Encouragement for artists

To Bless the Space Between Us – by John O’Donohue … extract from: For the Artist at the Start of the Day shared with my by my friend, Deborah Rossouw

May your imagination know
The grace of perfect danger,

To reach beyond imitation,
And the wheel of repetition,

Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unsolved

Until the veil of the unknown yields
And something original begins
To stir toward your senses
And grow stronger in your heart

In order to come to birth
In a clean line of form,
That claims from time
A  rhythm not yet heard, that calls space to
A different shape.

May it be its own force field
and dwell uniquely
Between the heart and the light

Great art

April Gornick says: “Great art should be vulnerable to interpretation. It shouldn’t be a fixed thing.” That’s why I love contemporary art, because it’s so undefined.

Just do it – paint, that is

I read an artist’s comment (unfortunately I didn’t note who said it) that’s proven true in my own practice: “Paint a lot. Just get in your studio and make something, even if it’s crap. Finish it them make something else. Don’t just wait for inspiration, Creative thoughts come while you’re creating.”

Art is work. Good art is darned hard work.

People think that my hobby (making abstract art)  is fun. It’s not. It’s darned hard work. In fact, if it were a paying job I’d probably resign! It’s absolutely true to say that my day job is less of a slog than painting. Yet I keep doing it and no one is forcing me so I’ll shut up before it sounds like I’m complaining!

I’ve learned that what Chuck Close says is absolutely true:  “Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work”

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually

I didn’t realize that titling your art is so important. Here’s why: Titling gives the artist an additional opportunity to provide more context or insight for the work. But there is a danger that the artist can push the viewer in his or her desired direction for interpretation through the title. As an abstract artist I want the viewer to make what they will out of the work – not what I want them to think.

Using “untitled” is not recommended – it leaves the viewer in a vaccuum and if you’re lucky enough to sell the painting and the gallery calls and says “We sold Untitled 6” are you going to know what painting it was? So titles act as a referencing system for the artist, too.

The obvious is unchallenging

I’m a Sudoku fan and I think part of it is because my brain loves to be challenged (certainly not because I’m good with numbers…on the contrary!). But that’s the interesting thing about our brains – they like to figure things out for themselves. The experience a viewer has of a piece of art should allow them the opportunity to read into it – make sense of it for themselves, whether it’s abstract or realistic. April Gornick says: “Great art should be vulnerable to interpretation. It shouldn’t be a fixed thing.” It’s the mystery that draws the viewer in.

Stay the course

I’ve always been fascinated by the parallels between art-making and life. So much of what I observe in the creative process applies to problem-solving and decision-making in general. Lately I’ve  been reading about the creative process of other artists in Maria Popova’s fantastic blog, Brain Pickings and Joe Fig’s book, Inside the Painter’s Studio. The common and unwavering theme from artist to artist, author to author is just show up and do the work. Keep at it until you break through. Chilean American author, Isabel Allende frames it so well: “Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too. If she doesn’t show up invited, eventually she just shows up.”