One of my greatest pet peeves is the way artists are portrayed in movies. I’m not even talking about the consistent characterization of artists as bitter, emotionally distant, often abusive alcoholics. I’m talking about the way art is made in movies. In a spark of creative passion, the artist character, always with mad eyes and frizzy hair, stays up all night and completes a novel, painting or song.
I almost walked out of the theater during this scene of The Words when the character stays up all night writing his novel. One pack of cigarettes later, he comes up with a masterpiece that takes the literary world by storm and he never even picked up a bottle of White Out. Come on!
What these movies seem to forget is that art is work. Sometimes there is a spark of inspiration, but it is followed by long hours, weeks, months or years of hard work and self-doubt. Yes, there was one time I had a brilliant idea and stayed up all night writing it down, but that was two years ago, and since then I’ve written four versions of it and I’ve done countless edits (see the picture below). This part of the process would be too boring for a movie.
A random sample of the edits I made on that draft.
These movies do art a disservice. They marginalize the effort it takes to make great work. I wish just once, a movie would show an artist as someone who stares at her computer for hours on end, someone who takes classes to improve his craft, someone who reads over a sentence twenty times and then ends up deleting it. I know it wouldn’t be as interesting to watch, but I know a lot of artists who would enjoy it.
So now I leave you with a scene that helped me realize how ridiculous art scenes are in movies:
Main building at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I studied art at Maryland Institute College of Art, the biggest insult you could say about an artist was that s/he was “too commercial.” The thought of someone actually getting paid for their handwork and creativity seemed to contradict the very nature of art. We were all supposed to starve and wallow in obscurity for the next fifty years. The only acceptable way to become famous was postmortem.
Seven years out of college (oy has it really been that long!), I’m amazed by my friends who have found work that involves some sort of creativity. It doesn’t matter that they’re making art for commercial sake, in fact, it seems even more incredible that they are making good money expressing themselves. My classmates are making jewelry, designing video games, and photographing models for national magazines. I look back on our snobby, self-righteous younger-selves and wonder how we could ever be so judgmental of people who love art but don’t want to be homeless.
Recently I’ve been approached by a few companies who want to advertise on my blog. When I originally started the HeSoProject, I was so ignorant about the entire blogging process that I figured I would write a few posts, and then live off the advertisement money. Ha! If these companies had approached me back then I would have said yes in a heartbeat. Now, two years into it, I’m slightly hesitant. The HeSoProject is my baby, and I don’t want to dilute it with distracting, false messages. (Currently WordPress puts up ads at the bottom of some posts, but that doesn’t really bother me because it’s part of the free service.)
My inner-college student is yelling “don’t sell out,” but my dwindling bank account is a little louder. Do you, my awesome reader, have any thoughts on the matter?