Let's do a few stories this week.
Checks and balances
This first one is about Stephen King. King is a famous horror novelist whose books are chilling and mysterious all at the same time. There is an air, of madness and creep that is somehow very human in his writing. King would have never gotten published had it not been for his wife.
After writing a few pages of his first book Carrie, Stephen threw out the pages in frustration. Who was going to publish a book about a bullied and terrorized teenager with telekinetic powers in the 1970s? Tabitha, his wife picked up the crumpled papers from the garbage disposal and pushed him to finish the book. She gave him her insight on what it was like to be a teenage girl in a small town and kept the story going. Without Stephen and Tabitha, that first book (and others) would not have happened. Some back ups are spouses, some are mothers and some are pen pals. They help load the coal to keep the engine going.
Enduring support - Theo and Vincent van Gogh
Perhaps one of the most well known and well documented artist-support duo are the Dutch painter and his brother. In the numerous letters they exchanged over the years, there is something more than love and family. There is a bond, one of artist and his confidant. Vincent writes openly about his thoughts and opinions to his brother requesting him to read that book or exchange pictures of that painting. He shares in detail his love for nature, painting and scriptures from the Bible. During his travels, Vincent visits museums, exhibitions, seeking out paintings and looking at works of other artists. In some ways, Vincent is seeking (and finding) his own education in painting while Theo shares his own views in the response letters, sharing names, works and styles – adding to their combined knowledge. In Theo, he has found a fellow art lover, probably like finding someone to share all your music interests with.
'You must write and tell me which painters you like best, both the old and the new, you must be sure to do this, I’m curious to know.' ~From Vincent to Theo, 19 November 1873.
'How I’d like to talk to you about art again, but now we can only write to each other about it often; find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful.' ~From Vincent to Theo, Jan 1874.
In the decade long exchange of letters, their voices are optimistic and hopeful in spite of the fact that in reality, their lives were filled with struggle, failure, loss and sickness. Somehow, the brothers brought out the best in each other.
When Vincent decided to start painting professionally at 28, Theo funded his art supplies, the canvases, paints and brushes which were expensive. Theo became Vincent's manager in today's terms, trying to sell the finished paintings at the art dealership where he worked. Theo never managed to sell any of Vincent's paintings in Vincent's lifetime. This put great strain on their relationship, with no money coming in from the sale of paintings for more than a decade, Theo could not endlessly go on supporting Vincent. In spite of Theo's own personal struggles, he remained his brother's patron and defender* till the end.
*The Van Gogh family thought Vincent was a crazy, drunk failure who could not take care of himself.
The story of Van Gogh is a story of brothers - the starry nights, potato eaters and sunflowers could not have existed without either. The paintings reflect both Vincent and Theo, two agents working together.
Conspirators and collaborators
While it is rare to find an encouraging and unshaken patron or critic, it is probably rarer to find a close collaborator. Ray and Charles Eames were one of the most famous designers of the twentieth century, designing iconic pieces of furniture (like the Eames chair), making movies (power of ten), buildings and world expos.
They were a married couple, Ray a painter and Charles a architect who didn't really finish his architecture degree. He was the vision and she was the spirit. Charles created the projects, pushing his imagination and Ray brought out the project's humanity with a touch of child-like play. Although they were colleagues, in the 1950s Ray was simply looked at as Charles's wife first and collaborator second. It was only in the 1980s that both were recognized as equal partners in their work. Their eccentric and playful photos, innovative buildings were representation of team 'Eames'. They lived a seamless life one where work, personal and play were all interwoven within each other. Ray Eames was the counter-balance to Charles's eccentricity and Charles was Ray's challenger. They found and perfected many techniques of mass production that are still in use even today. In the documentary 'Eames the architect', one of their employees says 'Charles instinctively deferred to Ray in matters of color and harmony'. Would the works of Charles Eames have manifested themselves without Ray? Maybe, maybe not. But without Ray, the work would have certainly not had the same essence.
“Anything I can do, Ray can do better,” ~Charles Eames
The creative, artistic tasks we take up may be a hobby, recreation, profession or simply just expression. But none of the above things happen without the support of people, our family, friends, mentors, collaborators and maybe even fans. To these people, we are ever grateful.