Letters to a Fellow: One

I wonder whether even artists understand each other. Perhaps that in itself is a rather woolly statement, and particularly self-indulgent, but I have been reading about artists and it has set me to thinking. I once heard a speaker describe leading leaders as being like herding cats, but for the first time I have been shown the difficulties of leading artists.

I am an artist. Not as creative as you are in your chosen field, in fact I am pathetic in your chosen field: but you in your field excels me in mine. And I have two fields that I am aware of, or perhaps it is the one with a peculiarly large annex.

I think artists do understand each other in that we understand that we are artists and that we have “needs” that less creative people do not have. Nevertheless our common needs are not identical, so perhaps there is a unique confusion amongst artists too. Especially so among practitioners of different forms of The Arts.

The house where I have been least allowed to be creative over the past ten years was the one with the most artists in it. Beside me there were three other people in the house, a graphic designer who was also a painter, a singer/dancer/actress, and a make-up and costume designer. I entered the house excited to be living among other artists, and relaxed my defences so as to be able to better breathe the air of creativity. What I found was that with my defences down I was set-up to be hurt. I did breathe the creativity in the air, and at times as able to engage in the background work to what I do, but I also breathed the tension of three artists who had lived and worked together for decades: my presence unbalanced them, and their apprehension-becomes-hostility destroyed me. It has taken more than a year to recover my craft, and some things have been lost eternally, unable to be recovered. I still feel frightened to even remember that house.

Now I live among people who have creative skills, but whose skills have been buried for the sake of propriety in having to do “work” of a different kind. One can draw and paint, and would do for relaxation, if time and supplies were forthcoming. The other was an actress in her youth, and still has ideas and passion for performance and presenting outside the box, but who has been put back in her box far too many times and now she smoulders and explodes with frequent unpredictability. From one there is a vicarious push to shine my light, from the other a veiled desire to hide that light lest it be displayed only to be extinguished

Right now I feel as though if my candle were placed under a bowl it would ignite the bowl and destroy the whole house, which begs the question, is it a safe candle to burn indoors at all?


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