Returning to an image from the Tarzan movies I used to watch on television as a child, it was always visually stimulating to see the character travelling through the forest. He would grab at creepers to propel him forward, trusting that each of them would be strong enough to sustain his weight as he swung. I have no idea whether that mode of transportation actually existed for anyone, or if it was an invention of a Hollywood studio’s imagination, but there is something useful in the image for portfolio artists.
I’ve heard someone who has done particularly well at being at portfolio artist saying the term is more or less a euphemism for surviving in the arts, which is probably true. One always has to be mindful about keeping schedules open enough to be available to take on interesting artistic challenges, whilst also keeping the wolf away from the door.
Meanwhile, the whole point of being an artist is about having the opportunity to express one’s own ideas about the human condition, so he or she also needs to set time aside for the work that isn’t about being available, but more about inviting people to sample his or her wares at a market stall, for example.
Perhaps this is the reason why so many conversations about being an artist tend to touch on matters related to class and means. It is obvious that those of us who have trust funds provided by wealthy forbears are more likely to have the time to envision and put ideas into practice than those who have to work for a living.
Miles Davis often spoke in interviews about integrity and how it affects Black artists. Do artists need to regard their personal lives as constant works in progress, like the pieces they create?