David Cross as Dr. Tobias Fünke; courtesy Fox Broadcasting Company
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The heading for this post is taken from I Drink For A Reason, a compilation of musings, rants and (hilariously) profane lists by David Cross, the comedian and actor best known for his turn as Dr. Tobias Fünke on the television series Arrested Development. I was reminded of the line after reading ArtVent, the blog of artist and critic Carol Diehl. Cross’s finely honed quip best encapsulates the range of feelings–a melange of exasperation, disbelief and quiet consternation–engendered by Diehl’s recent post on Plan B.
What, you might ask, is Plan B? That would be some kind of provision taken by artists in order to sustain their day-to-day livelihood–paying the rent, putting food on the table, having health insurance, buying supplies, like that. In other words: an operating principle that allows an artist to afford his creative pursuits.
Diehl doesn’t like the idea. At a meeting with art students, she was asked if “a strong emphasis on minor studies . . . [would contribute] in a significant way to their artistic pursuits” or should such practicality be chalked off as “Plan B”? The question elicited this response:
“I am SO opposed to ‘Plan B’.
“How successful can you be at anything, when you’re simultaneously planning for failure . . . it seems like a waste to spend time (and considerable money) on anything you’re not passionate about.”
Is planning for the future inherently an admission of failure? Seems like a necessity to me, particularly in a field where regular financial remuneration is unlikely. Besides, why can’t Plan B entail responsibilities that are, in their own way, rewarding? Not every day job has to be onerous, unpleasant or, in Diehl’s estimation, unpassionate.
(For the record: My various Plan B’s have included teaching, art writing, sheet-rocking, wall-papering, faux-finish painting, working as a gallery assistant and making artificial rocks at the Central Park Zoo, where the trick was to sculpt geological fissures, crags and toeholds in such a way that the spider monkeys could frolic but not escape.)
With dreams of Dakis Joannou at the door; photo courtesy of The Patrick Camera Club
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Diehl recalls how her parents wanted to channel their daughter’s artistic interests into a career as a fashion illustrator; my parents pined for a certified public accountant. Diehl and I decided otherwise. We all make choices–good, bad, regrettable and indifferent. But some of those choices have to involve mundane matters like having the means to pay for, say, internet service.
Diehl and I are doing well enough to spend significant chunks of time looking at and writing about art. And most students have an idea what they’re in for. God be with them: Every young artist should graduate with a line of collectors, blank checks in hand, knocking on the studio door. But encouraging go-for-broke romanticism is doing them a disservice and potentially fostering disillusion, if not outright harm. Best to take Plan B, Plan C–hell, Plan D–into consideration and bring at least one of them to sustainable fruition.
The earlier artists realize this the better able they’ll be to navigate their creative lives outside the academic environment and to build upon that elusive thing known as Plan A.
© 2011 Mario Naves