“Every day I discover
Claude Monet's expression of joy and frustration in the above quote will resonate with many artists. Monet had a full and rich life as an artist, but it was not all fame and fortune. These came late in his career. He experienced persistent torment through most of his painting life as he tried to express his vision to a reluctant public. Debts mounted up and derisive art reviews from critics followed Monet's early impressionist work. What would any artist have done in the circumstances?
Monet was also quoted saying that his life was indeed a failure. Yes artists have a way with exaggeration at times! We must remember that Monet's work was groundbreaking with little reference to old masters to help him. Together with his debts and little respect for his early work one may be excused for thinking that he should have tried another career.
Thankfully Monet did not give up his art. He did persist with his unique vision and history now honours him as one of the greats of all time. It does make me wonder what artists today have to face to make progress in their careers. Would Monet have been encouraged by our frenzied world filled with information and distraction? What does an artist today have to do to stand out and be counted? Or simply to make a living?
We seem to be encouraged to take the easy way out and blame circumstances. The economy. The shallow experience that social media fosters at the expense of deeper understanding. The persistence to do the exceptional is a rare quality. It is however exactly what we need today.
Monet and others of his type knew that strength of character meant hard work and dedication. When faced with an idea Monet worked at it with a singular focus that may seem absurd today. Take his series paintings of haystacks for example. This mundane subject was ridiculed at the time, but Monet was persistent. He painted dozens of haystacks in different light conditions in pursuit of his vision. Did he have sales in mind? It is hard to imagine that Monet did this exercise as a business decision.
So I do have to remind myself in my humble circumstances that when art seems to be all frustration there is virtue in persistence. For every uphill comes with its own reward when the summit is crested. Without challenge life is dull. It is as simple as that. Paint on and be happy with the uphills, because they hold the promise of new insights and rewards.
Most importantly have fun along the way. We are privileged to be able to create art and it is comforting to know that many great artists had to face adversity along the way. The least we can do is persist and enjoy the journey.