Thursday, June 30, 2011

Art Comes From the Making

I've been doing some small collages lately, most of which I consider to be primarily "just" practice and experimentation.  It took me a long time to figure it out, but I know this much is true: art comes from the making.  My undergrad drawing instructor used to say this all the time.  At first I thought it made no sense at all.  Of course the art won't be there if someone doesn't make it!  It's like the phrase so many people are saying now, "It is what it is".  I mean, that goes without saying, doesn't it?   Taken for its literal meaning, it actually denotes nothing at all, but the connotation is that you can't change the aforementioned "it" - you just have to accept it and move on; it's a given.  There is an understood meaning associated with those words which amounts to much more than the sum of the words themselves. 

OK, so what my instructor meant by that vague and seemingly meaningless phrase is that the only way to make better art is to keep making art.  If you're uninspired, make something; if you're blocked, make something; if you feel like giving up, make something.  Maybe it won't be great, or even any good, but if you keep going, it may, eventually, lead to something good (or even great).  Eventually.  In the meantime, you are honing your skills, and learning from each mistake, as well as from those things that, surprisingly, work out better than you ever dreamed they would. You'll take risks that you probably wouldn't take if you're thinking of it as a perfectly finished piece of art, and arrive at better ways of doing things.

I may have said all this before, but I think it bears repeating, mainly to remind myself of its fundamental truth.  For most of us, there are no shortcuts; as Einstein said, "Genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 perspiration."  Don't sit around waiting for something to happen, for a bolt of creative lightning from the sky to enlighten you with some amazing idea.  It takes profound perseverance, hard work, and practice to achieve success.  So that's my little motivational speech to myself, and to any of you out there that may need one as well.   Or, if you're tired of hearing it, you can just refer it to the Department of Redundancy Department.

OK, I feel much better now.  So, here's my latest collage:

Wheels of Dharma
 ingredients: vintage book pages, map, watercolor pencils, image transfers, inkjet print

With that in mind, just for the heck of it, I decided to have another go at this one: 

ingredients: vintage map, vintage book pages, magazine cutouts, watercolor pencils, image transfer

OK, now go make something!

I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.  -Pablo Picasso


  1. I was just realizing how much I dislike art materials. One becomes their slave. I think it's tedious reading about this expensive medium and that expensive paper, and the other brushes that cost a dollar a hair. A great artist can make masterpieces out of anything. Hell. A great artist simply pays attention to something and a masterpiece is created. The finished art is only the proof of that process--a sort of forensic evidence, like fossils. Thank you for this post. It's not often when the emphasis is placed correctly on the making--the zone--the spiritual departure from all the confusion--and away from the illusion that the finished chodski has some great value. Great interview too. Thanks for the heads up email. As always, big fan. Best.

  2. oooh Sharmon....I couldn´t have said it better if I tried...besides your English is better than mine! You had me talking out loud as I was reading this!! I have to print it out and clamp this puppy on my bulletin board. I hear this allll the time in watercolor classes ...people MOANING about how LOUSY they are painting or what went wrong, etc...and I tell them over and over it is a PROCESS,,,it does not come in doing just ONE must do this and get through this to get where you want to go....there is no elevator to success ...we ALL have to take the stairs!! I am actually working on a post about the elevator/stairs connotation.
    When I post it may I link to this post here. It says it all and I thank you for such a post. hey, and those collages ain´t toooo shabby either!!! and what is this I hear,,,another book "thingy"...o-boy,o-boy......I can hardly wait to see what you have in mind this time!!! Wishing you a productive go throw some paint around my too, as always, a big fan,,,CYN

  3. There's no arguing with truth. I think Wheels of Dharma is excellent.

  4. I, too, think Wheels of Dharma is excellent too. Great color, balance, proportion.

    I've been doing a good deal of "skill honing" lately. I've been feeling a bit guilty about it, but after reading this post, I'm thinking that it is important part of making art -- I will feel guilty no longer.

  5. An excellent collage, Sharmon

    Alas, even our quotes require work. First, it wasn't Einstein, it was Thomas Edison. Secondly, he said "Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration". So we must perspire even more, even to get our quotes quoted and attributed.

    I often find that my perspiration output can never fuel my inspiration output.

    If that's enough, we have this quote from that fount of all wisdom, Calvin Coolidge: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”.

    Press on with your "makings". May the sum of your talent, genius, education and, above all, persistence continue to yield wonderful things.

  6. Don, thanks for the compliment, and for the quote correction. I did get that one mixed up, due to being old; my brain is full and things keep falling out. (I'm quoting my son, Colin Reusch, here.) Ironically, I didn't take time to look it up because I wanted to get back to work on my art. However, it is an honest mistake, since Einstein irrefutably said, "Chocolate pie is 82% chocolate and 19% meringue." Too bad doing physics equations causes the ability to perform simple addition and subtraction problems fall out of one's brain. ;~)

  7. p.s. He obviously wasn't much of a cook, either.

  8. p.p.s. ( That should be "...TO fall out of one's brain.)

  9. You may indeed be an "old soul", but I think you and I have got quite a bit left to contribute. As you haven't heard me say a lot lately, 50 is the new 30.

    You may recall that Einstein flunked math. But in his defense, Einstein may not have been much of a cook, but he seemed to have gotten the recipe for our universe right (to some large number of decimal places). Given that view that things are created twice - first in the mind and then in reality - I'd say he did pretty well in cooking, given that he was able to back out the recipe from the dish. If only we could get the exact ingredients and portions in Skyline chili, or Coca-Cola.

    Now, back to your own "cooking", my artist friend. I'm anxious to see what visual treat you create next.

    Thanks for sharing in this great blog.

  10. I took this post very much to heart. I got out of my own way, quit procrastinating, stopped worrying about making Art or whether what I was goofing around with was even remotely good, and went exploring. Not a major expedition; more like a trip to the corner store. But at least it was something. I was in the studio; I was engaged in the process.
    Thanks for this reminder.

  11. If you continue to play with the muse, eventually it WILL play back. It's true, process is a great teacher.
    I like your work here — starting 'worked-over' pages adds texture and depth that a white ground doesn't lend. -J


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I'm happy to reply here, but may not always have time for individual emails.