Dreamworks yesterday and enthusiastically thanked the cafeteria worker for presenting me with a fine plate of food. I thought to myself, "Today, on this particular day, this worker is making more money than me." It reminded me of how my friend Ethan Nicolle was thought to be rich by all of his fans for the blockbuster smash webcomic Axe Cop. Ethan figured out what he actually made on his comic and he would make more as barista at a local Starbucks coffee shop. ...

My sister-in-law Debbie is a world class concert violinist but there is no big city symphony where she lives. She ended up joining a group that appeals to the masses by playing orchestrated versions of Doobie Brothers and Journey music. If you think all of those concert musicians studied Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven to play the chord structures of Doobie Brothers I've got news for you. Most of the great musicians who can play piano, violin etc. aren't making a living playing Mozart. They must be in it for some other reason than the money.

In the end the artist, the book author, the musician has to decide why they're doing what they're doing. If it's for the money, then I hope you make a lot of money. But most of us got into our art form for the love of it, and the money came second as a reward for years of hard work and a lucky break or two. By far, most every artist in the world, no matter how good, will not likely make a living off of their work.
Read the whole thing. Sure, you can read the words above like a bucket of ice water dumped onto an overheated head, a cold corrective to idealistic enthusiasm. But I don't think TenNapel intends it that way. Yes, he's definitely saying that few of us will achieve vast material wealth through our writing or drawing or whatever. Yet he also notes how "my art pointed me to God, saved me, rescued me from boredom, gave me soaring thoughts, impressed my wife, developed my work ethic, brought me joy, stimulated my mind long before it ever made me a dime." Perhaps the old adage is true: Why measure one's existence by an abundance of possessions when so many other things give it meaning?

(Picture: CC 2011 by clubizarre)

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