How to survive life as an artist – Inspired by the ages and stages of Robin Gibb

Robin Gibb, 1/3 of the legendary Bee Gees, cheated on his first wife with (by his estimation) over 100 women. They divorced and he spent two years in bed with a bottle, so depressed he feared he was going mad. This is the same man who so recently fought with everything he had to stay alive for just one more day. What had changed?

We all live in different worlds. One person’s reality may look, taste, and smell quite similar to another’s, but our brains wire meaning and importance with incredible variation. Where/when our realities overlap, we feel safe, accepted, secure. Surrounded by like-minded brains, the world makes sense – cause and effect, social etiquette, cultural norms. But there is only one place where we meet, all of us, on the same plane… emotion.

The artists we remember have the ability, through their work, to draw us into an emotion and keep us there until we feel it is our own. Emotion and intellect is a back and forth evolution of consciousness. Art, whether through colour, words, or music, allows us to engage in this evolution outside of ourselves, protecting our delicate identities and egos. An emotional reaction triggers an opening in our thinking. Suddenly, we have internal permission to change our perceptions of reality, bringing them either more in line with the artist’s vision, or reinforcing an opposing viewpoint.

But what about the artist?

“The real world was just too real – and we didn’t want to be part of normal life. We wanted to create a magical world for the three of us, and the only way we could do that was to lock ourselves away and be creative.” – Robin Gibb

We must not underestimate the emotional intensity and sensitivity needed to create an outside expression of a universal emotional reality. Among those few born with this gift (some might say curse), along with the talents to communicate it, there are fewer still who can touch us independent of their time. We call them ‘the greats’ – our ‘geniuses’.

But when a mind can only justify itself by creating its own external reflection, participation in a communal, comfortable reality is an impossibility. To add to the artist’s burden, the energy costs of this constant self-reflection make peace of mind an active, rather than a passive, state of being. The artist requires a certain level of selfishness to preserve these energies and not get sucked into the bottomless emotional demands of a world, which to them, is forever on fire. Those who deny this in-born protection, and claim an artificial selflessness, risk their minds following ‘the rules’, if not their very lives.

Robin Gibb got out of bed and began living more honestly. When an artist accepts himself/herself as an artist and begins to live authentically in their ‘village role’, they are able to surround themselves with people who will support (if not necessarily share) their unique vision of reality. Under these circumstances, the artist can finally give back more than he/she takes. Robin Gibb found Dwina, a liberal-minded woman who gave him the space and freedom to live in a way that fueled his creativity instead of draining it. Even so, Gibb pushed his luck by fathering a child with their maid. Because after all, artist or not, guess we’re all stuck being human.

Michelle Harper and the illusion of universal individual style

Michelle Violy Harper is a delight. Her quirky, oftentimes whimsical personal style is a celebration of…. yada yada – the articles have been written, Vogue, Style.com, etc. The tributes are effusive and entirely deserved. She’s spectacular (period).

We are inspired, millions of us, but to do what? Theoretically, we’re supposed to dig into our own psyches, moods, and fave cultural/fashion references to root out an individual style that best expresses who we are and/or how we wish to be perceived. Pretty straight forward, right?

Individual style is an illusion. For every time, for every trend, there are those who lead through exaggeration: Grace Kelly’s 1950s elegance, Kurt Cobain’s layered grunge jeans, Louis XIV’s Sun King ornamentation. Costuming these characters differently is unthinkable because their style is so closely linked to their psychologies. Their brains demand an outward expression of their eccentricities – they have no choice. To dress differently would be a betrayal of self, cause chaffing personal conflict, and render them invisible within their time.

Culture is pulled ahead by powerful personalities and powerful innovations. Fashion’s game changers are innately sensitive to the evolving culture around them and engage in a (often unconscious) back and forth influencing that, when successful, aligns them perfectly with the moment, even as they effectively pull it forward – making them inspirational touchstones to the public. Such sensitivity, combined with an exaggerated, ambitious personality, is a rare and sometimes dangerous mix (eg: Cobain, Leigh Bowery). The personal costs are high; it’s not often worth being envious beyond the clothes.

A brief stint working at Michaels Arts & Craft Superstore made something very clear: there are those who innovate, those who adapt ideas, and those who simply emulate. At Michaels, the innovators bought loose beads, those who needed inspiration bought kits, and the emulators preferred kits with full patterns/instructions. The same follows for fashion, and there is nothing wrong with it! This is the world! But this trend (and yes, it IS a trend) for universal personal, individual style is a philosophical fallacy.

Michelle Harper, born with a driving need to explore and experiment with her physicality, should be held aloft as inspiration. Because she, out of dozens of street style stars, is one of the very few able to transcend the trends hidden in plain view within the individuality movement (as patterned over time on sites like TheSartorialist.com – eg: fedoras, cameos). She is our latest, brightest touchstone – leather paillettes for all! ~wink