Art's Great Sacrifice
by Ron Gavalik on July 28th, 2015

 What are you willing to sacrifice for art?

In my travels, I've had the fortune to meet a slue of authors, painters, illustrators, poets, musicians, and so many other performers. During conversations with other creatives at conventions or shows, there's one question that always silently tortures me:  is the artist true to the work or is [s]he practicing a hobby?

We often misuse the word professional for artists who have financial sponsorship or become financially successful for their efforts. We misuse the word hobbyist for artists who must earn cash in other ways. That unfortunate American capitalist ideology is not at all what I mean when I designate an artist a hobbyist. In the modern era of slashed social assistance programs (reduced welfare and decreased state/national arts budgets), it's no secret most artists must hold jobs to maintain a residence or eat. When I ponder an artist's work, my criterion is based on the individual's investment in their work.

Most people dismiss Amy Winehouse as just another dead media obsessed drug addict. In reality, the young woman died for her inability to repress the inner artist. She refused to ground herself in the real world. Had she successfully navigated the realm of rehabilitation and embraced what most people refer to as normal life, the work would have undoubtedly suffered.

Tom Hanks contracted diabetes a couple of years ago, reportedly from rapidly losing and gaining weight for his performances. Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain committed suicide rather than quiet the voices. George Orwell swam with the wretches in the underbelly of European cities, all to enhance the work he knew would change the world. Dostoyevsky suffered prison and Siberian exile rather than repress his thoughts. The list goes on.

No one doubts the greatness of the works produced by these artists. No one would dare call these people hobbyists. As I scribble ideas, battle my demons, interpret my surroundings, and write, I can't help but ask: will I ever be Orwell? Can I give it all up to pursue my work? Can I run with the hunted to ensure the best possible words on paper? I think it's possible. The life of an artist requires courage, perhaps more courage than I've conjured. We'll see.

Now, let's revisit the original question. What are you willing to sacrifice for your art? Think about it.

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