People ask me where the ideas come from that I write about and I tell them they come mostly from my Art Practice. These thoughts arrive while I am standing in front of my paintings. But they also just come from my life. This makes sense because, as most of you already know, your Art and Life often ride tandem.
In many ways stopping to write drops you directly into the present. This also happens for me when I work on my paintings. Each day is different. And yet somehow they are connected.
I am understanding more and more that this connection of disparate attempts on random different days in the studio is made clearer by actually seeing the accumulation of past art. I think we are most satisfied when we feel we are progressing, when we improve. I look at older paintings and think to myself how could I have gone on with such weak work and not have gotten totally discouraged?
But it is all about the progression. I just thank my lucky stars that I am here now and not back there with all that confusion and garish over worked art. Of course I realize this “now” is no different than the “now” back then. I just don’t know that my work today will be that same weaker work of yesterday which will fall dramatically out of my favor in the future. This is a good thing of course, because if I did know what I will know in the future then I would probably hate what I am doing now and most likely would stop.
I never know what I will feel before I drop into my art practice or even what will come up as I start sifting through my thoughts for this weekly blog. I just know that there will be something, some kind of reaction or over riding sentiment that colors my creative experience. And every day it will be different. It always is. I like to think things are getting more refined, but on that point I am not entirely sure.
I am always comforted, however, by the fact that I can see my results. At the end of the day a piece of Art exists. The wonderful thing about making things, whether they are paintings, photographs, sculptures or whatever, is there ends up being a visual record of your time. Your resulting art becomes a placeholder for the progression of time that you have experienced.
As the time is spent and more and more of whatever you make piles up behind you, all that is left to do is ask oneself “Well, am I improving?”
The answer is almost always affirmative. It seems difficult to do anything with even sporadic regularity and find on some level that you are not improving. This, it seems to me, is what keeps most of us coming back for more. It just is so darn amazing that a kind of maturity, a deeper sense of knowing almost naturally develops though repeated attempts. If we show up repeatedly, over time, we improve. And because this is so gratifying it engenders more creativity. Making more allows us to make more.
Understanding this fact is like finding a perfect, unbroken seashell upon a beach. It might even make us stop, just for a minute and really look into our hands at what we have just found. And then, before we begin again, ever so carefully slip it into our pocket so that in the not too distant future, when uncertainty undoubtedly returns, we will remember.
What has your experience been with looking at your past work?
In gratitude, Nicholas