Art, Corporations, and Forklifts
Sean Sakamoto & Jason Novak
When I invited you to write in (Let’s Talk), you have responded in different ways. I’ve gotten questions, stories, musings, messages of support.
Sean Sakamoto sent me a movie he made.
I recommend avoiding the one-line description on Youtube and just clicking Play unprepared. You’ll need 12 min of not being distracted.
It’s Sean’s directorial debut.
Watching the movie made me think of an unrelated topic: what is success for an artist?
My tentative answer is it’s a parasitic notion that diverts one’s attention from things that matter — like making art or developing human connections.
Do you recognize the actor in the thumbnail?
When I saw his face, my reaction was, “Oh, it’s that guy!” I’d seen him many times but couldn’t remember where (quick google: oh yeah, he’s in A Serious Man!). I’m always happy when he makes an appearance, but that never made me look up his name.
(It’s Richard Kind.)
There’s something strange about this situation.
Mr. Kind must have had the experience of being approached by a random guy in the street and hearing a version of “Oh, you’re that guy!” I doubt that’s what one dreams of after 40 years in TV and movies.
But how many actors are there in the world whom you both recognize and are reliably happy to see? It’s not a big number.
So an excited “It’s that guy!” is very high praise, so long as it’s not said to one’s face.
I asked Sean, the director, what he does when he’s not making movies. He replied:
When I’m not making movies I’m writing: screenplays, novels, comics. Most go nowhere.
I make a living in a giant corporation pretending to work.
This had a strangely comforting effect on me. When someone makes something cool, there is a tendency to see them as a cool-thing-creator, as if all they do is making cool things. What’s more likely than that is they spend most of their time doing chores or pretending to do them or in the distracted space in between.
PsyPol community has artists, forklift operators, psychiatrists, self-described prophets, and struggling unemployed people. Join!
Jason Novak is another artist in what I increasingly think of as the PsyPol community. I’ve featured his drawings a number of times: for example, in Limits, To Be Found Experientially; How Lenin and Stalin Killed God; or Mushrooms Are Dicks.
Here are some more:
Jason is something of an archetype of an artist to me — he’s constantly drawing, his style is unique, there’s something undeniable about his relationship to creativity. Wolves howl, owls go “who,” beavers build dams, Jason makes illustrations.
He’s published a number of books, and his cartoons appeared in places like The New Yorker and Harper’s. That sounded like envy-worthy “success” to me until I talked to him and discovered he makes a living working at a store, operating a forklift. That inspired no envy but somehow made Jason more of an artist in my mind, and a much cooler one than who I imagine when I think “a cartoonist at The New Yorker.”
Is that success?
Lately Jason has been on a drawing-from-life trip. He says, “There is only drawing from life. Everything else feels false.” I wish a news outlet hired him to do reportage on political rallies and court cases and the drug and the homelessness crises.
I’ve been doing video calls with paying subscribers, and it’s been a very fulfilling experience.
The money connection feels weird though, so now I’m extending the invitation to all.
If you want to schedule a call, click the first button.
If you want to send me some money, the second.