This is episode two of a two part blog post, entitled Old Beginnings.
Last time, I mentioned glancing at a photo on the wall of my wife and myself on our wedding day. Remembering that day led me to thinking about our honeymoon. As a teen I had read the book The Agony and The Ecstasy by Irving Stone about Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti. Being born with an artist’s heart, I became enthralled with art from this time period. My new bride let this love of mine drag her to Italy.
For as long as I live, I will never forget visiting the Galleria dell ‘Accademia di Firenze, where probably the most famous sculpture of all time resides: Michelangelo’s David. I felt like I was in a dream as I entered the gallery, seeing David standing alone in his lighted dome at the end of the room. It was awe inspiring. To this day, thinking about it stirs deep emotion in me.
After entering the gallery, to get to David you must pass a series of other sculptures, the largest of which are aptly called the Captives or Slaves. The figures are literally slaves, intended as pillars to support a large tomb. Unfortunately, money ran out and they were never finished, leaving them also captive to the marble blocks which refuse to release them.
As much as I loved seeing David, I was completely captivated by these incomplete works. I love that the lives within the marble are only half revealed, and that the artist’s rough tool marks are everywhere. I saw Michelangelo in my mind, intense look on his face, circling these great blocks of marble wielding his hammer and chisels. He probes with a gentle tap here, and attacks with fearless pounding there, every moment and movement fighting to free the captives as if they would perish if he didn’t release them fast enough.
Experiencing them in person, I was most moved by the struggle of these forms as they strain for release. They may be only half formed out of cold marble, but they are somehow warm with life and emphatically emotive.
I wish I were a better writer. I am hopeless at explaining how I really think and feel sometimes.
Thinking about these sculptures inspires me. Beyond my personal history, it is not a stretch to say my voice-over business has also been a captive; half-formed, full of potential and fighting for release.
When I look back at old beginnings, I realize that my sculptor is still at work. It doesn’t always feel like it, but each day I am a little more free, a little more fully formed. My skills are a bit more refined. My accomplishments are incrementally moving in the right direction. It happens one hammer blow and one chip at a time, but it is happening.
Eye of the beholder
When a person looks at Michelangelo’s Captives, there could be the temptation to only see them as unfinished and therefore a waste, or a failure. When I look at them, I see the plan the sculptor had for them and the beauty of the work that has been revealed, which has all the more depth because of the incomplete nature of their execution.
Even more importantly, I am reminded that what has always moved me the most about them is the stage they are in now—struggling, pushing, twisting, lifting, forcing themselves out of their bondage. There is an intense beauty in becoming.
The contrast of these two viewpoints makes it plain that I also have a choice about how to look at myself and my voice-over business. Honestly, I am not yet who I want to be and my business is not yet where I want it to be. But I know I can either focus on the things that constrain me and get discouraged, or I can see the beauty and potential of what is being created and let that propel me forward. I don’t have to wait until I have “arrived”. I can acknowledge there is beauty in me now.
Let me encourage you to do two things. First, look back at the beginning of your journey into voice-over and think about what originally motivated you and what your goals were. As you do this, keep in mind where you are now. Do you still have the fire that burned in you then? At some point, you made a major change in your life to pursue voice-over. Do you remember why it was so important to you? It can be a really healthy thing to reassess and reconnect with what inspires you.
Let’s face it, beginning a career in voice-over is hard for most of us. Living out that struggle every day in the face of opposition, discouragement, rejection, self-doubt and imposter syndrome, not to mention the technical frustrations, money worries and relationship stress, can feel like you are captive in a block of marble, pushing, straining, wrestling to get yourself free.
With Michelangelo’s Captives, some people see the roughed-out shapes and tool marks as ugly flaws. And sure, to continue the allegory, for many of us there are personal and professional scars. The tool marks are there. You may be tired, stressed, discouraged, or all three. Things may not look like you imagined they would. Maybe you are still a long way from being fully formed.
Let me encourage you, one captive to another, to choose to notice the progress you have made; the chips that have been removed. Choose to see what you are becoming rather than how far you have to go. Make peace with the scars and enjoy the beauty of what you are right now, realizing that the struggle has it’s own inherent value. Then, look at this new year with fresh eyes and new hope, knowing that every day you are a little bit better and you are a little bit further down the path. Be encouraged. There is so much more to look forward to!
Amen, Jon! You are not a finished work until you are finished, and giving up along the way will leave you unfinished, like those statues, for eternity. Keep learning, keep striving and keep TRYING. Your breakthrough may be right around the corner, but if you stop before the corner you’ll never realize it. Along the way take pleasure in how far you’ve come already and remember none of us are done growing! Great post, thank you.
BTW I LOVE the Accademia in Florence. There is so MUCh great art in Italy, I could live there (again).
Thanks, Gary. I loved our trip to Italy, and Florence the most. many times I imagined myself living there. When did you? For how long?
I was stationed in Naples from 1994-1999. I was away on work travel throughout Europe and the Middle East about half the time, but I was awesome to be able to go to Pompeii on a whim (about 30 minutes from my house) or take a day trip to Rome (2 hour drive). Loved the experience, the food and especially the people. After I retired from the Navy I returned half a dozen times with friends and family. I’d say it’s my favorite place on earth next to home!
What an opportunity! My wife and I loved Pompeii & Herculaneum, as well as Rome—visiting the Vatican & especially St. Peters was awesome—and the Cinque Terra during our trip. We went to Naples briefly, mostly to see the National Archaeological Museum. Thank you for your service, Gary!
How beautifully your words and thoughts flow in this blog.
To have commingled the beauty of Italy with the thrill of chipping away
at a voice over career!
Such encouragement to look back, and then forward to what we have
achieved at this point in our careers – and so much more to anticipate
in the future.
Thank you, Diana, for your kind words—and for reading! That means a lot coming from someone who is such a great encourager.
Such truths posted herein! We are all under construction, and none of us is finished until we’re room temperature. Even then, some of the paint may be peeling and in need of touch-up…there may be cracks in the foundation, some joists may be sagging, and, well, OK….our whole selves are pretty much falling into disrepair daily, so nevermind what I said. Scratch all that. But it’s a journey of continuing to improve and grow, right? To sculpt and allow ourselves to be sculpted…daily…and to grow as both artist and work of art at simultaneously. We are both the artist and the art. I wrote that. Me. Look for bumper stickers to follow.
Both the artist and the art. What an interesting thought. Excuse me while I try to wrap my five brain cells around that. It could be a while.
Lovely post Jon. I have also seen the David in person and the accompanying art, and it draws the word “passion” to mind. And like you said, like Michelangelo, to be an artist… a creative… an entrepreneur means you most likely have a passion for your art. And in Greek, passion means suffering. And when we suffer, something changes in us… could be physical, mental or emotional, but those changes effect us wholly and we become a little different today than we were yesterday. I like to believe it is most often for the better. I can confidently say, I not only love the passion projects I’ve take on in my life, to include VO, whether I found personal or financial success or not, but in the suffering, I grew and learned and I genuinely like the Jen I am today and can’t wait to see who I will be next year!
A very thoughtful comment, Jen. Thank you for reading. You are right. It is often the struggles in life that produce the best growth. The deeper they are felt, the deeper the growth… can be. We still have to choose.