An Artist Finds True Love in P.S. I Love You

“My business is to create.” 

In this post about art-related films, I mentioned that I thought P.S. I Love You was “not a good love story, but a good art story.” After my traditional St. Patrick’s Day viewing of the film (more on that in a moment), I’ve decided that I may have made a hasty judgment, and that art and true love might be more closely related than they seem.

So once upon a time, Josh and I went to Ireland for Spring break and St. Patrick’s day. It was a wild ride and totally exhausting, but absolutely beautiful. It’s something we would love to do again. Spending time in the land of the shamrocks those years ago put me in an inexplicable mood to watch P.S. I Love You–inexplicable because when I last watched this flick as a single and hormonal teenager, I completely hated it. The critic in me thought it was depressing and cheesy as all get-out.

Relax, you swooning and now-irate Gerard Butler fans. Upon watching the film again as an adult in conjunction with Dear Frankie (Butler accent marathon!), I quite surprisingly found it among some of my favorite films of the decade. Not only this, but Josh was quick to second the motion–and it’s a chick flick, guys. Needless to say, it’s now a family favorite.

I’m pretty sure that where I went wrong when I first watched this movie was in watching it as a chick flick–as a cliche story of romantic love, romantic love lost, and romantic love rediscovered.

As a traditional love story, P.S. I Love You is mediocre at best; however, as a story about art, identity, intimacy, and true love it is quite touching and maybe even outstanding.

According to the quirky Holly’s quoting of William Blake in an attempt to impress roguish Irishman Gerry Kennedy, “My business is to create.”

As an art student with no idea what she wants to do with her life, the only thing of which she and (she believes) everyone else on the planet can be sure is that we each need to create something–not because we are obligated to offer something beautiful to the world, but because this something is an inescapable part of who we are, how we are unique, and how we communicate that.

“All I know is, if you don’t figure out this something, you’ll just stay ordinary, and it doesn’t matter if its a work of art or a taco or a pair of socks! Just create something . . . new, and there it is, and it’s you–out in the world, outside of you–and you can look at it, or hear it, or read it, or feel it–and you know a little more about . . . you. A little bit more than anyone else does.” 

What do you know about you?

Not enough? Well, you don’t have to know everything, believe it or not. If you did, what would be the point in looking for yourself through the soul-searching act of pure creation–of pure art?

Which reminds me of another favorite P.S. quote . . .

Holly: “I see people buying bigger apartments and having babies. I get so afraid sometimes our life’s never gonna start.

Gerry: “No, baby. We’re already in our life. It’s already started. This is it. You have to stop waiting.

Man, this scene hits me like a ton of bricks every time.

I know that I and many others like me are constantly guilty of looking to the next milestone of graduation or getting our dream job or buying a house or having kids. We’re too busy looking ahead to inhabit our own lives in the moment.

As far as I’ve been able to figure out in my meager 22 years, life isn’t about scrambling to find out what you’re supposed to do with your life so that you can blissfully do it for the rest of your days ad infinitum.

The scrambling–the journey–the search is your life.

Personally, I believe as Holly does that creating is a big part of that search. It’s a part of the process of knowing and being known–or trying to. It’s reaching deep down inside yourself and and pulling out a piece of what you value or how you see the world, and it says out loud (even if only to you) “This is who I am.” When you appreciate the creations of others, you’re stepping into a bit of who they are and taking a walk around, willing to share that intimacy with them.

This ideology is how I try to approach every moment of each one of my days on this earth. It’s my goal–my mantra–

To know and to make known.

This is love to me. Self-love and love for others all wrapped up in one beautiful life mission. This mantra includes tolerance and acceptance but also challenge and discussion when it comes to really getting to the bottom of what makes a person tick. It sounds so over-simplified, but it’s really not simple. Sometimes what you know about yourself, your God, and your friends/family/etc don’t quite jive, and you have to reconcile that.

But somewhere in the process of constantly pursuing a depth of knowledge of yourself and the world around you, you encounter people who love and understand you for who you really are.

So make something. Make a poem. Make pasta. Make a mess. Make love. Make mistakes.

Every time you let that glimpse of who you really are and who you want to be out into the world, you are leaving yourself vulnerable–open to being known and loved fully, or fully rejected–and you are promising that same love to those who open themselves to you.

Okay, so I know that I waxed a bit philosophical in this post, but I hope that I’ve encouraged lonely people everywhere to let art lead them to every pure form of love.

