Ask people why they pursue any activity beyond their daily necessities and the answer will generally fall into one of two categories–self-improvement (includes duty, generosity and illumination) or pure enjoyment. If art-making is not a daily necessity, why do it? Some specific responses from some contemporary artists:
Sculptor Richard Serra says he creates art as a way to solve interesting problems about life, and believes that artistic creation influences the way we see the world.
Gina Gibley, Choreographer— “I make art for a few reasons. In life, we experience so much fragmentation of thought and feeling. For me, creating art brings things back together.”
Judy Dater-photographer— “I like expressing emotions—to have others feel what it is I’m feeling when I’m photographing people.”
Pete Docter, Pixar animator/director— “I make art primarily because I enjoy the process. It’s fun making things.”
An answer I’ve never heard an artist utter–“I create to make beautiful, completely original, one-of-a-kind, significant works of art.” That may be the hope, but it’s rarely the impetus. Yet so often the canvas is approached with those kinds of expectations–so much pressure!!! Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the emotion? The centering? The problem-solving? Or even the understanding? So why do so many people act like the reason for art-making is achieving a grand result? The pressure creates unproductive anxiety. And it can, and most likely will, lead to a stifling, stultifying preciousness.
Process, process, process. I know I beat this drum A LOT, but watching people work week after week it’s what I see A LOT–an uncomfortable response to what are perceived as missteps. If you exploring and having fun and attempting to understand something, when and where are the missteps?
As a reminder to us all some great innovators share their wisdom. Mondrian said “I don’t want pictures. I just want to find things out.” And Picasso: “One doesn’t make a painting, one makes studies, …” “I am seeking.” said Vincent Van Gogh.
So if you’re making studies and seeking and finding things out almost anything goes. There’s no right or wrong approach, or technique, or mixing of ideas or materials, or no collaboration that, in the pursuit of learning, is without merit. Let someone or something you may not like shake you out of a rut. Copy, borrow, steal, stumble, make mud and bad noses. Get advice. And choose to ignore it too.
Then hear this: “Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.” Georgia O’Keeffe
“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.” Auguste Rodin