To Kat, a Young Artist

Kat was recently one of my students. I just spent a week with her in NYC. The above is from her magnificent journal. She is an artist. The following is a letter from Elizabeth Murray, a great painter recently passed:

Dear Young Artist:

I became a painter because I went to a school that was in a great museum. Walking to class, I started to see the paintings, quietly waiting to be seen. They penetrated and I realized I wanted to make paintings as intense and moving as those on the wall. I had wanted to be a commercial artist. Instead, I started trying to paint. Here are some suggestions as you begin your career:

Stay in touch with your original motivation to become an artist--and be aware that it is always a process of becoming. You have to stay light on your feet. It is about change and transformation. You are the boss of that but you don't have total control. Good to give into that. Making art requires a lot of isolation, but I realized over time that I also wanted a whole life, that I could still do my work and have a partner and a family. So have a life. Art making fits in well.

Showing your work--eventually selling your work--is not evil, and it is a natural process. You are not selling your soul, you are earning a living, and you don't have to do anything your feel is wrong. If you make some money and get attention for what you have done, your friends may be envious. Forgive them--you'll have those feelings, too. Only human.

The art world seems to conjure up a lot of nonsense right now and seems to be only about friends, money, and fame. Try to stay focused and centered in what you want in your work, keeping in mind that your art is about describing your spirit and your life force makes the work better.

Good luck. You are already succeeding just by attempting.

Elizabeth Murray
New York