Wednesday 10 August 2022

F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Price of Fame

This article is a brief outline of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life and illustrates why I chose him to be part of my ‘Tortured Souls’ series.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald is considered one of the great American writers of the 20th Century. At 23 years old, he had achieved glittering success but sadly, he went on to live a life of excess, alcoholism and depression leading to an early death at the age of 44.  By the time of his death, most of his works were out of print and his early achievement as a literary star was almost forgotten.

In the early days, alcohol softened the blow of rejection and camouflaged the pain of poverty. At the height of his career, he and his wife Zelda lived the celebrity lifestyle, resembling that of the characters in his highly successful novel, The Great Gatsby.  Extravagant parties with the elite, expensive liquors, hysteria and outrageous behaviour were all part of a regular day for the Fitzgeralds.  They revelled in the attention and were always agreeable to put on a show.  Their relationship was fraught with dysfunction which they openly demonstrated to an appreciative audience.  However, they were soon to become boozed up, burned out and broke.  Their audience became bored with the frantic outbursts and tiresome arguments and The Fitzgeralds’ dwindling bank balance could no longer satiate their hungry, opulent appetites.

Scott’s alcoholism exacerbated and Zelda suffered from several mental and physical breakdowns.  By 1930, Zelda was diagnosed with schizophrenia resulting in long stays in clinics which would become the course for the rest of her life.  In 1936, Fitzgerald wrote, 'Of course, all life is a process of breaking down ....  For sixteen years I lived pretty much as this latter person, distrusting the rich, yet working for money with which to share their mobility and the grace that some of them brought into their lives…..,' from 'The Crack Up', a collection of personal essays and letters.  

This period became known as the Crack Up; Fitzgerald was drunk, broke, living in hotel rooms and unable to write commercial stories.   His stories about himself, his musings and his alcoholism were not well received and he was unable to command the once high prices, he achieved from his magazine stories.  By the end of the ’30s, his acute alcoholism was taking its toll.  His health was dramatically deteriorating and he was badly affected by recurring bouts of tuberculosis.  In late 1940, Fitzgerald suffered a heart attack and on the 21st December 1940, he suffered a further, massive heart attack, ending his short and troubled life.

The main resource for Fitzgerald’s stories was his own life, his relationships, tragedies and feelings of failure.  He wrote, ‘all the stories that came into my head had a touch of disaster in them, the lovely young creatures in my novels went to ruin, the diamond mountains of my short stories blew up, my millionaires were as doomed as Thomas Hardy’s peasants.’           

Fitzgerald left behind The Last Tycoon, his final novel, unfinished at the time of his death.  It was edited and published in 1941 by his friend and literary critic Edmund Wilson. 

Image: Jane E Porter, The Fitzgeralds 2011, collage

Friday 22 July 2022

The Tortured Soul Creates Art

I am lost, I am blessed, creative and a mess, 
I am medicated, stoned and obsessed.
I am confused, I’m sad and driven nearly mad, 
I am alone, I’m guilty and possessed.
I am courageous and terrified, 
I’m secretive and I’ve lied, 
I am success, a failure and 
God knows how I’ve tried.

I’m tormented, I am strong, 
yet weak and I was wrong 
about so many things.
I am rejected, I am knocked, 
temporarily blocked.  
I am powerless and under repair.
I am questioning, unsure, 
altered and impure, 
I am doubt and I’m out of control.
I am determined, I am fear, 
I am real, I am here.
I am the artist’s tortured soul.

Monday 11 April 2022

The Feminist Artists Gave Us A Voice

This piece is about the fears many women have about using their voice and saying what they believe in.  

I'd been studying 'The Feminist Art' movement of the late 1960s and was inspired by the strength and determination of these women.

The Feminist artists stood against an established, male-dominated art world. Women were under-represented and invisible to the public and the Feminist artists fought to change, what had been the norm for centuries.

I want to thank them for their courage and offer my sincere gratitude.

Image: Spoils of Courage 2004 (sold), Mixed Media on Board - oils, wax, plaster.

Further Reading

The Feminist Artists Who Changed the World

Artland - Feminist Art History 

How Art Fought for Women's Rights

Tuesday 1 February 2022

Embracing Defiance: Finding Artistic Identity and Trusting My Instincts

After all these years, I'm still trying to find myself as an artist. To help me solve this dilemma and organise my thoughts, I have decided to start at the beginning.

This was one of the first paintings I did at art school. My tutors said that palette knife paintings were artless and cheesy so being defiant, I painted the whole thing with palette knives and guess what - they couldn't tell the difference.

Stick to your guns, be defiant, try things out.  Embracing the rebellious spirit is inherent to being an artist.

Image -  The Painter's Pot 30 x 60 cm, oil on canvas.