Secondly, a few words from me… after a lot of ruminating, semi-depression, and thinking:
Being an artist is by no means easy at all. I think the simple journey of being one is an immense task that not only strains you physically (standing for hours in front of an easel, training your arm muscles to hold pens and pencils and paintbrushes in ways your triceps will hate you for), but most of all mentally and spiritually. It just seems like we can’t win. Often the images we want to make are mere shadows in our head and when we get them out on paper nothing ever looks as beautiful as the hint of what it could have been in our minds. Sometimes we have to do a project because of obligations or deadlines and we have nowhere to begin. And rare is the moment when we conceive of images we want to create fully in our head and then actually manage to visualize everything in a crystal-clear fashion.
We are fighting a constant battle between keeping that creative spark, and keeping the discipline to improve oneself so the creativity might be further served. It’s no use having a great idea and not having the technical abilities to pull it off, nor is it just being able to draw from the model but be unable to create any sort of compelling picture beyond technical ability. As practicing artists we have to constantly vary our step, rhythm and tempo — mentally. I can honestly say that everything I do know now is hard won, and yet there are still countless other battles lying ahead.
Years into this process, some days I still feel like all hope is lost and I feel like giving up the fight. Sometimes, we need a paradigm shift to happen so that we can continue to soldier on.
For the past year or so, since I started this blog, I’ve been in a frenzy to GET BETTER. There was nothing else. I wanted to be meaner, tougher, faster, more able. I came to analyze every stroke I made with fascist energy. I forced myself to learn from every stroke. Doing single drawings would be mentally exhausting because every line I made I thought about. I took a long time on drawings. Even during quick sketches I would strain to squeeze every ounce of learning I could out of each stroke, each tiny shift of muscle in my wrist made me think about whether or not I had a toe or heel on my charcoal pencil point, imagining where the edge was. My mind was going crazy with everything I did. I doubt I made a single relaxed drawing last year where I simply trusted myself to create.
And now I feel entirely burnt out. Before writing this post I scribbled out my frustrations in a paper journal and the recurring theme was, I hate art, I cannot do this, I’ll never be good at anything, why don’t I just quit now. I never want to draw again.
I thought about how it came to this. I talked with a great friend of mine, and she mentioned being able to throw one’s work out when it’s past the point of salvation. I know the feeling, I’ve had to do it many times. I have no problems throwing art away. After some sitting and thinking I realized that, just like a piece of art gone bad, my own modus operandi thus far needed to be thrown out as well. It was not working. It was very clearly hurting me and if I keep doing this I probably will self-destruct and go live my masochistic dream of being a receptionist.
If you are stressing about every minute detail on how you are going to improve you’ll never achieve true, internalized improvement.Worst of all it will turn art from being a freely flowing, organic, web-like creative activity of making connections and simply letting go into a highly stressful left-brain activity where nothing can be right unless it is. You can argue that this thinking leads to modern art universities full of abstractions and ‘feelings’, but I’ve had enough of not being able to just MAKE stuff. You can go through a whole year of being your own personal art nazi, and get back to me, because I have and it is NOT fun. It’s like that modernist period and Piet Mondrian, where he imagines a future where everything is abstracted to its simplest, purest forms and where there would be no room for anything that wasn’t humanist, man-made, and inorganic. Well, how did THAT turn out? Obviously people couldn’t live with such perfection or purity, and our lives are now filled with people trying to make all sorts of random (cough Sucker Punch lolcats internetmemes cough) to make up for that stifling strait-jacketed phase of humanity.
The whole point of doing art is to make the art, not to lambast oneself constantly for not being perfect and not getting the most out of EVERY SINGLE line, dot, or spit mark on the paper. This here is what I need to do. Just make the bad art, all of it, because the point is to MAKE something.
Maybe I’ll turn into a neo-Dadaist before I know it. But hey, whatever. Go where the fun is.