"Nobody, not even artists, understood art. What speed has to do with it. How much work it takes, year after year, building the skills, the trust in the process, more work probably than any Olympic athlete ever puts in because it is twenty-four hours a day, even in dreams, and then when the skills and the trust are in place, the best work usually takes the least effort. Usually. It comes fast, it comes without thought, it comes like a horse running you over at night. But. Even if people understand this, they don’t understand that sometimes it is not like that at all. Because the process has always been: craft, years and years; then faith; then letting go. But now, sometimes the best work is agony. Pieces put together, torn apart, rebuilt. Doubt in everything that has been learned, terrible crisis of faith, the faith that allowed it all to work. Oh God. And even then, through this, if you survive the halting pace and the fever, sometimes you make the best work you have ever made. That is the part none of us understand.
The reason people are so moved by art and why artists tend to take it all so seriously is that if they are real and true they come to the painting with everything they know and feel and love, and all the things they don’t know, and some of the things they hope, and they are honest about them all and put them on the canvas. What can be more serious? What more really can be at stake except life itself, which is why maybe artists are always equating the two and driving everybody crazy by insisting that art is life. Well. Cut us some slack. It’s harder work than one might imagine, and riskier, and takes a very special and dear kind of mad person.”
Excerpt from The Painter, by Peter Heller