Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It Takes A Village

Why is it easier to attempt challenging things when you are part of a group?
This morning I arrived for a Crossfit class walked in on the end of the previous 5:15 am class. I stood there half awake wondering two things. Firstly, what the hell was I doing here so early in the morning, and then secondly what an amazing display of will and determination I was witnessing. It was apparent that the group, the combined energies of everyone in the room, was making it possible for these folks to pull this off. There is something about having the momentum of a group that makes things possible for individuals to achieve more than they would on their own. I couldn’t imagine, for example, any of these people doing this workout alone in their living room at 5:15 in the morning.

I often lament that art making doesn't sometimes have this possibility. Artists just are squirreled away in studios miles and miles apart with no idea what anyone else is doing. The closest thing I have ever experienced of this kind of group momentum in relationship to art making is during weeklong workshops. Having a community around you while also working on your individual art is the best of both worlds.

Lately I have come to the conclusion that my art definitely has improved because of my community. Having shows, dealing with galleries, embracing and giving your energy to other artists and supporters who are interested and engaged provides me with an amazing buoyancy and momentum I just don’t think I could muster all alone. I believe that in order to do what I love I am convinced I need as many people involved as possible. Having a community that your part of and participate in is essential. When the community flourishes from everyone’s energy and input and begins to rise, then you along with everyone else do too.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mistaken Paths

How much do we influence each? When does influence become copying?

These are all questions that all artists have to answer for themselves. If we are honest, we can all say, that at certain times we have copied others work. Nobody wants to admit this-it is so much better to be totally original.  But can we all be exceptionally unique?

I know that when people have remarked that my artwork reminds them of someone else’s that it doesn’t feel very good. For one thing, the art they are invariably comparing mine  to is usually better and more sophisticated. You can never ever be more original than the original. It does sting a little. The total opposite of creating something authentic, something personal is, rather sadly, creating something totally derivative.

I understand the need to do this. I know because I have done it. You get so tired of not knowing where the hell your going, not being clear that you are on any kind of a road that is eventually going to lead someplace worthwhile, that you just need a pause, a rest perhaps, to float along buoyed by the efforts of someone else for awhile. It always seems easier to see somebody else’s path rather than our own. The reason, (and I would say the argument) for not co -opting someone else’s journey, is BECAUSE we don’t actually know where we are going. It is not supposed to be clear as we haven’t gotten far enough along to even realize it as our own and that is why it is so engaging and worthwhile.

If you are paying attention to your work, you will eventually create a path that is wholly you own. Your work is a reflection of you and you are totally unique and one of a kind. You are, by the very definition of what it means to be a human being, already original. We all are.
Your not supposed to know where you are going. We think we want to know. We think we just need a few sales to make us feel hopeful. We think we need to be making likeable work at any cost, but in the end, the cul de sac that one finds themselves in when they start copying someone else is just simply that—a dead end. In the beginning it feels easier but it actually is detrimental to the development of the artist because growth has stopped and invariably the far more serious state of boredom begins to creep in. It just simply is not interesting to do someone else’s art.

The Poet, philosopher, David Whyte perfectly articulates this line of thinking….  “If we can see the path ahead laid out for us, there is a good chance it is not our path; it is probably someone else's we have substituted for our own." 
We need to remind each other that none of us should stay very long in these stagnant somewhat embarrassing places for very long. Somebody needs to give us a swift kick in the pants and send us back out there, back out into the realm of passion, individuality and true authenticity.

Monday, January 21, 2013

I want to be a fireman when I grow up.

My next show is opening May 11th in NYC and I don’t know what I am going to make.
I kept thinking that I had so much time. The year hasn’t even really started, my show is not until May which feels like the middle of the year – so close to June which IS the middle of the year. However I have learned that if you want to seriously promote and recover from making the work you need to be done a month early. That gives me till April 15th  I like to have 3 months at a minimum. And now, today, I have less than that because the 15th was 6 days ago. I always think that the next show I do, I will start way early,  and just take my time…paint a little every day, spend more time outside of the studio, see friends and go for way more runs with my dog, Maizy.
I think I am kidding myself about how I work. I possibly am fooling myself into thinking that at some point here with all this art business I will figure it out and seamlessly place it in my life in such a way that it is just an enjoyable pastime that gently results in exhibitions every 6 months or so. It is almost as if I have bought into the idea or the fantasy that non artists have of what it is like to be an artist and how great it would be to do just dabble away all day doing what you love and get paid for it.

