Brick by Brick… Am I easily distracted or do I just have lots of good ideas simultaneously?

bricksI’ve been working in my home studio for about 2 years now- and enjoy several things about it.
•No rent.
•More space.
•Obviously closer to home-  I can go work anytime- for hours or 15 critical minutes.
•I can do the studio tour more easily.
•Everything is stored in one location.
•I have separate work areas set up for painting, drawing, printmaking, and desk work.
ah….. it’s the last one that might be a mixed blessing.

Desk area Ever the multi-tasker. Listening to a lecture by Daniel Ariely while reworking some monotypes with various media.
Desk area
Ever the multi-tasker. Listening to a lecture by Daniel Ariely about Irrational behavior while reworking some monotypes with various media.
Drawing Wall Lots of pending ideas, and a couple pastels up on the wall.  Finally using that black paper that's been in  my flat file for years.
Drawing Wall
Lots of pending ideas, and a couple pastels up on the wall. Finally using that black paper that’s been in my flat file for years.
Painting Wall Warpping up the large grey one, and several 8x10's coming along.
Painting Wall
Wrapping up the large grey one, and several 8×10’s coming along.

Because when I have several ways to work, of course I have several things going on at once. And they all interest me. And they are all mere steps away from each other.
uh oh
but over the years of working this way, I have become used to this  – everything eventually gets done… even if they all stagger towards the finish line at different speeds.  Being able to trust this is important. The author Daniel Pink says he believes in the simple action of showing up- working brick by brick-  how showing up every day becomes a cumulative effect.
SO… perhaps waiting for inspiration is lame-  we’ve oversold it (part of the mystique of the ‘artiste’?) and been undersold the PRACTICE
Or as Dave Hickey so aptly put it- “A frenzied, vague, emotional response just means your hand is moving in a pleasantly abandoned fashion.”  This is art as therapy.

The hand and eye working in response to how you think and feel about something  (idea/subject) takes more time and effort.

Being able to live with ambiguity and incompleteness- knowing that all the little incremental steps do add up to work that is resolved and also has a deeper history. That’s a tougher task.

brick by brick  –  that’s just the way I roll.  If you keep adding enough bricks- pretty soon you've built something substantial!

In Praise of Persistence –

IMG_0394
quote outside the “Becoming Van Gogh” exhibit at the Denver Art Museum

It’s always a somewhat unsettling transition after working on a series for a show.  I like having a goal/deadline and an end of the road destination for my efforts.  I can concentrate on producing.  It makes everything seem more tangible and valid.

But afterwards. . .   you’re back in the studio, often with your work sitting around you  again, and you need to proceed.  You need to pick up the thread and keep pulling on it, keep the momentum alive in some way.   Many artists experience a letdown after putting a show together, and we all have our ways of coping with the transition. I think the quality that this reinforces in us is a kind of resilience.  And persistence.

With experience, you learn there are ebbs and flows in the work itself;  in how much attention it gains from the public.  You see over time that your enthusiasm can dry out, or you begin to question yourself, or need to regroup.  And then you pull out of it, get a fresh breath, get your footing again and move on from there.

Are some folks born with a “resilience gene”?  The internal force that says, “nope, you’re not quitting buster!”  If you were to walk through the exhibit up at the Denver Art Museum, called “Becoming Van Gogh”, you might start to wonder.

Aside from one or two pretty iconic paintings, or drawings, this was a walk through the individual effort it took to “become Van Gogh”, and one got the feeling that often he was urging himself on, without benefit of a peer group or mentor or any real teacher. There was some packaged drawing course, and looking at what other artists were up to… but he seemed determined to teach himself how to draw and use color.   And, keep in mind that all this took place over a mere span of ten years!  By the last rooms of the exhibit, I turned the corner and I swear it looked like the paintings were glowing on the wall. The color was so fresh and vibrant, it looked like it was lit from within.  These were not paintings where every stroke was second guessed- but  a series of confident strokes of beautiful color, laid on canvas without reworking and rethinking. Brush strokes that carved away at the image, changing direction and mass with each area, or event.

Edge of a Wheatfield with Poppies - private collection
Edge of a Wheatfield with Poppies – private collection

I grabbed a shot of this label on this painting before the nice guard came over and told me “no photography” of any kind.

IMG_0392It’s another way of saying “painting well is the best revenge”.  Almost like he was aware on some level that it would be decades (if ever) before his uniqueness as a painter would be truly seen and appreciated.  But I think he reached a kind of transcendence in the work just the same.

Not only does the dogged persistence of Vincent confront you from every wall, but the very act of putting up this show is a testament to the same human quality. The curator Timothy Standring spent about 7 years courting and cajoling 40 collectors and museums in order to gather the components of this fascinating show. You can read more about it here. 

So congratulations to our local gem of a museum, even though the slanty walls still bug me and seem to clamor for more attention than is good for the display of works of art.  I almost blew this one off and am glad I didn’t.  Some painters remind you on a visceral level how important it is to be persistent.

“Sprinter”

is the new name I have assigned to the season we are currently experiencing in Colorado. Almost April, and we are getting a nice solid blizzard… which is a good thing in terms of alleviating the drought and low moisture, but is very strange when we were just out on this same deck four days ago in shorts, sunscreen and soaking up the 78º weather…..

the chairs have "snow cushions!"

the chairs have “snow cushions!”

I guess we will amuse ourselves by watching the netflix selection and giving my daughter a haircut, since she is home for her spring break. It’s also a good thing we live only a few blocks from the fitness center! and can trudge down there to let off steam…
In the studio, I am making more progress on the paintings and will wait to post images when they are finished.
(It’s a bit unnerving to let folks see them in their awkward adolescence.)