Friday, October 30, 2009

Working on Your Art

Working On Your Art:

Last week, Seal talked about starting your art project. As the artist, once you have started on your next art idea, you will enter the phase of "working on your project." During this stage, the artist may go through a series of different approaches, starting and stopping, re-evaluation (should I continue on this piece of art or is it finished for now?), milestone upon milestone of simple mileage.

Seal fully believes that the difference between a professional artist and a hobby or student artist, is all about mind frame and mileage. A professional artist prioritizes the art as part of her/his life. It is something that cannot be separated from the person, it haunts the artist and there is a gnawing if the art is not worked on.

Mind frame: Everyday and at every moment there is a chance to say "yes" or "no" to your artwork. Even when we have decided on our next idea and have begun to work on our art, everyday we must make a decision - shall I continue on this art, or not. Most often than not, surprisingly, we say "no." No. no. no. The dishes, the cat, the day job, the friends, the Facebook, the movie takes takes priority over the art- often without the artist making a direct conscious decision. We suddenly find ourselves at the end of the day without having done a single action towards our art. We didn't even realize that we said "no" to our art throughout the day.

A healthy habit for an artist to cultivate is to be aware and clearly hear the "yes" or "no" and make a conscious decision. Sometimes the Nos are valid and needed. No- I will not work on this right now. I need to rest. But the No needs to be clear and it cannot be a maybe. Maybe later. Not now. Or um, I don't know. Um, I'll watch tv first. These are all distracting maybes, they are essentially Nos, but they are uncommitted Nos and leaves the artist robbed of their agency to make a conscious guilt-free decision.

So the trick to "working on your art" is to boldly, consciously state "yes" or "no" AND to convert more of those nos into yeses. Make a commitment right now, Yes- I will work on this art right now, this moment. Yes- I am cleaning my palette. Yes - I am writing the next sentence to my novel. Yes-I am at the moment, calling the art gallery for my next show. Yes to art!

It is much easier to maintain a working vehicle and push it down a hill than it is to constantly have to start and stop the engine.

Mileage: After you have accumulated many "yeses" and enter the zone of working, it's all about mileage and consistency. I love what my old art instructor used to say, "the difference between you and me, is that I have been drawing and painting for 30 years." The same way with a piece of art, the difference between the art inside the gallery and the art on your studio easel is 30-80 more hours.

Personally, Seal often goes through several stages during the "working" phase. Usually, for Seal, the first 5 hours are the "ugly drawing stage." Man, does it look crappy. Wow - look at that color. What is that?! I am just pushing paint around. I don't know what I am doing. etc. etc. But if I work through the muck and get pass the "ugly stage" things start to get better - Hey, what an interesting color choice, or not bad, let's try this, of how about that. It's starting to look like a person! For some people this ugly stage is only 30 minutes for others it is 10 hours, it depends.

Actually, unfortunately, most people give up during this first stage. Imagine that, they never get pass the wall and see the potential of their next Picasso or Michaelangelo. Their next best statue simply remains a block of marble.

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Even it that means, just working 15 minutes on the art during lunchbreaks at your day job.

Sometime, throughout the working phase, the artist will have to make several decisions. Shall I continue, is it finished, it is what it is, should I scrap it and start over. In this way, art is like a lover/friendship/relationship. Shall I give it another chance? Where is it going? Maybe if I will try this. or it was fun and now it is finished. With art, no matter how "serious" the piece, there needs to be an element of fun and appreciation. One artist, I know, names his canvases, "Great One" or "Bad-Ass" etc.

In the end, you can start, stop, and re-start at any moment. If you haven't been working on your art, right now, at this very moment is a good chance to say "yes." Begin with the next best step. What can I do right now, that will make it easier for me to start, work, and finish on my art? Do it.

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