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You’ve Got to Carry That Weight (or that flame) a Long Time

“Sometimes when I don’t post enough progress shots, people begin to say I’ve lost it– Maura is washed up. This is never the case. I work diligently, every day, motherf***ers.”

Maura Holden

Some time back, I came to a pivot point in my work and my understanding of the well from which I draw my inspiration.

I look back at the artist who I was, 24, 26, 21 and I wonder: where was that work drawn from? How much is it the hubris of youth, the hedonism of my 20s, brain chemistry and music and movement pushed to the most nth degree I could perceive? Where did it come from? How much was the ego saying I AM.

This is true, I think, for so much great art. There is an excitement in the artistic youth that drives the discovery of the new and the exploration of this creative drive. It is a force that unlocks door after door of creative fires within.

Yet, as we get older and we have ten thousand burning flames within us, a deeper knowledge of our possibilities but also a distinct understanding of our limitations, we either pull back, stick to safe and solid ground or we push ahead and say ‘OK. What’s next?’

A few years back, I had a distinct moment of coming into my very present age (as in: I’m not 24) and truly understanding that the person who paints now is coming from a different place and a different perspective. While my patience has increased, my attention to detail refined, and so on, my awareness of the world around me has also grown. My awareness of my place in the world has expanded as well as my awareness of who I am and what I’m doing with my time here.

And, as time passes, the value of that time increases. With every painting, I examine ever deeper what I want to say, how I want to say it, and, most importantly, why. I’m fine with painting simply another beautiful painting but even that has to have a sense of purpose to it.

So I bend myself back to my work and toil onwards as I ever have. As I did when I was 21. As I do now that I’m 41. There is still music. There is still a pot of tea. There’s a cat now. A studio I can call my own. But the place I’m going hasn’t changed, only the sense of ‘going’. I found a spark when I was young that ignited a flame of inspiration that will burn for as long as I keep fanning it. And probably longer still: even when I feel ‘done’ it makes me rise again to keep working.

Sometimes tho, I release a new painting that is met with… meh. Just meh. O, it’s another painting, people say. As Maura said, people begin to think I’ve lost it, that I’m washed up. These thoughts are what every artist deals with all the time. And as I’ve gotten older, the desire to spend more time on each piece increases while the attention span of the masses seems to decrease and our multimedia extravaganzas are consumed in smaller and smaller bites – each moment seeming to bleed into the next ever quicker while my paintings take ever longer to create and, like a nice wine, ever so slightly longer to open up.

See, the older you get, as an artist, the more you realize you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. It is a dance, a conversation, a lineage, that has gone on long before you showed up on the scene and will continue long after you’ve signed your name to your last piece.

At some point, you realize you have a whole lifetime of actual work ahead of you. So, now, what’s the next painting going to be? And why. And what of the next? Or the next? And so on. How will you stay inspired?

It is up to you, up to me, up to ever artist to figure out how they will carry that precious flame of inspiration through it all so that, ten years from now, twenty, it burns ever brighter, ever stronger, ever more luminous.