On Becoming an Artist

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Award-winning author Terri Trespicio shares this inspiring and entertaining story in her recent release, Unfollow Your Passion:

There’s a scene in Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy, the famous historical novel about Michelangelo’s life, that I love.

The great sculptor is fourteen years old. He has been released from his painting apprenticeship and admitted to work in Lorenzo the Magnificent’s sculpture garden, which is where he’s been dying to be.

One of Michelangelo’s peers, a kid named Soggi, suggests they ditch this gig.

“Michelangelo, let’s you and I get out of here,” he says. “All this stuff is so…so impractical. Let’s save ourselves while there is still time…They’re never going to give us any commissions or money. Who really needs sculpture in order to live?”

“I do,” Michelangelo responds.

Soggi then lays out an argument that is as real today as it was in the 1400s. He says (I’m paraphrasing), Oh yeah? Where will we find work? What if Lorenzo dies? What if the garden closes? Who the heck needs a marble cutter? We can’t feed ourselves with that! It’d be much better to trade in pork or wine or pasta, things people need.

Michelangelo declines, of course. He says sculpture is not only at the top of his list; there is no list. That’s it.

Soggi quits. Their teacher, Bertoldo, says he knows people like Soggi, people who aren’t driven by love or affinity for the work, but by “the exuberance of youth,” he says. “As soon as this first flush begins to fade, they say to themselves, ‘Stop dreaming. Look for a reliable way of life.’”

Those people should leave—because the very fact that they see the work as optional means they’re not really there to do it.

“One should not become an artist because he can,” says Bertoldo, “but because he must.”

Source: Unfollow Your Passion, pp. 136-137


3 responses to “On Becoming an Artist

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