“I recently recalled the precise moment when it first occurred to me that I would like to become an artist. I grew up in Moscow, and my father was a self-taught musician working at the circus. Circus artists work extremely hard physically: the amount of daily practice and physical exercise necessary to perform acrobatic acts or walk a tightrope is really enormous. They practice and exercise all day and perform by night—it’s nearly a twenty-four-hour-a-day job.
There was a birthday party for one of the kids in the building we lived in, which belonged to the union of circus artists. The children at the party, all about five or six years old, were children of clowns, animal trainers, and so forth. We were watching a cartoon on TV and at some point a conversation started about what we wanted to become when we grew up. Following the usual suggestions like a cosmonaut or a fireman, one of the kids said that he wanted to be a fine artist, because they do not work. I was very shy as a kid, so I did not say much, but thought to myself that this boy was really clever and that I too did not want to work and should therefore try to become an artist..”
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