Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Eat My Art Please

by Lupe Fernandez

I read Leonardo’s Shadow Or, My Astonishing Life as Leonardo da Vinci’s Servant by Christopher Grey. The book chronicles the life da Vinci’s teenage servant, Giacomo, during the painting of the Last Supper in Milan. Giacomo found serving with the great Master Artist a life of danger and debt. The Duke of Milan, da Vinci’s patron, demanded da Vinci finish the Last Supper painting. Da Vinci demanded money owed by the Duke and Giacomo demanded respect from The Master.

Art and Commerce. The eternal struggle.

If the great Leonardo had so much trouble in the 15th century, what chance have I in the 21st?

I work in a downtown Los Angeles office – they don’t pay me to write, so I’m not naming them for publicity - Monday through Friday, regular business hours. I go home and write. At work, I sit at a computer all day, and hear the clack of keyboards, the ring of phones, smell hot printer toner and microwave popcorn, feel the whoosh of air in a pressurized stairwell and the sway of the high-rise in strong winds.

I’ve been an employee at this office since cell phones were the size of briefcases. I have health insurance, a 401K plan, a retirement plan, vacation pay and all the filtered water I can drink. Sounds like a good deal. The office is my unofficial patron. Not as mighty as the Duke Ludovico Sforza, but the company has survived the big economic dip of 2008-2009.

And yet…

In the crush of commuters on the MTA subway, in the press of bodies at the corner of 5th and Hill Street waiting for the traffic light to change, amid gasoline odors, hot engines, blaring horns, stale urine, black blotches dotting the sidewalk, I wonder: Could I make a living at writing?

I avoid thoughts of career change by sequing to a literal interpretation of writing for a living.

To eat for one’s art.

To eat art.

To eat paper – my writing medium - I need to digest cellulose like cattle or termites. I’d need a micro-symbotic protozoa to live in my intesitines. A protozoa like Trichonympha would digest the paper for me and provide my body with the cellulose’s nutrients. Hmmm…tasty. The paper could be coated with cherry, orange or lime flavor additives. I could eat my rough drafts. Of course, there’s the matter of rent, utilities, insurance, etc…

A diet of paper would get tiresome.

In Leonardo’s Shadow, Giacomo endures insults, assaults and starvation in service to his Master. “Every artist has to start somewhere,” Giacomo realizes by the end of the book. “The important thing…is to keep going until you come to the end.”


  1. Your mind wanders down a strange road sometimes, and I like that. Cherry or lime coated paper? Yum. Sounds like an interesting book about Giacomo.

  2. Love what you wrote! "To eat art." If only that could sustain us.

  3. You will make a living at writing. You are an amzing writer and I love your posts


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