How can a man living on an island alone impact my own artistic pursuit?
I recently finished reading Robinson Crusoe, the 1719 novel by Daniel Defoe and it left a big impact on me as a painter and reader. The story is based on a real man named Alexander Selkirk, who, in 1704, after arguing with his captain, was left (at his own request) on an island off the coast of Chile. He was rescued in 1709, and accounts of his struggles are what fueled Defoe to write his novel. I'm sure many of you have heard the tale, but if you haven't read it, put it on the list. But this isn't a book review, this is about how Robinson goes to an island with nothing and carves out a life for himself through mental and physical power.
His struggle of course is an extreme case of isolation, but it is something that we all feel at some point throughout the artistic process. I have felt lost more times than I can count, almost to the point of giving up. Robinson admits himself that he is not fit to live on an island, but he says that realizing the truth about himself and his situation is what sets him free. He doesn't allow himself to become overwhelmed.
At one point, Robinson is so frustrated with his own abilities to grow corn that he throws all his husks into a pile and gives up. After some time, he sees that the husks have sprouted into stalks, which he believes is an act of divine intervention. He plants a few rows of stalks and has a harvest that he can actually eat, but he decides that it is better to save the harvest and replant it again. The temptation of eating the first harvest is not worth it if he runs out of seed for next years harvest. The lesson is again applied when he realizes that he is running low on gun powder, which he needs for shooting fowl and goats. So he realizes that he is going to have to start a farm of goats, which he does and allows him to thrive on goat milk and meat. He "finds wealth all about him" because he played it smart and knew his situation.
Realize your strengths and your shortcomings before you assess anything. And artistically speaking, it may not be a matter of life or death like Robinson, but it will effect your career choices and everyday life. It even enriches your life to realize that there is wealth all around you. The beauty of nature being the most powerful artistic wealth.
One more word to the power of practice and working with a purpose- Robinson wants to build himself a desk at one point and only has a finite number of tools to do it with. So he builds a desk for writing, but it is not well made. But after years on the island, he becomes a very adept woodworker and builds a boat, a fortress and another desk for writing. He became a great craftsman out of necessity and hard work. He knows what he wants to build so he spends the years improving himself in order to build it. Put yourself in an island mentality for sometime and see if your skills improve.