One-Trick Pony

Robert Browning said, ” A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for.” That single phrase has been significant to many of us in the arts and crafts. Sometimes it excuses our foolish infatuations with muses that we are unsuited for. But, more likely, it explains the flurry of far-flung projects we get involved in. Critics accuse us of mania, but we call it exploration.

Quietly, some evenings we regret grasping this particular nettle so firmly. It hurts. We imagine what life might be like to be a one-trick pony. All you do is one thing, but you do it so well, make money, and sleep peacefully at night with the satisfaction of a day’s pay earned.

Then you do a show, an exhibit, or someone happens to see your work, and they say., ” I wish I could do such lovely work.”
You smile, thank them, and suggest that it’s all just working hard at it. Then, they walk away with their purchase, and you count the till.

Years ago, my mentor Warburton warned me, “Some days you tread the grapes and others you drink the vintage.” To be trite, it can take a lot of grapes to make a vintage, and sometimes you wonder when the next opportunity to tipple will be. But that’s the critical word; you know you can’t and won’t change. So you really pity the one-trick pony who’d love to create but won’t.

2 Replies to “One-Trick Pony”

  1. Very interesting post, Lou. This is a very apt quote: “Some days you tread the grapes and others you drink the vintage.” And the notion of being a “one-trick pony” is something that I think many artists and artisans think about from time to time. I have had 8 one-woman photography shows at 3 local galleries going back as far as 2009. One gallery has hosted 6. They kept inviting me back. The subjects of the photos there were Herons, Egrets, and Flowers. One year I decided to really mix it up due to one-trick pony mind, and radically changed the images shown on the main gallery walls. A few days after opening, one of the docents remarked that she liked the older style of my Heron displays. Who knew? Sometimes people just like what they like and want more of the same, I guess? So the next time they invited me back, I reverted to tried and true and we all lived happily ever after. Although… I used to list out the dates of all shows on my blog but stopped after a dear friend and fellow photographer used your line of “I wish I could do that.” They were jealous of the opportunities I had had, and so in not wanting to appear boastful, I scaled back those listings in order to spare their feelings. Which brings us to “never hide your light under a bushel” territory, I guess. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

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