Sunday, November 2, 2008

Exploring the Life of an Artist

My wife is an artist. She's won awards, painted on commission for the Toronto Zoo, been exhibited several times, has one of her paintings currently in a juried art show. That's one of her drawings in the picture above.

She has more requests for her paintings than she could ever fill.

But she doesn't make a living at it. The problem is volume. She works carefully and slowly, seldom turning out more than 3 canvases a year.

For her day job she's teacher in one of the more notoriously violent neighbourhoods in Toronto. Her school is in lock-down mode at least weekly.

She loves it. Her entire teaching career has been spent at that school, outlasting four Principals. She genuinely enjoys her students and her staff are especially close and supportive. Many of her students have gone on to University and slowly the neighbourhood is changing, in part because of a major police clamp down on gangs 5 years ago.

When the Poet Laureate of Toronto gave a speech here last spring, he told the story of asking his local baker, what is art?

The baker said, "Giorgio, art is what you write and what I bake."

Art, Pier Giorgio Di Cicco believes, is not dusty paintings hanging on gallery walls. Art is an attitude and a care you bring to the things you do. Thomas Merton's father was an artist, but made his living as a gardener. Or, rather, who made gardening his art. For my wife, teaching is also her art. As Giorgio said, its a question of attitude and care.

To be an artist, you don't need to be a poet or a painter or a sculptor; your art can be your job, your garden, your interior decorating, the raising of your children. The care you take in creating your blog.

Another way to think about it is: we are all artists, the only question is, are we good artists?