Seizing your right to make art

Over a year ago, @THECOOLISSUE writes

rich kids being able to do art for a living may be a reflection of their privilege but it seems to me like a reflection of the fact that a human that doesn’t have to worry about money will often choose art. everyone is an artist until rent is due. i wish we all had that right

The suggestion that everybody would choose to do art if they could resonates with me, as does the premise that a person is more likely to become an artist depending on family income. There’s evidence that suggests someone whose family has an income of $100,000 is twice as likely to become an artist, actor, musician, or author than someone with a family income of $50,000. An additional $10,000 in total income makes a person 2% more likely to enter a creative field.

On the other hand, I disagree with the image or premise that full-time art is the only way to go. That limits the range of possibilities too much, for too many people. 

We all have the right to make art; it’s just the time, energy, and budgets that vary. It draws to mind a story I wrote about in Creative Doing:

In The Craftsman, author Richard Sennett tells the story of two houses. The first is the work of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, who financed the design and construction of his house with his virtually limitless family fortune. He set out with his eye on perfection, eager to build the prototype of “the foundations of all possible buildings.” His integrity could spare no expense. Stuart Jeffries writes in the Guardian, “When the house was nearly complete, he insisted that a ceiling be raised 30 mm so that the proportions he wanted (3:1, 3:2, 2:1) were perfectly executed.”

One of Wittgenstein’s mentors and friends, the more senior Adolf Loos, had a smaller purse to draw from. When the foundations of his Villa Müller were set differently from the plan, he thickened a side wall to accommodate the change. His two choices were to adapt or to give up on the building.

Loos’s Villa Müller was built on necessity and constraint, twin mischiefs that drained it of all potential for perfection. Sennett writes, “The formally pure properties of the [Villa Müller] were achieved by working with many similar mistakes and impediments Loos had to take as facts on the ground; necessity stimulated his sense of form.” Villa Müller has remained a cultural icon through the decades. In the late 90s, the Prague government invested a million dollars into restoring it to its original form.

But after Wittgenstein’s house was complete, he called his own creation “sickened.” He is quoted saying, “But primordial life, wild life striving to erupt into the open―that is lacking. And so you could say it isn’t healthy.” His sister Gretl’s nephew sold the house on the grounds that she never liked it. Wittgenstein’s other sister, Hermine, confessed to not wanting to live in it. Ludwig Wittgenstein’s obsession with perfection bore rotten fruit.

That’s the beauty of creativity—it is expressed in any constraint. Hugh MacLeod made his art on little index cards, Phoebe Waller-Bridge started the award-winning TV show Fleabag as a one-person play (Ins Choi did something similar with Kim’s Convenience), and T.S. Eliot worked full-time jobs while he wrote his poetry.

Consider also this quote attributed to Twyla Tharp, “Whom the gods wish to destroy, they give unlimited resources.”

See also, what would you do if you were a rich kid? and How to make art if you weren’t worrying about money.

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