I have always tried to hide my efforts and wished my works to have a light joyousness of springtime which never lets anyone suspect the labors it has cost me.—Henri Matisse
Sure, anyone can take a photograph, and anyone can slap paint on canvas and call it art. The very nature of contemporary visual art makes it appear easy. Sometimes it feels as only those who are themselves involved in the struggle understand what it takes to put together a truly unique and memorable image; the hours spent planning and experimenting, the failed attempts that no one saw, the disasters the occur when we get something wrong. We think that art is supposed to be easy, but it so very seldom is.
During Matisse’s Fauvist period, roughly 1904-08, the artist’s frequent subjects were nudes, one of the most popular being the hedonistic-looking scene of Joy of Life (1906), which depicts nude women lounging in an open field. Because of the nudity in his paintings, many people just assumed that Matisse, like Picasso, engaged in a very open and active lifestyle. Yet, nothing could have been further from the truth. Matisse lived by the concept that art is life by another means. There was no play, it was all labor. Nothing was easy.
Herein lies the difference between one who is an artist versus one who is merely playing a game: artists live their work. There is constant study, not merely of their craft, but of life and how it can be expressed. There are periods where no one understands what we are doing, nor why we would even attempt such a thing in the first place. Work that is new, different, and experimental is ridiculed, derided, and perhaps even destroyed.
When I first showed someone a photograph from the torn paper concept several years ago, their response was, “Well, that’s … interesting.” They’ve not been invited to be exhibited. None of the images have sold. Perhaps it seems silly that I would return to the concept at all. But, these are the fruits of our labor. We work through the frustration, through paper tearing, through conditions that dry the paper too fast. We hide how much work it is.
Easy? No. Worth the labor? Yes.