In Defense of Unmarketable Art

By Brian Kaufman

Originally posted January 9, 2020

Happy New Year. If you make resolutions, you probably have a writing goal. It’s officially deep enough into January for you to question that goal. You may even be wondering whether or not you should write.

Years ago, I took a Bob Ross painting class, having been assured that anyone could paint a picture worthy of hanging on the wall. I followed the instructor’s directions for over two hours, and at first, my painting looked all right (in a bought-it-from-the-dime-store sort of way).

Happy Little Clouds.

Near the end of the class, we had to add a bird to our skyscapes. My brush made an involuntary swoop, and for a moment, dinosaurs were reborn in the form of a one-winged pterodactyl. Horrified, I started to laugh. The instructor, who did not understand how close I was to tears, said, “Well, at least you have a sense of humor.”

Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim to doubt yourself. 

                                                                               — Alan Alda       

I also play guitar and sing. I have a lovely custom, Fender Stratocaster, but I can’t play a clean chord. As for singing, imagine Bob Dylan gargling barbed wire.

My son Ryan likes to sew and draw. He’s a good cook. But the Thunderbolt of the Gods did not gift him with great artistic skill. A mutual friend of ours is job-searching, hoping to find something more emotionally satisfying. Ryan said, “I think even a dream job turns into a j-o-b after a while. If you want to be happy, you have to find other things to do.”

The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.
                                                                       
— George Bernard Shaw

What this wise young man has discovered is the pure joy of art for art’s sake. He pursues different arts and crafts because it’s a fun way to build a life.

Did your New Year writing resolutions include success benchmarks? Mine did, until my discussion with Ryan. Instead, I’ve listed projects that I’d like to pursue solely out of enjoyment.

Tying this back to writing, some lucky souls derive deep, spiritual satisfaction from telling a story, whether or not the tale finds print.

In fact, writing is a beautiful pursuit at which to fail:

·     No one is going to look at your flash drive and shake their head in amused dismay (like friends look at my Fender Strat) because writing is inexpensive. How much does a Big Chief tablet cost?

·     Writing is quiet. I don’t have to wait for the house to empty to write. (Turning on my amplifier is a different matter.)

·     Writing doesn’t smell. I know some artists love turpentine and linseed oil. Weirdos.

·     Writers don’t have to share their work. If a cook makes dinner in a forest, did he really cook? Truth is, some things weren’t meant to be read (or tasted). I don’t make spaghetti anymore, and I have several novels that will never be read by anyone.

·     Even a lousy writer can get away with murder. Ask the characters based on people you know who met an untimely end in your stories.

It is a wine and SIP class.

Every few months, I go to one of the wine-and-paint places. Two of my paintings hang in the entryway of my house. (The rest ended up in a landfill.) And I keep playing that Fender, and once in a great while, I sit back and think, wow! That didn’t suck!

Titled “Hideous” by Brian Kaufman. ( JC thinks it needs to be renamed.)

If goals and expectations and despair have coalesced for you this January, take heart. Success is a small, relatively unimportant part of the formula. Write because you love it. Write because art can make your soul smile.

Paint And Wine Parties

Writing And Painting

Paint Versus Prose

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