Is she a “real” artist?

The other day I finally watched my rented copy of New York Stories. Someone, I believe on this blog, recommended it for Nick Nolte's character of artist Lionel Dobie. Boy, if there was ever a stereotype of an artist in a movie, this is it. But I loved the scenes of him painting. They were sensual and extremely physical.

In the movie, there is a scene in which Dobie's live-in "assistant," played by Roseanna Arquette, wants to know if she has any talent. He replies:

What the hell difference does it matter what I think? It's yours. I mean you make art because you have to. Cuz you got no choice. It's not about talent. It's about no choice but to do it. . . .

You wanna give it up? You give it up, you weren't a real artist to begin with.

Does a "real" artist ever give up?

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9 thoughts on “Is she a “real” artist?”

  1. No…most die …usually something tragic … well, at least that is the cliche … I went for a run on a very hot summer day, another runner approached, laughing …he said ” I thought I was the only one dumb enough to go out for a run today ,” … after many years, it feels like that …I see other artists who have not given up & we both think ‘ I thought I was the only one dumb enough to do this …’ recently I ditched my gallery & opened a store on Ebay Canada …the market here is so slow, I decided to offer paintings at really great prices…the only way was to cut out the 50% commission … Did I give up ? No…I knew at 2 thousand each, they weren’t going to sell fast…at under 500, maybe… we are in a difficult time in the world, art often falls into a luxury purchase … I hope the other real artists out there don’t give up …(maybe the frauds could become accountants though …)

  2. Alyson, I don’t think a real artist ever gives up but can be killed, leaving the body still mobile. That’s the theme of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Red shoes:” And, there is a cartoon, from Writers Digest I think, entitled “Writer’s Block,” that captures the whole thing even more simply: In the first panel, labled ‘Temporary,’ our writer gazes out a window beside his desk. In the second panel, ‘Permanent,’ he gazes in the same attitude out the door of his fish store.

  3. Wow, Alyson – Whoever wrote that line really gets it. Being an artist and a writer, I know you don’t do either for the money or the recognition. You truly do it because it’s dying to get out of you, and you need to put your work out into the world.

  4. Alyson, I was channel surfing this weekend and stopped on that film on that EXACT scene. Indeed, many, many over-the-top stereotypes in the film, but that quote totally rang true for me. I actually turned to my husband and yelled “that’s true!” as soon as Nolte said it. I found myself really annoyed with Arquette’s character for being such a “poser”. *rolling eyes* I mean. If I never made another penny from my work I’d do it anyway….because ultimately I do it for myself. p.s. on second thought, Nolte’s character isn’t really that over the top. I met that “character” once upon a time when I was a young artist in NYC. Believe me, he’s alive and well!

  5. Not to sound a little nutty, but many times, I just feel compelled to create something. Let’s face it, nobody does this for the money. I’m creating up a storm in my head, though for a number of reasons it doesn’t always get to my hand and get out. All I know, is that I feel so much better throughout the day when I can spend even a little productive time in the studio. Great post, Alyson.

  6. I was thinking about this Giving Up Art idea yesterday morning. Not thinking about Giving Up, just mulling over the concept. I wound up laughing because it is too late for me to give up! I have to keep making art, keep going on the business, keep learning about how to be a better artist because I can’t stop now. It is like 50 years old was the failsafe point. I am committed. No turning back. Does that make me a “real” artist? Thanks for a great post, Alyson.

  7. i am always amazed to hear people say they are giving up their art…that’s like saying you’ll give up breathing or seeing or playing or eating….i am at a point where i don’t want to worry about selling my work right now but i will never give up being an artist…i know it is just part of me.

  8. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Walter: Thanks for the reminder about The Red Shoes. I haven’t read the story, but someone once gave me a copy of the movie. I need to watch it again. Kesha: I have no doubt that Nolte’s character exists in real life–many times over. But it’s still a stereotype. We rarely see the happy, fulfilled artist on screen. Of course, that would probably be boring. Carla: Indeed you are a “real” artist! Mary: Good point. Just because you don’t pursue the marketing and sales doesn’t make you less of an artist.

  9. The character Nolte played was not just an artist, but also not a nice man. He is the worst sort of artist/teacher that the media presents as a “true and driven artist. In the film he is a sort of vampire who used his apprentice as a type of emotional punching bag/buttress. Back to the essential question of whether or not one is a “real artist.” When people play golf or tennis and are avid enthusiasts no one ever says “well he or she is not a real golfer” unless, in their opinion, they suck. That they can’t score high enough or beat someone else in competition. Winning may be the key but how do artists “win.” Some artists I’ve met want to know the key to being content with the careers they have. Others want sales, others want the validation of a community. For me, I think that the real question I most want answered is not, “Am I a real artist” but “Am I a good artist?” I’m not sure I am but of course I won’t stop trying to be. I think that outside validation is an important part of this and even if I don’t get validation, yes, I will continue to make art, but I might be sad about the art I’m making. If anyone gets the chance, I know I’m putting a kick me sign on now, please stop by my site and let me know what you think? Thanks, Kenney

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