I recently read that it costs nothing to encourage an artist.
This isn’t really true. There are minuscule costs – the kind that add up in huge ways by the end of a hectic day. There is devoting a moment that you would spend anyway waiting on line or worrying or being distracted; there is choosing a word more carefully than simply being blunt and to the point; there is passing over a judgment or convenient misperception to see the art as it exists now; there is the risk of opening yourself to an experience that might not otherwise fit into your conception of how a “successful” day should proceed…
As an artist myself, I do not always succeed in paying these tolls to the positive and creative people that are all around me. I am apparently not alone in this failing, as there was a story in the Washington Post in 2007 “Pearls Before Breakfast.” It told the story of famed concert violinist Joshua Bell playing in the DC Metro to almost no recognition despite selling out concert halls with outrageous ticket prices.
It was therefore no surprise, when I had just recently come to a point where I was producing art that I felt I wanted to share, that the response was somewhat underwhelming.
As I was resigning myself to this reality, I came across this quote attributed to Kevin Smith.
“Remember: It costs nothing to encourage an artist, and the potential benefits are staggering. A pat on the back to an artist now could one day result in your favorite film, or the cartoon you love to get stoned watching, or the song that saves your life. Discourage an artist, you get absolutely nothing in return, ever.”
(I did some cursory research online to find multiple sources that also attributed this quote to Kevin Smith, including this creative cartoon rendering of said quote at ZenPencils.com.)
This was heartening to read as it communicated to me right away the idea that all artists struggle with this need for recognition. It was a sign post showing that despite whatever disappointment I experienced with these initial offerings, I was on the right path.
It also reminded me of the great blessing I have in my fellow artist, and musical soulmate, Katya Babiyets. It is because of her innate understanding and sharing of my musical style and vision, and her ability to help me better understand and realize this vision, as well as her openness to learning new things from me, and our unique ability to balance and meld all these things, that we are able to perform together and create interesting arrangements of music. I realize that her encouragement is all I need to continue being an artist…
To wit, our performance of Beyonce’s Crazy In Love, based on an alternate arrangement by Sofia Karlberg. Classical piano and soul – rending vocals in a low-fi reimagining of modern dance-pop that rocks… There is certainly room in NYC for us to perform in this style, and also to write originals that advance what we have been learning about both performance and production…
And most importantly, the realization that the deepest truths are not always met with belief, and that some of the most awesome achievements are not met with accolades. So we create, perhaps in anonymity, but we create nonetheless because it simply is what we do.
The energy this brings into the world is immense and inestimable. Who knows what pains Joshua Bell soothed that morning in the DC Metro? And as Kevin Smith wonders, who was saved by a song, or healed by a cartoon?
We are the music makers, and the dreamers of dreams. Nous sommes du soleil. We can see.
Ode (first Stanza) by Arthur O’Shaughnessy (1873)
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
So. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty and creativity all around you. That guitar solo or violin performance or lyric on the radio might just be the voice of the Universe reaching out to you.
And, if you could take a moment to encourage the artist through whom the Universe speaks, you never know what you might help create…