Saturday, September 24, 2011

The futility of art

Zine Fest was... in the words of a regular vendor, dead. The building was packed with tables and people trying to get a little attention for their artwork and zines. Teenagers stood next to stacks of hand-stapled zines full of angst ridden ink drawings. More polished and professional comic books with vibrant colors and bizarre characters competed with glossy photo books. A young woman was giving away her zine, "Shards of Glass in my Eye," for trade or a compliment. A few authors tried hard to sell their self-published books, but were mostly lost in the clutter of Anime tchotchke and hand-made jewelry. We were there, sitting at a table with Medusa's Muse books and a mannequin wearing a "Punk Rock Saved My Ass" t-shirt.  Charles Gatewood shared some of our table, and beside him was V. Vale of Re/Search, our usual table mates from the previous two book events.

I walked the hall once to see who all was there and what they were selling, and I was really impressed with the quality of the zines, even the ones so obviously hand-made. The amount of talent and dedication was incredible, and at the same time, overwhelming. At every table sat yet another eager artist with a brilliant idea, trying hard to meet my eyes, hoping I'd buy one of their creations. It was too much. After 30 minutes of wandering I practically ran back to my own table to hide, unable to look at one more beautifully drawn image. They're all so desperate. Do I look like that, sitting here at my table watching the few visitors walk by? Are they thinking the same thing I did? Oh no, another artist looking for validation.

Despite the long hours, hard work, costs and sometimes sleepless nights, we keep creating. We all have ruthless muses who demand blood sacrifice, and only a finished page or completed painting will appease them. And even though occasionally we all end up sitting behind tables at festivals trying to sell something we made, while being intimidated by the guy next to us who made something so amazing we feel like hacks, we keep trying. Which is a good thing.

What's my point? I guess I'm just acknowledging the futility we artists are forced to live with. We create something we're passionate about, send it into the world, and are then crushed by the deafening silence from others. Half the time, nobody gives a shit. The other half of the time, people find it good but only three of those will actually pay you for your work. No wonder writers tend to drink.

Stare futility in the eye and tell it to piss off!

You're an artist; if no one buys your book at a crummy little book fair, so what?

And if a half-wit publisher like me sends you a rejection letter, do what Henry Miller did and hang it on your bathroom wall as backup toilet paper. Or was that Hunter S Thompson?

Futility is the vampire of creativity. Sharpen your stake to scare it off.

And keep working.