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  • Writer's pictureAshley Gilmour

The Artful Life

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

Why create?

This is a question I often pose, and I am struck by the different answers provided by artists in a variety of fields.

For the past couple of years, I have read and re-read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. While I don't agree with all of her views, she provides incredible insights on how to journey through life as a creative person. She vulnerably admits to many of the same insecurities that other artists feel, and she uses that common ground as a starting point for the reader. 

Alongside her whispers of wisdom, she provides quotes by artists, writers, philosophers, and the like. I find myself jotting them down and placing them around my home. Each perspective is so different - to the point that the very reason why someone creates becomes just as interesting as what they create. Here is a sampling of a few: 

"Painting is another way of keeping a diary." - Pablo Picasso

"Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself." - Henry Miller 

"Art? You just do it." - Martin Ritt

"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine." - Ludwig van Beethoven

In addition to quotes, I have also developed a fondness for learning about artists' lifestyles. What are their habits? Do they have a routine? What does their life look like? 

For instance, Roger Scruton, a British writer and philosopher of aesthetics, has a meticulously rigid schedule. Every day, he wakes up at 7am and walks straight over to his desk to write. He lives on a farm in rural Wiltshire, and for pleasure he and his wife go out riding, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays they follow hounds. When their children are home on the weekends, they have a family supper during which they discuss politics and current affairs. He doesn't watch television but enjoys drinking fine wine. 

By contrast, Francis Bacon, an Irish-born British painter of the 20th century, had a much more disorderly lifestyle. His studios were littered with paint stains, dirty brushes, and jumbles of papers.

And outside the studio, he lived a life of excess. He enjoyed several rich meals per day, drank large quantities of alcohol, and partied late into the night. He also struggled with insomnia and took pills to fall asleep. Despite this chaos, he did prioritize his painting; he woke up every day at dawn and painted until noon. And, according to him, working with a hangover gave him energy and clarity.

These clashing ways of life fascinate me. And interestingly, I was recently asked to direct a short documentary portraying different local artists. The project is for YES Montreal, and I will be working with Director of Photography Marco Battista. This work came at a perfect time, as I am eager to listen to and tell the stories of artists in and around Montreal. The artful life is just as mysterious as art itself. 

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