Things have been hard on everyone, lately, without exception. Or at least (unless you live a hole or somewhere super remote and grow your own food and all that) pretty much everyone’s been affected in one way or another. But no matter how hard things get, or whatever changes, it amazes me how creators never stop creating.
There have been times of great hardship throughout history, like wars, pestilence, famine and natural disasters—times during which you’d think survival would be foremost if not solely on people’s minds. This naturally meant things like art would take a back seat until things got better and people could ‘afford’ to think of these things again.
But people have continued creating in spite of these things. People were painting during the Black Plague and throughout wars around the world. In the Philippines, when they threw artists in jail during Martial Law, they wrote and composed and did their thing in their cells.
Nothing’s Gonna Stop You Now
There’s something comforting and inspiring in the fact that nothing can stop artists from ‘arting’—even if you took all our stuff away we’d use whatever was lying around. If we had nothing but our bodies we could still dance and sing, or think things up—in our heads, even, if there weren’t any surfaces to write or doodle on.
What drives people to do this? What makes people go on expressing themselves and finding beauty and creating beautiful things—images, sounds, stories, ideas? Even if times weren’t tough—or well, people being people times always are, and even if times weren’t people would find ways to complicate things for themselves. But what makes them do this, though?
I wrote about this once when I talked about why anybody would even want to be an artist. There’s something that pushes artists to keep making things, even when it isn’t convenient, even when there are other things you could be doing—easier, more fun, more profitable things, you just can’t not do it. Even when there’s a pandemic or whatever else on.
I’m no authority on the subject; I can only speak from experience, and that experience includes that first career workshop I went to for artists where the mentor in charge talked about something called a Daemonic.
If I remember right, a Daemonic (or Daemon, as I like to call him, as in ‘Bradley’ LOL) was the embodiment of that driving force that made artists do what they gotta do. It was like a demon, pushing you and goading you to act.
It was an apt description, I thought, and it reminded me a lot of that ‘black beast’ Prince Ellidyr spoke of in ‘The Black Cauldron’. If you take a closer look at the (bad) picture of the painting at the top of this post, you’ll see me (yes, that’s me) standing at the top of a sort of hill? And there’s Daemon hovering immediately behind me with his happy little whip ^_^
Because that’s exactly what it feels like, sometimes, when the fit comes upon him and he’s up to his old tricks on me again. You know, ‘you’re lazy, and that’s why you’ll never amount to anything’ or ‘the difference between you and other, *better* artists is they kept making stuff to hone their technique and become better—and there you are just sitting around’.
Like Ellidyr said, ‘The black beast you saw is a harsh master; its claws are sharp.’ I gave my Daemon a happy little whip because I sometimes feel like a whipped nag (spot on, lol) that way, especially when I’m ‘painting factorying’ for a show.
It wasn’t until recently when it occurred to me to dig a little deeper (i.e. Wikipedia) into what a ‘Daemonic’ really is. (I didn’t want to to dig too deep, because I didn’t want to read *creepy* (i.e. anything my parish priest wouldn’t approve of) things, haha.)
They were actually called ‘daemons’ (not daemonics as the guy at the workshop called them) and they were, long story short, sort of like lesser deities or spirits in Greek mythology—not demons, strictly speaking, although comparisons have been made. (Which is why, if you look at my painting again, you’ll see my Guardian Angel not too far behind him and his happy whip ^^)
Musings on the Muse
There was another, parallel ‘driving force’ that spurred artists onward on their mad, caffeine-fuelled (okay that’s just me) journeys toward self-expression (-destruction? ^o^) in the arts hailing from Greek mythology—the Muse.
There were supposed to be nine of them and none of them were specifically for painting. But there was one for dance and most of them were for poetry of one kind or other, but all of them were supposed to have been goddesses of the arts in general.
Anyway when artists talk about their Muse (with a capital M), to me it very often refers to something a lot like Daemon, only somehow a little less cruel and a little more benign. Kind of like, your Muse would coax you to create, but Daemon would hit you until you banged something out ^o^
I remember reading in that famous comic book where a writer who was fresh out of ideas kidnapped a Muse, but the hero of the comic rescued her. (I’m not sure but I think she was his ex.) Anyway, it ended with the hero *punishing* the writer by giving him so many ideas he ran of out paper and ink to write them down. (So the writer ended up writing on the walls with his blood or something like that.)
On a slightly lighter note, I also remember seeing BBC’s bio of Beethoven where the 13-year-old prodigy says, ‘Since I was 12, my Muse has often whispered to me. Try and write down the harmonies in your soul…I was almost shy. But my Muse wished it, I obeyed and wrote.’
Danke for the Drive
Personally I wholeheartedly believe that true or real inspiration comes from the Holy Ghost, and that anything good I’ve ever been able to create was because of Him. (And if my work sucked that was on me, eheheheh.) But I’m not talking about that kind of inspiration. I’m talking about (really, for lack of a better word) the drive an artist has to ‘just do it’.
It’s just easier when you give that drive, that push, that creative impetus a name, or personify it somehow, and since the ancients had already defined daemons and muses I see no reason to reinvent the wheel ^^
I’m grateful for that drive, whatever it’s called, although it can be a real taskmaster sometimes. But I guess there’s a need for you to be able to say no to D or M sometimes and not let one or both of them drive you into the ground ^o^;
Right now I’m slowly learning that saying no sometimes isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and that resting isn’t the same as goofing off or being lazy (I hope). It’s okay to take breaks, or have ‘creative downtime’, sometimes. And if you do it right, the work comes out better, even. And I’m sure D and M would approve ^_^*
Keep on Truckin’
I know a lot of us are using this time to make more stuff—to draw more, paint more, or even to do things like arts and crafts or learn to play or practise playing a musical instrument. But I hope we also get to use this time to take a break and reflect on how we can improve our practice and get better at what we do, as artists and in general.
I also know, however, that current events have been difficult for some of us in that it’s made things hard for them to work, i.e. to do art. It’s not so much not being able to go to the studio (although that seems to be a common hurdle) but more about the general ‘dark cloud’ hanging over things that has sapped the will to create, and dried the wellsprings of inspiration.
To those of us struggling with that difficulty now, I just wanna say, ‘don’t give up’. Sounds trite, I know, but, really. Tough times have never stopped us from ‘arting’ before, and they sure as Hades won’t stop us now. And I hope that your own personal Daemons—or Muses, if that suits you better—nudge you gently but firmly back onto your own creative paths toward sunnier days ahead.
If you need someone to talk to about what you’re going through as an artist in these times, I’ll be happy to listen, and help if I can.