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July 03, 2011

A man relates his experiences in trying to become a great artist.

  I had originally set out to be a great artist. Maybe not great, but very good. Like those people who sell their work outside of museums. I would have liked to have my works hung alongside the works of those who are in close in proximity to a museum. Once, I snuck a painting into the museum and hung it up in the bathroom, but the staff took it down and threw it away. Last time I saw that painting it was in the dumpster behind the museum. I took this as a sign that I was well on my way. My name is Henry Godfrey. I'm an artist.
    The first thing I did was sign up for art school. After submitting a portfolio along with a personal essay written in five different colors of ink (to show that I knew what colors were) the Dean of Admissions sent back the portfolio with supplementary text written in the margins and often directly on the samples. While I don't think my mother would do the sort of things he implied, it's important to learn to take criticism in this line of work. Also, not to threaten people through the US postal service. But we all learn things along the way.
    Who needed art school anyway, I asked my parole officer after a brief incarceration. Many fine artists have never been classically trained, I said. When he asked me to name one, I stared off in silence for a while until he sighed and told me not to leave town. 
    Barring the traditional course of going to school and learning how to paint well, or understand basic elements of style and perspective, I tried my hand at sculpture. Because hey, it's just mashing some clay together, and I used to do that all the time when I was a kid, I  said to my dog one evening. After several kiln explosions and getting my hand stuck in three seperate sculptures, I decided that three-dimensional art was not for me. So it was back to square one: mastering the first dimension. My dog shrugged and asked if he was getting a biscuit any time soon.
    It struck me that exploiting this talking dog for all I could for profit would be much easier than being an artist.  Unfortunately, he was gone and he left a vague note about expression and individuality. I threw the note away but wish that I kept it. A dog that could talk and write? That would have made a fortune.
    I drew a line, and then another. By the end of the first week I had several hundred lines. They didn't amount to much, but at least they were staying put in their dimension. A few tried to break out to neighboring dimensions, but my eraser made short work of that. 
   "Let that be an example to all of you!" I bellowed to the other lines. That kept them in place. 
The following week I attempted the second dimension, but only ended up with more lines. After changing pencils a few times, I finally found one that would draw the second dimension, but only for ten minutes at a time. After a nap and a few drinks the pencil and I tried again. Now it would only draw in the third dimension and on one unfortunate attempt, the fourth. That's when the pencil disappeared and I fell asleep at the drawing board. When I awoke I was covered in lines.
   Weeks flew by and my doodles progressed to sketches, my sketches to drawings, my drawings to paintings, my paintings back to sketches, and my lamp into a cat. Since I am allergic to cats I had to throw the lamp out. 
   When it got dark out that night I thought I had gone blind but was relieved when the sun came out the next day. Things carried on like this for a while, every night thinking that I had been struck blind, until I went out and bought a new lamp. 
It hit me then, as if a temporary blindness had passed, clear as day - though it was night at the time - what I needed to do to become a successful artist: follow the example of other Famous Artists! 
   I began by drinking, which I would normally do, but this time with focus. If Pollack could make masterpieces by pickling his liver, dammit, so would I! 
   Several ambulance rides and two emergency stomach pumps later did I realize what I was missing to becoming a Serious, Real-Lifey Artist: bohemian friends to create the atmosphere around me. I started by going down to the most bohemian section of town, which was where all the bums and college students hung out. 
   "Hello, chum! Wonder if you want to do some heroin and maybe paint together?" I inquired to a young man with a goetee. 
    He replied by socking me in the gut and taking my wallet. Besides that my money was in there, I didn't mind. Everybody has to pay their dues, I figured. After catching my breath and standing up, I then engaged an interesting looking man who had one shoe, four teeth and was shouting at a brick wall about how his hair only feels comfortable when it agrees with him that sock puppets control the weather. While our conversation was interesting it was also brief, since he excused himself quickly to use the bathroom, which by coincidence was also my leg. I kept asking what he thought of the Dada Movement, only to again be used as a lavatory and reminded that I look like Pop Tarts.
   Realizing my peers were useless, the museums uninterested, and my art an eyesore, I did the mature thing when facing defeat: I smashed everything in my apartment and got drunk.
   The next morning, laying on the floor, I heard a familiar voice say my name.
   "Henry?" He said.
   I opened my eyes and looked up. There, just inches away from my face, was my dog.
   I got to my knees and threw my arms around him.
   "Oh, Rags, I completely failed."
   "Please, call me Charles." He put a paw on my shoulder.
   "Sorry, Charles."
   "It's OK. You know, Henry, even if you fail at something, you're never a true failure as long as you tried."
   I began to dry my eyes.
   "Sure, why not? Look, I've just gotten back from the publishing houses. I really knocked their socks off and they want me to write about being the first known talking dog."
   "Good for you," I said, trying to conceal my jealousy.
   "Put that broken chair leg down, Henry. Anyway, I'm going to be going on a press junket, including an exclusive world-premiere event tonight on CNN. Trouble is, I still need help getting around. I don't drive and still can't open doors for myself."
   I nodded. It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. While I would never be a great artist, I could be the best assistant to a talking dog he could ask for. He pays well, treats me like a human being, and if I'm a good boy, gives me a biscuit.