6 Films About the Artist in You

Whether it’s inspiration or encouragement you need today, these are six contemporary films from a variety of genres and styles that will feed, challenge, and change the artist in you.

I’ve added a few words about what I personally got out of these motion pictures. You know, because I’m good with words and stuff 🙂 It’s what I do, haha.

5

Midnight in Paris

This quirky Owen Wilson drama with a little humor thrown in (I mean, it’s Owen Wilson) is an Art and Lit major love fest. Seeing names like Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and my personal film inspiration Luis Buñuel (the movie features quirky inside jokes about his works that made me feel very smart indeed) just sets me squirming with glee.

The powerful message of this film is demonstrated in the first line of the book Wilson’s character is writing:

“Out Of The Past was the name of the store, and its products consisted of memories: what was prosaic and even vulgar to one generation had been transmuted by the mere passing of years to a status at once magical and also camp.”

This statement about the past not merely about vintage trinkets. It is about the temptation for artists to think that nothing new can be done in the era in which they live–that everything they and their contemporaries create is dull, average, and uninspired while the works of those who came before are the only true innovations. As the film makes plain, in the future, artists may look back on today and wish that they lived in this inspired bygone age.

Define your era. Don’t let it define you.

2

The Vow 

I know. I know. Sappy though this romantic film may be, it has two very powerful messages about the life of the artist.

The first is that it is important to know why you want to be an artist. It doesn’t so much matter why Rachel McAdams’ character Paige has decided to attend art school. What is important is the very personal journey she takes to discover why she fell in love with art (and Channing Tatum) in the first place.

The second is to not be afraid to be impractical. I think most people who have decided to be “professional” artist have already overcome this step, but it’s nice to know that others are making the same crazy life decisions you are. Misery loves company!

3

The Dead Poets Society

There has never been a film that more successfully demonstrates the profound impact that literature can have in the life of an average young person than The Dead Poets Society.

I think even the partly biographical Freedom Writers (not a personal favorite, great story but not-so-great movie) comes up short in comparison to Dead Poets.

From standing on their desks and quoting “Walt Whitman” to closing their eyes and blurting out whatever they see, Dead Poets is all about the students at a repressive prep school learning to let down their inhibitions and just create. While not all of them are or want to be artists in the orthodox sense, they all have something to gain from learning the lessons of eccentric Professor Keating (a surprisingly serious Robin Williams). Art and literature has the power to set them free.

Mr. Hollands OpusMr. Holland’s Opus

When Richard Dreyfuss’s character, Mr. Holland, gets a job teaching music at a public high school, he is tasked with the weighty feat of making a roomful of teenagers care about his deepest love–music.

It could just be the soft spot in my heart for the Deaf community, but I found this movie to be absolutely precious. The moment when Mr. Holland signs “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon to his Deaf son Cole–bridging the gap between his language of music and Cole’s language of ASL–just makes me cry every time. And the final scene when his symphony is played by his former students who call themselves his “real symphony?” So many tears.

The lesson to be taken from this film?

Taking a day job doesn’t mean giving up your dreams of being an artist; it means embracing new ways of pursuing those dreams and encountering brand new ones in the process.

6P.S. I Love You

“My business is to create.”

I may have left out Freedom Writers, but Hilary Swank made it onto the list anyway. Also a very sappy movie, P.S. I Love You is unique in the sense that one of the film’s main characters is dead for 90% of the film.

I will come out and say it, this is not a good love story. It is, however, a good art story. The main theme of the movie is to stop making excuses for not doing what you were made to do. If your business is to create, don’t let any obstacle (no matter how devastating) keep you from creating.

I also love that this movie is about an uncommon and unorthodox art form. Shoemaking! How unique is that?

4

The Artist

I believe that Rick Groen of The Globe and Mail perfectly sums up the poignant focus of Best-Picture-Oscar-winning film The Artist.

He writes that this French-made picture “uses old technology to dazzling effect to illustrate the insistent conquest of a new technology.”

This “love letter to cinema” so dubbed by the film’s director Michael Hazanavicius. Is all about the balance between satisfying an audience and satisfying oneself in the changing worlds of art and media. The ultimate message of the (silent and black-and-white) picture is all about art for the sake of art.

I hope that curling up to watch one of these films will give you the courage to continuing pursuing your dreams as an artist.

Always remember: If you believe you are an artist but can’t afford to pursue your art “full time,” that part of your identity does not go away from 9 to 5. Stoke it. Bring it to life in every possible moment.