I was watching this thing on VH1 Classics the other night, caught the middle of it – a documentary about Prince, “The Prince Of Paisley Park.” The documentary included all this old footage of the era of the “Lovesexy” Tour and included interviews with the band members – Sheila E and all the others whose names escape me. They were sharing their recollections of what it was like back in the day to tour with Prince and how creative and demanding he was – but that it was all worth it because they were in the presence of artistic genius.
So, I’m sitting there watching this with a friend. The footage changed from the interviews to live footage from a concert and back and forth. At one point, my friend, an audio guy, commented on how bad the sound was (Nashville!) and how could anyone possibly get any enjoyment out of the show because of the sound and how the tempo was off, etc. And something struck a chord in me watching this coupled with his reaction.
I told him that the whole deal wasn’t for other people to get enjoyment… that the whole purpose of an artist creating is to get the art out. Most of the time — when commerce is not involved — when I create a drawing, painting or take photos and tweak them, it’s not for the world at large. It’s for me. I have to have some kind of artistic release. It’s a really hard concept to explain to people, but that’s the best I can do. Honestly, I’d never really thought about how my creative flow related and paralleled the angst of songwriters/musicians, but at that moment it clicked. It’s almost like the need to burp or have a good cry.
Legend has it that Prince has all these recordings of songs that he’s never released. Albums and albums worth. My creations parallel that to a much smaller extent – I’ve got tons of artwork that I’ve hoarded – my own stuff that might never see the light of day, but it’s like a disconnected visual journal, of a string of particular moments in time.
Prince isn’t creating that music for the consumption of the masses — well, he is in a way, to keep money flowing, but mainly, he’s doing it because he has to. It’s like inhaling and exhaling. I’ve heard often from songwriters that they hear the song in their head and have to put it down on paper, or at least release the sound into the world. The same concept is at work for visual artists. Sometimes you just have to get the paint out.
In another part of the story, Sheila E was talking about how all the band members would learn the show, and the next day Prince would change the whole thing and they’d have to learn it all over again. Another “Ah-Ha!” moment for me. Perfectionism is a weird thing. And when perfectionism cross-pollenates with art, it’s dangerous business. There have been many times I’ve created something and then just when I think it’s a great idea, and the work is long gone, I think “Whoa, I should have done this, I show have added that, this would have taken it to a whole other level” — the process is never-ending because it’s a process. And while it’s frustrating, it is part of having artistic DNA.
I can’t imaging being an accountant. I bet Prince can’t either.