Making Small Art in Troubled Times – What One Does

It is so hard these days to think of doing art work, if one’s art tends towards the personal; if, it is, you know, “small story” work—work about a couple of lives or some incidents whose political importance is not particularly apparent.  

Or, if, for example, it is work for children—work meant simply to entertain, to help little kids get through an itchy moment, or to bed. Work that simply says that silliness is fine, sweetness is fine; work that is, in other words, kind of cute.

It is hard, that is, if you make the type of art I do—PLEASE READ MY BOOKS BY THE WAY!—.  I feel like there are political implications in my adult books– Nice; Momoir, Maybe; No River, and even in my new book of stories – Who Are You Kidding?  but the political stuff is arguably subtle. The books are stories of small lives, individual lives. 

As for the children’s books that I have written (GET THOSE TOO!), they are mainly about sound, color, letters, numbers, rhyme. 

How does one justify making art about things like that in the face of ongoing events in the world, and in the country?

The candid answer is that one simply makes the work one makes.   There is stuff that just comes out of your fingertips, and though you can try to slant that stuff—you can read more—think harder–edit pointedly— the work is based on what comes out.  (At my age, I kind of believe in accepting that, if not truly honoring it.)  

Frankly, it is hard enough to make your own work—practically impossible to make someone else’s.

This is not to say that I don’t believe in growth.  (I believe in growth!) 

Still, it seems (in my case anyway), that I’ve been given a particular kind of gift, and I mostely accept that.   That’s the thing about gifts–some people get socks—others, search lights! (The very very lucky get ponies, but let’s put those aside for now.)

Still, even with some self-acceptance, it is hard to motivate one’s self to do one’s small work in the light/glare of suffering, and anxiety. Hard to motivate one’s self too when there is also so much division.  (Shouldn’t you be busy trying to persuade someone of something?)

I try to remind myself how much pleasure/peace one gets out of simply reading (and even re-reading) small life things—I do anyway—mysteries, picture books, satirical fantasy.

And then I simply go back to the notion that you make the work that you make—

In any case, the above is some of the work I have been making lately—a yet-to-be-finished picture from a yet-to-be-finished picture book tentatively called Bug Cars.  

Have a great week. 


Please do check out my books, available at these links on Amazon, and Blurb.

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