Bob was the sort of guy you wouldn’t notice in a room. He never said a bad thing about anyone and was always even tempered. The thing was, even though he was easy to be friends with, no one knew anything about him.
One night many years ago a bunch of us, fellow painters, sculptors and mostly critics headed for the tavern.
Our intent was to drink a bit, talk art a bit and maybe even lie to each other a bit. As the night progressed and intoxication heightened I noticed Bob beginning to loosen up. His personality became that of an individual with a driving opinion and a considerable knowledge about sculpture and steel fabrication. We usually shrugged these conversations off and reduced them down to drunken ravings.
The defining moment of the evening arose when Bob stood up and staggered to the pool table and announced to a tavern full of people,
“ I’ll play 8 ball against anyone for any amount of money”.
We may have been drunk but we were sober enough to know that Bob could hardly stand up much less play pool.
A table of five fellows slapped a 20 dollar bill down on the table and said best out of five. A sharp well dressed fellow grabbed a cue and proceeded to move towards Bob and the pool table. Bob tripped and staggered looking for a cue. We were all embarrassed for Bob so I found a cue and put it in his hand.
Bob dropped the cue as he fumbled in his wallet to find a 20 dollar bill. A hand full of cash and change ended up half on the floor and half on the pool table.
Bob exclaimed “lets play some goddaaamn eiiight Baaall.”
The well dressed fellow stood back and told Bob to break.
Bob broke and from that point on never missed a shot. Three games later and several more beers Bob walked over to our table sat down and passed out.
A few weeks later I spotted Bob at the art gallery where he worked part time as a technician. I walked up to him and said WOW! Bob! I’ve never saw anyone play 8 Ball like that before, especially falling down drunk like your were.
He simply said “What can I say, alcohol relaxes me”!
It has been over 20 years since I last saw Bob and I still have carry that story with me. I have heard stories of people doing miraculous things but never witnessed it and especially not under such intoxication.
Bob is still a sculptor and is working out of Los Angeles as a teacher today.
What I bring forward from Bob and his hidden talent is how profound true inspiration is. Is it any wonder that history is just full of artists that have found their genius through substance abuse. Why do people like Jim Morrison and Jackson Pollack reach such lows in their personal life and such highs in their creative life.
Truly creative people are always thinking, creating and idealizing. Their minds are in a constant flux trying to get ahead of their thoughts and removed from the moment, constantly planning, rationalizing and second guessing their motives for art.
Artists need relief from their unconventional thoughts in this conventional world.
True artists don’t fit-in like everyone else they just react to the world around them.
Being an extremist with an all or nothing attitude is a fairly black and white way of living but has its complexities when it comes to the general population.
Over the years there have been several occasions that have lent themselves to excessive indulgence in SPIRITS for creative purposes. There have been periods of time that have extended several months and seen a proliferation of finished canvases.
Malibu Rum became my friend for during one of the more creative periods of my art career. I didn’t even really like it because of its sweetness but that never stopped me.
One Christmas I remember having a shot of Malibu after dinner from a bottle that was left in my studio. Before I new it I was having a shot as I started a painting and during a painting and after a painting was completed. 3 Months later I had over 20 new paintings, gained 20 lbs and had 2.5 green garbage bags full of empty 26 0z. Malibu Rum bottles.
I quit drinking for several weeks because that’s what I needed to do. My painting streak faded and I struggled for the next 2 years to get it up to par.
The jest of this whole thing is relaxing which shouldn’t be confused with comfort. Having a drink or 10 is the fast track to removing those inhibitions that tend to encumber ways of seeing.
Developmental studies have shown that artists and alike are more subject to definitive methods of processing information than the average person. We artists have a predisposition to using formulas to arrive at a final product like a painting or a piece of sculpture.
I don’t advocate becoming an alcoholic to satisfy your art career. I am just pointing out why there is a greater use of substances like alcohol among the most creative in our society.
Writers, Artists, Musicians, Actors,
Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway were both known to indulge excessively in alcohol. William Faulkner, who won the Nobel prize in literature in 1950, was hospitalized innumerable times for alcoholism.
Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Vincent Van Gough all had challenges with alcohol and other substances that eventually took there toll.
Elvis Presley, need I say more!
Stephen King has had his bout with alcohol and survived it.
It all doesn’t end bad and most times alcohol has actually provided a quality of life where there wasn’t before.
What is the stigma
Alcohol input and creative output HYPERLINK "http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119381828/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0" \l "fn1" *
ARNOLD M. LUDWIG, MD 1
1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, KY 40536, USA
*Adapted from a presentation at a Workshop titled, Alcohol Abuse and Creativity: Stigma, Legend or Fact? at the 1989 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Franciso, California, on 10 May 1989.
1990 Society for the Study of Addiction to Alcohol and other Drugs
Is alcohol use a help or a hindrance for creativity? And, conversely, what effect does creative activity have on alcohol use? In order to answer these questions, relevant information was obtained from the biographies of 34 well known, heavy drinking, 20th century writers, artists or composers/performers. Analysis of this information yielded a number of interesting findings. Alcohol use proved detrimental to productivity in over 75% of the sample, especially in the latter phases of their drinking careers. However, it appeared to provide direct benefit for about 9% of the sample, indirect benefit for 50% and no appreciable effect for 40% at different times in their lives. Creative activity, conversely, can also affect drinking behavior, leading, for instance, to increased alcohol consumption in over 30% of the sample. Because of the complexities of this relationship, no simplistic conclusions are possible.
I think being a painter has taught me allot about who I am, my limitations and my potential. My successes and my failures are driven by the same psyche that keeps me searching for a creative edge. Art is a visual journal of my life’s journey and it continues to bewilder me, torment me, excite me and teach me. I can connect with the world and people on various levels from the lowest level to the most sophisticated.
"If I live to be an old man it will be with a brush in one hand and a vodka martini in the other".
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