I woke up today to the sound of the bird tapping at my window, my own personal Hitchcock movie. This bird - of the thrush family, I think - has taken on the task of cleaning the insects from the web that clings to the clerestory window, too high for me to clean by ordinary means. He sits on the edge of the pergola, then flies up - tap, tap, tap - then back down, over and over. At first I thought he was tricked by the reflection of clouds and was flying away home: by the end of October, it's too cold for most birds to stick around. But the diligence with which he works - moving his way across the upper quadrant of glass, where the webs are filled with summer gnats - tells me this is not a bird misinterpreting the reflection of reality.
I tell this story because it reminds me of something I heard, once. Vision, or inspiration, is given to the person who sees value in an action that others view as pointless. Perseverance, too, is given, for it takes determination to keep tap, tap, tapping at an invisible barrier that will not let you pass, if that is what you are doing, or tap, tap, tapping because there is something else you are trying to achieve. The fact that my thrush repeats his daily ritual despite reflections that change, weather that shifts, tells me he is not concerned with illusions. There is intent behind his repetition.
I will not bore you with my personal struggle, because while I might feel I am done with art, apparently art is not done with me. My more passionate arguments are an effort to convince myself that perseverance is more than transient experience, but you know as well as I how hard it is to hold on through the mundane challenges - suppliers stop making that favorite canvas, you can't find a brand of paint anywhere. Even your family has turned to glancing at your unsold paintings and then asking sympathetically if you've run out of bare walls yet. And it occurs to me now that my excuses are so pathetic, they are downright funny, and my mouth can't stop twitching. Art School should have covered Art Crisis, but instead, they leave it as something we all face down, either limping back to the sidelines or beating against the glass.
Asher B. Durand (1976 - 1886), in his book on Landscape Painting, talks a lot about the personality of the artist and the unsolved problems in art. He quotes the noted painter Jules Breton: "Every new picture brings a new problem, and who knows if we may be able to solve it. But if there were no new problems we should all cease painting; for there would be no more art."
I wish I could tell you to do this and you will achieve that, but I can't. I can't give you the answers to the unique problems you will face. I can tell you there is a difference, as Durand stated, between a craftsman and an artist, and each must decide what type he wants to be. That you will probably never think you are good enough but that shouldn't prevent you from trying. That there is no finish line, literally or figuratively, after which you "have arrived."
I can, and will write about a lot of things.
But the most important thing is this:
You either fly up and tap at the window, or you fly away home.