Part IV: The Professional Artist
by Solomon Philbrick
Wherein Simon explicates the existence, role and meaning of the professional artist in America.
Thomas: Good day, Simon. Those two weeks off were such a relief. I finally got the chance to leave this dreadful town and even finished all of my Christmas shopping. And how did you spend your vacation?
Simon: Oh, how do you do Thomas.
Thomas: Well, will you answer me? What did you do with your vacation time? Oh, how you exasperate me!
Simon: Why, Thomas, you have always been a hot-headed one. Calm yourself. As to what I did over my vacation time, you are looking at it. I stayed right here in the study with my books. I have absolutely no need for the outside world and I find others to be quite tedious. As for Christmas, I stopped observing it years ago and have never felt better. All that bustle and buzz is nothing more than a headache. After a few years my loved ones got the hint and I have never since had to celebrate during that rancid holiday season. Let others deck their halls. I shall stay indoors and read.
Thomas: I think that you are almost intolerable, Simon.
Simon: I think that I don’t really care. And if you find me so intolerable, as you say, why do you come back?
Thomas: Well, I for one like to check in on the well being of my friends. Also, though, the last time we spoke you hinted at something you wanted to tell me about something you call the professional artist.
Simon: Ah, yes, the professional artist. All hail this unsung and invisible backbone of the artistic world!
Thomas: I find your sarcasm irritating, Simon. Get on with it.
Simon: My dear Thomas, for once I can honestly say that I am not being sarcastic. The professional artist is a species of artist that I truly admire.
Thomas: What is your definition of this species of artist, Simon?
Simon: The professional artist, like a chef or some other kind of skilled laborer, goes out every day and performs his duties to bring home a paycheck. He is your studio musician, your man hired to paint a mural on an unsightly grey wall, your architect who is not quite famous enough to create a monstrosity, your interior decorator, etc. Simply put, the professional artist earns his living by working as just about any other average stiff does. He is not famous like the commercial artist and he is not stupidly elitist like the artiste. While the other two strike glamorous poses, the professional artist does his job almost anonymously. For this alone he should be commended.
Thomas: What exactly is the use of the professional artist? It sounds like a dull career.
Simon: And surely it is a dull career, but it is absolutely necessary for the world to have these unsung heroes. Imagine this, if you will: You are a singer in a somewhat famous rock and roll band and your guitarist one day decides to overdose on heroin when you are supposed to be recording. Or, for that matter, imagine that your guitarist not only overdosed on heroin but he could never really play the guitar all that well to begin with. In this situation, you call in the professional artist, the studio musician who lacks the glamor and needle tracks that would make him a successful commercial artist but who is actually competent with his instrument and knows how to read sheet music. He shows up on time, plays the music, drinks a moderate amount of beer, and goes on his way at the end of the day with his payment. The album comes out on time and Garbagehead the guitarist receives all the credit, in spite of the fact that Garbagehead was busy escaping rehab while your studio musician was doing all the grunt work.
Thomas: Why does one become a professional artist, do you think?
Simon: I cannot tell you for sure. There are probably as many reasons for becoming a professional artist as there are professional artists themselves. Some no doubt were aspiring commercial artists or artistes who either could not break into the fame cycle or who found themselves with too many responsibilities and too much common-sense to fit into the role of artiste. Others graduated with their degrees in some art form, became tired of working at coffee houses and decided to put their knowledge to practical use. Whatever the reason for an individual’s decision to become a professional artist, he should be praised. Which is why it is so difficult to expound on the subject, because I am much better at insulting than praising.
Thomas: Trust me Simon, I know.
If Philbrick can get his shit together, there will be a Part V, where Simon explicates the meaning, role and existence of the dilettante.
Philbrick seems to like studio musicians..or maybe he doesn't.