There are days when color drains from my life and paint becomes some annoying gooey substance. On those days my pencils become blunt, ink comes out in spurts and paper is annoyingly slippery. Such days do a Jesus on me; they come quick and sneak up unannounced. My muse walks out and sulks in a corner. Those are my worst days. For in a rather unfortunate way, they tend to coincide with those other days that the wells in my pockets have run dry.
Art is hard. It is your core. Unlike your shell, you have no option of shedding it. This is hard stuff. It drains you. It takes that smart brilliant idea in your head and manipulates it into an equally brilliant painting. But not always. Sometimes distractions and mind blocks poison your idea and you realize that whatever it is you have in that canvas is nothing close to half what you had in mind in the first place. You curse, rant and curse again and before you know it, it bursts your moment and condemns you into one of those dark days.
My broke days are hungry days. On those days I starve. That is despite the heavy breakfast I might have taken to convince myself that I’ll have a hunger free day. But whatever I eat seems to go right out of my system into a mysterious fourth dimension. Hunger becomes interesting; it isn’t from a physical origin but rather a psychological one. The real hunger for me is thinking about where my next meal will come from. And there isn’t anything in the world worse than a hungry man without a solution. It surpasses sickness. Around that broke man waits death in form of a suicidal thought. In such a man is a feeling of uselessness. A man chained by money – the lack of it.
I hold no 9 to 5 job currently. I am a student of art at Kenyatta University. The happy reality is; my lifestyle is what my job is. Cool, right? There stands no one at the end of the line with a yardstick to ascertain whether I meet their expectations. What I do is conceptual art and unless I have this commission or someone’s face I’d like to gift to them, I steer clear from portraits.
There is something about working on a piece that doesn’t compensate you accordingly. For once, I’ll break a cardinal rule and use the term business for my paintings. The thing about having this business that does not pay you is that, sooner or later, you will realize you are a man on the losing end. I live my business. I give it all my time. Even when I am sleeping.
At some point I want to straighten my books, see what I gave my government in taxes apart from VAT. At some point I realize that this hot business of mine swallows every input- my time, the attention and labor that reaches out and gobbles what it spits out in form of profit. I dig deep into my pockets- since I carry no wallet anyway and find out that my money took a stroll down the street. I realize that it is that little fact that right now- that which separates me from enjoying a rare cup of cold Daima yoghurt.
At such times I want to call home right away. You know. Squeeze some money off my old man. I am entitled. Then it hits me that first I am not entitled in any way. I am an adult. Also, my old man sent me money two days ago and if I remember correctly, he isn’t exactly an oil tycoon.
Other times, I lie in bed and stare at that 24,000 bob painting of mine on the wall- never the ceiling. I want to start reminding me what was in my head when I painted it, but something else is what will take over my thoughts.
I want to know how it is that my money runs out so fast. When I just can’t take anymore, I pick up each of my clothes and check each pocket. Just to see if there really are holes. I come across a recent receipt from Text Book Center showing I bought paints, worth that much! The hell was I thinking? Did I expect to have those paints for breakfast with cereal? Then I remember. I had this brilliant idea for a painting. The one I thought would finally grab one of those rich bankers out there and milk them of all their easily earned money. The one I never got to paint.
I have thought of quitting.
I get thoughts of walking out of my life and being an accountant somewhere, doing one of those jobs that involve showing up at eight each day and getting paid at the end of the month. I know that it’s engraved already. I do not have that option, but that is my best shot then when I think of the more practical approach to life.
It punches me back right in the face.
Then I start thinking that perhaps I am not good enough. Maybe the kind of art I do is not artsy enough. Perhaps my paintings are just shitty. The reason no one except the guy painting next to me would love them. He’s just messing with me because boy, is he high. Sometimes someone will mention how talented I am. They will say it with all the conviction and will get me thinking I am the most talented artist since Michelangelo, but broke.
Not anymore. I am walking away from all that. It is all torture – pain without gain. I am quitting art. I mean drawing, painting, sculpting and all. Anything that involves me moving my hand in a manner that suggests drawing, or thinking in images. I have found out that it has become too much to take in.
Quitting will give me a chance to step away and watch the dynamics of what I do unspool while I stand on the edges. While at it I intend to clear away my current collection. I want make a single price tag and photocopy it, then use it for all those paintings I have, so if you want a painting, this might be the time.
Disappointment is nature’s way of testing commitment. Now that the same nature doesn’t have a way of fixing disappointment, this will be my release from my creative prison. Only that my parole will be short lived.
I will disappear from my life for a while. I will find books. Read every day, and with each, try writing daily. When I get the time, I will compile all my available paintings and those drawings; then find a guy who thinks he can do a great job of wiping of my slate clean. I have no idea what this guy will look like but all I am looking for is a person who thinks they can do an amazing job selling my artwork. An extraordinary salesman who won’t pull a Walter Keane on me, like in the movie Big Eyes. All at a flat price.
With luck, I’ll start afresh.
Perhaps many years later, I will sit there staring at a night sky counting stars. I will probably remember a botched exhibition; one I had to compensate the organizers simply because I couldn’t paint more, and I will smile knowing that it wasn’t me that couldn’t paint harder, it’s the paints. I will blame it on the damn paints for running out on me. Which will be absolutely true.
Look, I don’t want to end up one of those dead, broken, penniless that were undervalued in their lifetime but celebrated in death. They led very miserable existences. I do not want to just exist. I also want to live.
About this writer;
I am Fundi Viktart. But you can simply call me Vik. A craftsman, who believes that wood ought to have come in shades of blue. In the absence of nails, it is words I use to fasten together the planks of life that needs nailing. Despite my love for colours, I dream in blue and white only. I like my fantasies a bit blurred so I don’t owe the characters any credits. It is this mash up that gives rise to an artist, who walks around with a toolbox full of words and paint.