Well it is great. But in a way it is great after AFTER the fact. After you have had the show, after you have sold lots of the work- that part is really great, not just because obviously one needs income but it also confirms that the hunches you had early on, the insecurities, the questions you placed and eventually answered were resolved correctly. We need to know again and again that we still have IT and that it is not just a fluke that we are artists - that this ridiculously vague notion of being an artist, whatever that means, somehow fits what you do.  I always thought it would be so great to be a fireman. That profession has such clear, defined boundaries.  Not only does society, friends and family understand clearly what you do but you do too. If the house is on fire, if the cat is crying at the top of the tree you know exactly what to do. A frigging alarm even goes off that TELLS you when to do what you do.
First you get to slide down that pole. (I just love that-what career builds into it a joy ride, a mini thrill into your day?)  Your fantastic day begins by jumping up from your bed, slipping down a slippery pole in order to save a few nano seconds of time. You are so needed, your time so precious, your job is so crucial that to run down the stairs one floor to get to your red truck would just not do. Your time is valuable. Lives, in fact, are at stake. You get a totally cool costume, sirens, giant water hoses, ladders, get to play with fire all day long and the distinct possibility that you could save somebody’s life. The job of the fireman is so not like an artist’s that it leaves me at a standstill. I have had thoughts about just getting a fire poll to leap from my bed and slide down to the studio but honestly there is no rush. If I get there a second or two earlier it makes no difference. I still don’t know what I am going to do when I get there. I could even dress a certain way but there just is no point. Nobody is waiting at a burning building to be rescued. There will be no possibility to be a hero today. I do have a dog. It is not spotted like a fireman’s but at least I have that part in place.
Being an artist is all about not having a clue and spending inordinate amounts of time being directionless.  By its very definition there is no definition. It is a non -profession. The main missing ingredient is that there is no certainty. It is a mushy; find your way in the dark, figure it out as you go along kind of profession. Today, standing at the bottom of the hill starting to push a bicycle with two flat tires, it seems enormously unimaginable as to what I am supposed to do now. How am I going to get there? What am I going to make that somehow relates, somehow carries the thread of what I am interested in?

I will get to the studio today. It will probably take awhile as undoubtably there will be far more easier things to do before STARTING on that blank white panel that has been hanging in my studio for the past 8 days. I will get there, hopefully today, but I am not certain. I do know that I will begin here at some point. And that, according to my notes from previous years scribbled in the margins of endless half filled sketchbooks is how you start. How one thing will lead to another which in turn will lead you to the next. I am not sure it will work this way again like it has in the past but it is all I know how to do. I know of no other way to get there. I cannot wait to be able to look back 3-4 months from now and say I made the right decisions, that the hunches were right. That clearly, if I can make all this stuff, that this whole gallery 4 months from now is filled with intention, clarity and obvious certainty that I am still solidly and unmistakably an artist. I will not have saved anyone with my work along the way, nor will I be a hero for sure but I know I will be tremendously grateful.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Starting Again

Why is it so hard, after a break, to start working again? I always feel resistance. Several times during the Xmas break I came into the studio and, after working so hard here for months, I was surprised to feel how foreign it all felt. There was my table with all the used up paints and the floor was still covered with my paint mess. The evidence of my art making was everywhere, but I still felt like a visitor to my own studio. I have noticed that the absence of making art dangerously leads to more of the same..."The less you do the less you do." Creating is a muscle that will happily atrophy if we allow it. The solution, at least for me is to just begin  and try to show up and pay attention to what is in front of me and become wonderfully lost in it all. It takes a bit of effort at first although, like an awkward first kiss that is doubly filled with vulnerability and  anticipation, it also holds a degree of excitement for what might be possible for the future.
It does seem true in art making that "the less you do, the less you do." Fortunately, however, the inverse  is also true-"the more you do the more you do!"  This makes it possible to find your groove over and over again. It is how we build our own momentum and produce and create art like there is no tomorrow. It allows us to fill our studio, our imaginations and dreams with our art. Again.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Best Made Plans

Sometimes what I set out to make does not end up being what I make. I might have a clear idea of what I want, but somewhere along the way I change my mind or something comes along that is far more interesting that my original idea. This seems to be happening more and more to me. I also see that the paintings that deviate the most from my plan are often the best. So would if I began without any preconceptions? Why not just paint anything? How about a bunch of dots? I know that everything is going to change anyway and if I am not really driving the bus, so to speak, then maybe I should just do whatever strikes me at the moment. Maybe a painting is just a series of over lapping moments of experience. A small piece of our life that will be held, forever, in the form of a painting.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years Day Letter

This is a small painting 12" x 12" I made as a demonstration painting during the last workshop taught at Esalen, CA. All the paintings we work on are always done on this great size of 12" x 12". We use 1/4 Birch ply primed with gesso which makes a great durable surface. Perfect for sanding and gouging and collaging. I actually had time to paint during this 7 day workshop because everyone just got on a roll and I was no longer needed after the 4th day! This painting was made using a collaged letter. I thought it was appropriate for the 1st day of a the New Year, because, like an unopened letter there is a delicious bit of mystery and anticipation in the unknown about to become known. "Return" 12" x 12" Mixed Media on Panel.
Happy New Year!