Creating Art from Quicksand

"Some people think I’m demonic and totally insane. Some people get it."

Have you ever watched something so equally beautiful and haunting, you're left with nothing but stillness?

That’s how I felt after watching The Balance of Dark and Light by Stephen SchusterThe short film is a ripping, honest exploration into the mind of Ron Pippin, a passionate creator.

What struck me most about this piece is Pippin’s perspective on what it means to satisfy one's creative appetite, and the process of creating art from a place of unrest in the pit of your stomach, not for recognition and praise.

Mastering this is so hard to do. Any creator can attest to what it feels like to chase recognition. We know this is creative quicksand, but we do it anyways.

Social media and the internet make it so easy to compare and look at the work of others to see what sort of accolades they received. Then use that as a barometer of success, or hold their work up as the standard of what it means to be Good.

In art, seeing what people will clap for first and then creating accordingly is wrong and it is so very tragic. It’s wrong because that means artists are handing creative control over to passive viewers and letting them drive. It’s tragic because of all the lost opportunities for newness and invention.

Creating art from a place of passion, not from a need for recognition, is most meaningful because that’s where our individuality and weirdness and memories and risk and brilliance live tangled together like a rat king.

Pippin said that over time and through practice his “lust for recognition” began to diminish and, as a result, his relationship with his art became richer, deeper. The way he talks about this relationship, this intimacy, is something to be coveted.

I think praise and standing ovations don’t fully satisfy us because they’re so very fleeting. The joy dies almost immediately upon contact, and we’re left needing more but have no immediate way to get our fix—like an addict chained to a bed post. 

That’s why we should view praise as a lovely, delightful perk. Encouragement. Something to pick us up and dust us off every now and then, but not the end goal or reason behind our work, nor our primary source of validation.

Our goal should be the freedom and satisfaction that comes with allowing our innards, our meaty guts, to drive our creative work and determine our worth. Because that...that is not fleeting. And we always know where to find it.