Chasing the Muse

Are these alpacas or llamas? Alpacas have more fleece, so me thinks alpacas...
Five bewildered alpacas.

Someone in a forum posted this quote from a 1942 edition of  THE ARTIST: 

What is it that we aim to create on that virgin white surface? It is something we cannot describe – something which our imagination faintly sees, something ideal which words fail to describe. It is a something based to some extent on reality, yet surrounded with a halo which places it outside reality. It is born and nurtured in the artist’s mind, but seldom comes fully to realisation. And there lies the joy in art; the struggle to reach our ideal. It eludes us, then comes nearer, only to fade away leaving us disappointed today, elated tomorrow, yet always ready to carry on the fight which aims at the solution of our problems. The love of art breeds and nourishes in us a wonderful determination ; it makes us willingly face struggles and disappointments; failures are but a stepping stone to success. The search for that intangible something we want to see infused into our paintings goes on; it may be round the corner today, it may laugh at us tomorrow, but it will not elude us always – if we search seriously.

– Aurthor Unknown

This was interesting to me. Pretty cool. But I’d have to say that chasing the muse is not so much within the elusiveness than it is about the struggle.

I mean, sure. The muse itself is elusive, and so we struggle to grasp it. It’s something that’s not tangible, but we are trying to plop it into physical existence. And as soon as we grab hold of it, the slippery thing wiggles out of our hands and the chase is on again.

But I can’t reiterate enough: being an artist is a struggle. Some artists may not agree with me on this one, but that’s my opinion. It’s not something that’s just therapeutic to calm your nerves all the time. I’ve always considered it a wresting match, and after a while, you don’t wrestle so much with what’s elusive, you start to struggle with the tangible. 

If making art wasn’t a constant struggle to some degree, you couldn’t grow, improve, or evolve. You’d just be churning out the same stuff in your comfort zone. Then yes. Maybe there you can practice the “joy of painting.”

There are other struggles though. Like remembering to take your own advice! It’s so easy to give it to other artists. So difficult to apply it to yourself.

You have to remember to tell yourself that art is not a contest.

Remember to stop comparing your work to others’ because there is always going to be someone who is “better” in terms of skill or draftsmanship — but is that what you are going for in your work?  Or is it relaying your expression? 


Remember that you have your own unique hand that others couldn’t duplicate if they wanted to, and vice versa. Just like your signature. It is what it is, and over time, you have to learn to embrace it. It’s a lot like learning to like your own self. Isn’t it?

Remember that your work will never turn out the way you originally imagined it!  

The most you can hope for is that it resembles your original intention – at least as close as possible. Because things happen along the way in the process. It’s the nature of the process and putting something into the 2nd dimension. Plus there are new decisions that get made, different things the paint does that leads us down different paths. It’s called learning to trust the process. It’s a lot like learning to trust yourself. Isn’t it?

If every piece you did turned out exactly the way you intended, why would you keep reaching to improve? You should always be chasing that muse. Sometimes it will frustrate you like it is right now, and get you down, and sometimes you will catch up with it’s nature and learn how to accept it (like accepting the self). It’s like learning to ride the waves of anxiety. knowing that those feelings are temporary, so you ride it out.

So yes, being an artist is a lot like having to deal with panic attacks.

Who in their right mind would chase that kind of a muse?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.