This Guest Post was written by David Sandum/12.8.15.
Most people have felt the strong desire to jump into the unknown and follow a dream. Yet few dare to make the leap.
A few years ago, a businessman stopped by my studio. He seemed to have everything you could possibly want, so I was surprised when he confided that he envied me for living my passion. He dreamed of being a boat captain, he said, but could never support his lifestyle that way. I felt rich indeed, though I had no idea how I’d pay my next month’s studio rent.
As desirable as it may seem to some, living a creative life and staying true to your vision requires hard work and sacrifices. “Creativity takes courage,” Matisse said.
With respect to writing, you can choose to play it safe or risk criticism and confrontation by openly expressing your thoughts about difficult topics. While working on my memoir about depression and art, an editor asked if I was sure I wanted to include certain sensitive passages. Yes, I was sure. To give a full and honest account of my depression, I knew I had to mention all the details. It was the only way to fully connect with my readers and make a difference.
Color images are also important to me, so I was eager to release an illustrated edition of my memoir. But the road to publication was full of obstacles that made it nearly impossible to achieve that dream. After taking eight years to complete my first draft, I was exhausted by the process, not realizing that the work had only just begun. To write my story was one thing, to find a publisher was another. I finally found a publisher in Rome, who agreed to take on the book provided I remove all the images to keep the production costs down.
I was so tired I would have done almost anything to move the project forward. But hearing that demand, I turned them down. What followed were years of rejection. For a long time, I didn’t think I’d ever see my memoir in print. I finally looked into self‐publishing, although again the images would have made the project too costly. It wasn’t until 2014 that I found a publisher who shared my vision for the book and came up with a plan to produce it economically while retaining the images. We then spent several months editing and reworking the manuscript. From start to finish, my book took 15 years.
The same challenges apply to painting. You can paint safe motifs that are more likely to sell, or you can follow your passion and risk selling fewer pieces—an age-old dilemma among artists. As an example, in 2006, I was commissioned to paint three oil paintings for a vacation resort in Skagen, Denmark. I traveled there, and after years of darker work, I created light paintings of the sky and sea. The next summer I returned and painted the same kind of scenes. I sold everything I made. People were delighted and even suggested I set up shop on the beach and make it my artistic career.
Skagen, oil on canvas, 116 x 89 cm
But my attention turned to another topic—the Holocaust—prompted by Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s claim at the UN that the atrocities had never taken place. Having a Jewish Hungarian grandmother who survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, I was outraged. I wanted to paint something that spoke to my family’s experience and deep wounds. I left the soft light of Skagen and started a series of dramatic Auschwitz paintings. For a year I hardly sold anything, stubbornly pursuing painting after painting on this dark theme. A close friend visiting my studio told me, “In Denmark you found motifs that people wanted to buy, and now you paint these horrid death camps! Who wants to put them in their living room?” Now one of those paintings hangs in the Mizel Museum in Denver. I believe they are some of my best pieces.
Auschwitz Birkenau, oil on canvas, 73 x 92cm, Mizel Museum
I have learned to listen to my instincts and heed what’s in my heart. In a day and age when people want everything to happen fast, I’m constantly reminded that it takes time, persistence, and integrity to develop and follow your dreams.
BIO: David Sandum was born in Gothenburg, Sweden. As a young man, he became ill with depression and turned to writing and art to grapple with his symptoms. A thriving painter today, he earned international acclaim by founding TwitterArtExhibit, a social media initiative that enlists artists to help raise funds for local charities. David lives with his wife and two sons in Moss, Norway.
BOOK: Grab a copy of David’s illustrated memoir, I’ll Run Till the Sun Goes Down, for just $19.95 here LINK: http://bit.ly/1HeA0oI. Sale ends 12/20/15.