It has been a few years since a film has made such a strong impact on me. Seeing the film ‘La la land’ was such a memorable experience due to its music, its energy, a certain type of sensitivity towards its visual details, its colours, its realistic dialogues, its playfulness and the balance between the dark and light sides of life.
What struck me very strongly was seeing the challenging side of artistic life portrayed with such an accuracy that I struggled unsuccessfully to hold back tears on several occasions.
The action of the film takes place in Los Angeles, however, it could have taken place in any large city. I have met and spent an enormous amount of time with fellow musicians and artists over the last fourteen years of living in London. We have faced experiencing gigs that have been unpaid, last minute cancellations of performances, and the constant rejection and criticism from promoters. I cannot count the number of times I have heard the wish from fellow musicians “I would like to be a successful jazz pianist, a jazz drummer or a jazz singer”. Given the fact that rent for accommodation is a monthly cost of over £700 and the average income from a gig is around £80, how likely is that musician will even survive! In addition, you must experience the heartbreak of experiencing family members and friends telling you to get a proper job.
I believe, it is more about the journey and less about the destination. It is about having a dream and pursuing it. Being a successful artist entails following your heart despite the heartbreak and setbacks. Success has more to do with being truth to yourself and your heart than being successful commercial artist.
However I would like to know why it is always so difficult for artists to survive? Well let’s see! We all live and learn through our mistakes and experiences and we must as artists keep pursuing our dreams and following our hearts!
Many years ago I wanted to play a piano recital in my beautiful hometown in Poland. The local art’s council had agreed to assist me with the organisation of it and I had been over the moon until they had actually shown me the poster for it. I will not get into details about how bad it looked but the appearance of the poster certainly required that I find a local artist to create a new one. I agreed to pose for an abstract painting for it and consequently he had created an interesting and beautiful poster. However, unfortunately, the local printing shops were unable to print it due to its unusual size. By this point I realised that I would have to abandon my beautiful island and I would need to travel over 120 kilometres just to have the poster printed in the nearest big city! It was such a dazzling creation that I had been compelled to travel the distance.
Once inside the printing shop, I waited sweating due to the hot summer temperatures and journey with an old lady, who enquired as to whether the woman in the poster was me. This meeting led to me sending her some vignettes of my music and performances, and ultimately to me getting to know the music of Carl Nielsen, due to the fact that this woman had been the Polish representative of the Scandinavian Association of Szczecin. Furthermore I was asked to play the music of Carl Nielsen on a regular basis in a breathtakingly beautiful castle, the Duke Castle in Szczecin. This time I was sweating but under lights of local TV.
My perseverance and determination bore fruit and opened up many unique new opportunities for me even thought I had not now at the time if anyone would actually come to the performance. It transpired that many people attended the recital, which had been most gratifying and flattering experience. I have learned valuable life lesson which were to give 100% to my projects and pursuing creative ideas despite of challenges.
There are no guarantees that your desired outcome in life will materialise and possibly there will be no pay cheque at the end of the month. Being an artist means being your own boss with all the pros and cons that are associated with that. It also means being resourceful, when money is tight, and having a positive attitude. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people, whose goals in life are not only about acquiring money and status is absolutely essential in order to be able to weather the storms of artistic life.
A person who sits in an office five days a week employed in a job that they do not like may achieve financial stability however it could be at the expense of excitement and the unknown. In my opinion, which is based upon my experience there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ life. We are all different and each of us has a different journey to explore and a variety of needs to fulfil in this life. There is one thing, however that we all have in common and that is that we all only have one life to live. What truly counts in life are your experiences and the effects that your actions have on others. We should not be overly concerned with how much money we leave in our accounts when we die.
The wise father of a creative friend of mine gave some advice I would like to share it here.
If you want to make it out, there is no plan B!