This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
(A friend of mine shared a version of the following fable with me. I don’t know where it originated and it might not resemble the original very much anymore. Who knows? But I like the message. You could apply the lessons learned to just about anything in life, but I will relate it to your art.)
Despite the small size, the little bird felt larger than life with the wind under his wings. How he loved to soar high in the blue sky. He would dive and swoop, loop and circle about. While he flew, his keen eyesight would spot food on the ground far below. He loved a good worm for mealtime.
One day he spotted an old man digging worms and placing them in a bucket. The curious little fellow flew down and landed next to the man.
“What are those worms for?” the bird asked.
“They are for feathers,” the old man replied.
Plucking a feather from his chest, the bird asked, “Like this?”
“Yes.” So the bird exchanged a feather for a worm.
The next day, the bird once again saw the man. Once again the same conversation took place. And once again the exchange was made.
Day after day, the same scenario played out. A beautiful feather was traded for a juicy worm.
One night, the bare-chested bird nearly froze to death. He realized that he had given far too many of his chest feathers. So, the next morning he exchanged a wing feather instead. This continued day after day. But after some time, to his dismay, he realized that he could no longer fly. He hopped and jumped and tried with all his might. But each time he landed with a thud on the hard ground.
What had he done? Had he become so used to getting an easy meal that he didn’t realize what he was doing?
So he hopped around searching for worms. It was difficult. More difficult than when he could fly, and much more difficult than simply plucking a feather. How he missed the days of soaring and tumbling through the air hunting for his own meal. Yes, it was work. And some days he didn’t eat as well as other days. But somehow those meals of long ago were more satisfying than the easy worms from the old man.
After some time of much difficulty, he gathered a beak-full of worms and hopped over to where the old man would be. The little bird dropped the worms in the man’s bucket and asked if he could get some feathers back.
No. It could not be undone.
As an artist, have you ever traded your feathers of creativity or talent in for the easy worms? Have you let things become a crutch to where you no longer are able to soar to the heights you once knew?
There are many ways you might do this. I suppose each of us have given at least a feather or two. But for some, the temptation for an easy worm is too great.
It may be using a projector to trace a drawing. For others, the easy worm might be formulaic color mixtures. A few of you might even print your reference photo on canvas and then apply paint on top of that.
Some artists can use photos as a tool – knowing its place and limitations. But for others photos become a worm and the ability to compose, edit, feel and imbue a work with originality becomes lost – or worse yet, never learned.
For some, it’s the same subject or composition over and over again. Like a short-lived formulaic pop hit that quickly rises to the top 40 to only be forgotten a few weeks later, the compositions become shallow and redundant.
For your art to truly soar – and to enjoy the elation that comes with creating – you must work hard for your worms. Do not trade your feathers away. It will only hurt you in the end.
Being an artist isn’t easy, but oh, how it is worth it. The old man will never know how it feels to fly on the wings of creativity. But you have felt it. You know. You have seen the world from a perspective that others can’t even imagine. You have felt the wind lift you as you spread your creative wings. You have delighted in the creative process and have sorrowed for the worms that got away. You have soared. You have flown. You are an artist.
PS What easy worms have seduced you? How did you overcome it? Or have you? If you feel you are stuck – flightless – there’s hope. Unlike the bird who couldn’t get his feathers back, you can regain your creativity. You can redevelop your talents. You can fly once again.