Monday, February 21, 2011
On Showing Up
There are plenty of reasons for not getting to the studio; family responsibilities and other obligations of life, but mostly these reasons are associated with self doubt. Questions such as; Is the idea or concept behind the work smart enough? Does my skill level allow me to complete the idea? How will my work be accepted among my peers and critics? Can I get into the next exhibit or does my work make any sense? Is my work original? I toil over these question constantly, while in the studio manipulating the clay and in my more quiet moments. As debilitating as these questions are, I feel the self doubt and get to work any way.
Early on in my art education, my first art teacher, Von Allen, would give us "budding artists" the assignment to make something 10 times, either from historical art references or a household tool or whatever we fancied that had 3 dimensional qualities. Her theory was that once a person begins to make something, the process activates the mind in ways that theorizing and thinking alone does not do. By the time her students reached the tenth attempt, the starting point would fade into the back ground and through the natural creative process the unique voice of the maker/student would emerge.
I still continue this practice in my day to day studio time. I have no special innate talent except possibly an affinity to labor over a piece for days or weeks until it "feels right". If you asked my friend JRH of http://sabrosacycles.com/http://sabrosacycles.com/ if his bike building skill came easy, I bet he would tell you hours in the shop, lots of practice and a few failures along the way gave him the skill set to create beautiful and well crafted bicycles. Or my other friend Steve Olpin will confess that his artistic work with film and the documentary format is a result of working with the medium and refining his narrative voice. Ask another respected ceramic artist or artist in any other medium and I bet they will tell you something similar; work at your art every day and continually push your skill level, always ask the next question, and this will give rise to good work.
The other day I gave a slide lecture about my body of work from my early years until now. I realized that there is a general incline in the graph of my creative progress with a few spikes and steep upticks along the way. Many of these creative leaps occurred due to external input such as discovering Pre-Colombian ceramic sculpture in Graduate School or a work of fiction that I read at the right time in my artistic development. But none of these external influences would have had an aesthetic/conceptual impact on me had I not been in the studio.
I have about five sculptures that are in progress including, hares, catfish, monkey skulls, tortoises and crab claws that still require a conceptual connection. It will come. So to my friend, " My work IS going well because I am showing up and getting my hands dirty, waiting and coaxing the inevitable discovery."