January 25, 2013

Balzac on Art

“Constant labor is the law of art as well as the law of life, for art is the creative activity of the mind. And so great artists, true poets, do not wait for either commissions or clients; they create today, tomorrow, ceaselessly. And there results a habit of toil, a perpetual consciousness of the difficulties, that keeps them in a state of marriage with the Muse, and her creative forces. Canova lived in his studio, and Voltaire in his study. Homer and Phidias must have so lived, too.” -Honore De Balzac Despite being no longer able to teach or really do much of anything outside the home, I still do some art every day. It keeps my body and mind engaged, like Balzac’s description of the “marriage with the muse.” There are no commissions, and I will be unable to be physically present at arts and crafts shows, but I work on art nevertheless. In this market-driven society, professionalism is usually defined by the level of income an artist makes from his/her craft. So I no longer define myself as a professional artist. But after reading Balzac, I see that there is still reason to identify myself as an artist. My new slow drawings are deeply satisfying to create. In more sanguine moments, the rendering of them makes me believe that I could possibly eventually be drawn out of this state of perpetual illness. The drawing above is the conclusion of a sketch started years ago when I was visiting extended family in Ukraine. The woman was my father’s first cousin’s neighbor, Tatiana. I sketched her while she was peeling carrots for a stew and singing Ukranian folk songs. She wore this very folksy looking dress with blue polka dots and a red and white frill.

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