Roger Clark: What do you consider to be the needs of an artist?


Lélia Pissarro: Silence and isolation are essential.
An artist needs to work alone, to think alone, to have endless time for reflection, not just for creating, but also for analysing mistakes and carrying forward works and thoughts.

The difficulty arises when it comes to friendship, what I term “heavy friendship.”
It goes far beyond being anti-social; it is a question of accepting and recognising that people are a disturbance to my work and motivation. Some friends understand, some don’t. Those who understand are discreet, never make demands, never expect. They even suggest that I slip into the category of their “fair weather friends.” As busy people themselves, they are satisfied and don’t expect any more than I can give them.

Others are “ heavy.” I constantly have to explain to “heavy friends” that I cannot come out, I don’t want to come out; that I do not wish to make plans, I won’t be able to keep to plans; that I don’t know where I will be in my work tomorrow, let alone next week. I am tired of having to justify my need to work every day without exception, all the time, even Saturdays and Sundays.

I don’t want to have to explain repeatedly what is logical to me and to most artists, yet beyond the understanding of some non-artists. There are two sorts of artist: the very social ones who are seen and heard in cocktail parties; then there are the anti-social artists, who can only be satisfied when in their studio working, and who are miserable the second they are away from the development of their work.

The need to spend long hours alone in my studio is crucial and fundamental to me. A fully committed artist, an artist who lives for her art, needs to adopt and adhere to a religious life, a monastic life of discipline and dedication. Parties, social gatherings, chit-chat and small talk are the enemy of the artist – they dilute my thoughts, pollute the thinking process, steal my time.

“One must work, nothing but work, and one must have patience”
August Rodin