Last night I was talking to my friend Timothy Ernst who is an artist living in Los Angeles. Although his work is lauded and he shows in a prominent gallery, we are constantly texting back in forth in any given mid-month about how afraid we are of paying our bills. In a typical conversation, one of us is talking the other off a cliff and encouraging the other to persevere with the truth and beauty in our lives that comes from the act of making our art. “I live in constant awesome fear,” he tells me, to which I reply, “That’s what I keep telling you to hold onto!” to which he exclaims, “Don’t worry, I have a firm white knuckled grip on that!”
This morning I go to visit my friend Shahram, another artist who has created his own environment in his modest home to be truly conducive to the act of making art. Lush, rich and colorful paintings grace every inch of wall that aren’t already covered in his exquisite Persian accoutrements. Swirls of black and white decorate his floor and ethnic music plays in the background as we drink small stone cups of strong espresso and savor plump dates and pistachio brittle. We discuss our current projects and talk about what is next. I say that I have become accustomed to fear and therefore am learning to no longer be afraid. He tells me that we have no choice other than to “do” that which we are compelled to do. We both agree that neither of us particularly wants money or fame, but moreover, we wish to impart to the next generation that life is the greatest form of art and is about putting your all into that which you are passionate about at all costs and watching life unfold from that point as it will.
It’s scary to live the non-plan, to walk the no-guarantee, to fall into the zone of complete unbridled pleasure without any end result on the horizon. But it’s something we have to do regardless, otherwise we would rather just shrivel up and die, no purpose to our lives, no meaning to our existence. I have become quite familiar with that thorny pit in my stomach, that walnut of drive that propels me to create life affirming works which then come to sustain me.
It’s a tenuous line that barks DO, DON’T THINK! It’s a tightrope wire between bliss and anxiety. It’s a one finger grasp on a fragile everyday reality.But it’s something I could never live without, nor would I want to.