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The Column icon The Column: Issue 2

The Library > The Column Archive > The Column 002

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The Column is a monthly feature that follows the lives of creative people and explores the world of creativity.

Becoming A Rich Artist
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

Artists are no different than anyone else: they want to spend their days doing what they most enjoy while making a living from it. Most don't succeed. Here's the story of one man who forged his own path to riches.

The painter

Paul paints. Ever since he was given a small eight-well watercolour set some thirty years ago he's never lost his love of painting. Most people know Paul as a carpenter, and like all good carpenters he is careful, skilled, and disciplined. He doesn't call himself an artist, he doesn't feel the need to. His practice of art is private and his role as an artist is rarely disclosed.

Paul is satisfied by the comforts his trade afford him and he has no ambition or need for his art to make him money. His day-job is to make most anything with wood. From a kitchen cabinet to a house roof, Paul's kept busy by the constant stream of requests on his time. He's lucky in liking his work and the people he meets through it. He says it keeps his feet firmly on the ground.

The gift

Every evening and at weekends Paul paints: patterns, pictures, portraits, and places. For him, painting is as vital as the air he breathes. Without painting he feels incomplete. His need to paint partly satisfies him, the completion of his satisfaction is in the knowledge his work is viewed by others.

On finishing a painting he stores it for a year in a specially constructed, humidity-controlled conditioning room. After a year he frames it with the finest wood and greatest care then hangs it on his north facing workspace wall for one month. When exactly one calendar month passes he takes the painting off the wall, wraps it in bubblewrap held in place with thick brown packing tape, and takes it to a place he has chosen to be its new perfect home.

The choice of new home for his painting is made during that final month when Paul contemplates the completed work: its strengths, its weaknesses, and its potential audience. The chosen place for his painting may require travelling some distance from his home and he doesn't flinch at journeying across several States to reach his destination.

Paul's pickup truck pulls up. If it's one of his larger paintings he'll lower it delicately onto a trolley and wheel the trolley up to the entrance. He leaves the painting with a reliable stranger along with a short accompanying note, returns to his pickup, and drives back home.

The stranger, usually a receptionist, carefully unpeels the blank envelope and pulls out the note:

The painting enclosed is a gift. Showing it in your space is my reward. Paul

The stranger looks up but the man has left.

Paul's paintings hang in public places: government buildings, day centres, schools and the like. None ask for paintings from Paul, none pay for his work, and every painting to date has found its perfect place.

In the eyes of others

Most artists would love to escape their day job for the singular pursuit of developing their art full-time. To achieve this artists generally choose to sell their art and attempt to establish a certain status within the artistic community. Selling art is an established industry. Galleries, government grants, scholarships, and public institutions exist that support artists who wish to take this route towards achieving their aim.

The career artist has become an integral part of Western culture. They are skilled at applying for grants, marketing their personality, and generally ego centred. This results in the production of a certain kind of art produced by a narrow demographic of the population.

The greatest shortfall of the artistic community is how so often they view others outside it as producing work of less aesthetic worth. The great irony is that it is often the outsider who produces art that resounds most within us.

Out of nowhere...

One day a choice presents itself and the path to good fortune lays out before us. We never know the day, the hour, the moment, and we only come to know the path is to our advantage after travelling along it for some considerable time. There is no returning to that moment to make the choice again. If we walk a different path we never come to know the opportunity ever arose. All we can do is our best, be true to ourselves, and dream of a place where our work and lives will one day meet as one...



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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author.

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