The Way We Lied

But generally Mary was very kind and generous, even to Arthur. She said that artists have the most difficult task of all craftsmen in trying to balance the need to sell their products with their desire to create truly individual works that speak from the soul. She said that she could never criticise those who had to produce commercial work as everyone needs to be able to eat, but she would reserve her greatest praise for those who could also open their clients’ eyes and show them work that had meaning.
I loved that and I am still thinking about it. I mean most of us there could afford to feed our families and put a roof over their heads. We don’t need to create art for financial gain. Not that I make that much anyway, I think I probably just about cover my overheads in paint, canvases and the gallery commission. But to be producing work that had that something extra would be great and so much more rewarding. I suppose I’ve never really thought before about whether my paintings had any kind of inner message. After all, what can you say about a vase of flowers and what can they say to you?
And then after she’d gone we were all so excited and all of us, apart from Arthur, wanted to carry on talking about the afternoon and we decided to go for a drink in the pub on the green. Nicky was pleased it had been such a successful visit and said she was very proud of everyone and the questions we had asked. I don’t think she meant to include Arthur in this as he had asked Mary whether she didn’t sometimes think she would be better off producing attractive sculptures that more people would buy! Nicky had asked Mary about her travels and whether she thought it was important to gain different experiences. Mary said she thought this was vital and that artists should be open to all influences and sources of ideas. But she said that when the time came to create, she found it essential to become monastic and to withdraw and she quoted something from Wordsworth about poetry being emotion recollected in tranquillity, I think. And that made a lot of sense to me.
But I then said something rather silly about how difficult it was to be tranquil when babies had to have nappies changed or children had to be collected from school. And two of my friends laughed and said what about fitting in the housework and the shopping, not to mention sorting the laundry every day. But Mary didn’t seem to think we were being at all stupid. She was sympathetic and she said while she did not have those distractions, being a single woman without children, we were fortunate to have these calls on our time as our nurture and devotion would be reflected in our work in good time.
We all looked at each other and Laura actually pulled a face which nearly made me laugh, but I liked what Mary said. It made all these years of being so busy as a wife and mother all seem even more worthwhile. As if it has been shaping us and will ultimately be of benefit to our work, enriching it with meaning about families and love for our children.

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