This is a piece I wrote back in 2009. Obviously, I was in a bit of a cynical place back then. While I honestly don’t feel this way anymore, I do think there is nevertheless an element of truth to what I had to say back then. See yeah … this was me, in ’09. – V
‘I never knew what changed you… Did they paint your dreams?’
– Nevermore Lyric, from ‘Dreaming Neon Black’
Art is insanity.
My better half asked me the other day why he never sees me drawing pictures anymore. He loves my old paintings, and he shows them off proudly when our friends come to visit. He often prods me to play guitar for him, too. Sometimes I do, because I love him and I like seeing him smile. Thankfully, he’s not much of a reader; he seldom delves into my old writings, and that’s probably a good thing. He would see far more of me in them than he’d want to, and he would come to know me far better than anyone should wish to know their lover.
From time immemorial (or at least as far back as I can remember, immemorial or not) I was an artist. Childhood crayons turned into pencils, which became ink pens, and then evolved into paintbrushes. Schoolwork essays became short stories, which matured into novels, which then blossomed into epics. Head-bobbing to hard rock led to guitar playing, that …
And there I stopped.
Rather suddenly, actually, for I learned something over my short little lifetime:
Everything has a price tag.
Everything has a price tag, and you will pay it. No one cheats death, for instance; it is the price tag attached the unavoidable act of living. The price of love is loss. The price of finding God is the abandonment of self. The fee for freedom is the unholy carnage we know as war.
Every eternal constant is paid for by its own polar opposite, creating a pell-mell kaleidoscope of endless juxtaposition. Those who think that they can avoid paying the price end up paying double the price, reeling as fate deals them its hand in gleeful vengeance. Everything has a price …
And the price of art is madness. The more you seek of one, the more of the other you will find, until at last you cease to make coherent sense. The world around you becomes a surreal fog, scarcely more than an evanescent haze that irritates you at best. The only thing that is real to the artist is himself … and his fantasies, without which ‘himself’ would soon become a meaningless concept.
His self-inflicted poison might be visual imagery. Or maybe it’s music, and he despairs that the rest of us will ever understand the messages conveyed by his notes. For notes speak in a language that transcends the mundane-ness of words, but alas … only a few can translate their whispered messages.
Perhaps his self-destructive muse is the written word. I don’t mean the ‘written word’ as it pertains to the journalist, or the random scribbler. No, I am talking about the ‘written word’ as in Poe, Twain, and Mary Shelley. Perhaps he wallows in tales best left unspoken, and views the world through the multiple personalities that he’s conjured from his own fractured being.
I myself leapt into a mystical pool of self-obsessed thought, first jumping from the diving board of visual media. Thirsting for more, I swam toward the deeper waters of the written word. I scrambled out of the pool before Music consumed me … but in the years prior, I sold my soul in exchange for gifts that enriched my life no one whit.
Artists are a broken lot, a twisted breed that redefines ‘narcissism’. Without exception, the artist—more so than anyone else—lives in two worlds: The one into which he was forced by ignominious indignity of birth, and the one he himself has created.
The problem is, no one was ever meant to play god save God Himself. With every nibble from the Tree of Knowledge, a burning flare is tossed on your behalf toward the Tree of Life. Artists feel pain like no one else, and consequently they fear it so badly that they cannot pull their thoughts from it. Artists see life more clearly than anyone else ever could … and they run screaming from it, diving into maudlin, feverish creation until life at last offers them some relief by becoming a bit blurry.
As every fantasy—every picture, paragraph, and note—becomes clearer, life becomes less clearly defined. And the better the artist becomes at art, the more he fails at life. The more he grasps the transcendent, the less he is able to handle the humdrum. Careers fail, marriages fall, addictions form, relationships strain, and the only relief for the artist is more of the same behavior that caused his melancholia in the first place.
This cycle is breakable.
But only barely, and relapses are quite frequent …
Artists have a lot in common with alcoholics, I think.