Portion of an image found online, perhaps in LiveJournal image feed- origin unknown
In the midst of a two-day jag of reading art criticism, theory and artist blogs; a result of 1) January post-holiday blahs, as stated yesterday, and 2) being in the ongoing and usual *stuck* place of :
What is my art about? What do I want to say, or what stories do I want to tell, and why?
In short, What’s my Point?
Still unanswered in this, yet refusing to accept that it’s a hopeless situation (am I delusional? It’s worth consideration), these past couple of days some thoughts have congealed which seem helpful to contemplate as I attempt to move forward– (more after the jump)
Inasmuch as I’ve managed to focus at all in my art, thus far it has been on technique and process more than conceptualizing or storytelling. This is only natural and has a great deal to do with my chosen profession as a Graphic Designer. That’s the first time I’ve ever actually called it my chosen profession, in fact– I generally just say I studied it at Pratt. In fact, all these years I’ve been going under the absurd assumption that my chosen profession was Artist, and that design has simply been stealing time from it to pay the bills. Yet I have not lived in a way that makes that true, so it’s obvious to me (now) that the moment I chose GD as my major, I also chose it as a profession. (Duh, me.)
I’ve become aware in the past year of my level of skill– realizing in the cabinet card portraits, for example, that my rendering skills are tight and controlled. This sort of control and steadfast detail-seeking has always been an MO in my work. I’m most enamored of others’ work that shows the same kind of deliberation– even things that at a glance may look loose, abstract, etc; the best of it, in my eyes, is the work that displays the control and active decision-making of the artist, without deadening or making too cold the subject matter.
So I think I have no choice but to up the ante or quit, and be instead a fabricator of novelties or some such. Now that I’ve managed to convince myself I have the skill and precision to render imagery competently, it’s time to fold some brainwork in– storytelling or evocation; to inject some mystery; questions like what’s going on here?, or what just happened in the moments previous to the moment we are seeing in the image?– all that great stuff that Gorey, Wyeth and Hopper (for example) are masters at, for those are the kinds of “stories” in imagery that tend to stay with me the most.
These mini-revelations are useful, however late. They narrow my field, point my work in much more specific directions. They tell me what to discard, urge me against trying my hand at twee portraits, embroidery, wood carving or god knows what. There are many forms out there that I’ve seen lovely examples of, things to which I find myself drawn or even just wondering what it’s like to work in other media– but I must leave them to those for whom they are a fit. They are not a fit for me, any more than, say, trigonometry or team sports ever were.
Time to narrow the focus, or remain a jack-of-all-whatnot.
It’s taken way to long to get even this far, but that’s bound to happen when you change careers; I know what kind of design I do without thinking about it- I have a consistency without being cookie-cutter. And it has been a long process and the results are because I’ve shown up for it nearly every day for 20 years; a full-time job, obviously. But Art has been so sidelined or treated as a fucking hobby in my life for 2 decades- TWO DECADES. How on earth could I have been expecting it to take care of itself? Time to show up. This was easy to do when I was a kid. Now, it basically requires applying the same sort of discipline that everything else in life seems to require, as it will mean having 2 full-time jobs, possibly for the rest of my life. But that’s the only way, and the word “hobby” applied to art has always made me feel a bit queasy.
Simply stated, the thing about showing up, about being full-time, is that the more time you spend on anything, the better you’re going to get. Being prolific doesn’t mean everything you make will be great, but it certainly increases the odds that some of it will be. (See Picasso)
Below, some grand examples of noteworthy and inspiring artistry…
Top left: Charlie Hunter; Top right: Edward Gorey; 2nd from top left: Kenichi Hoshine; 3rd from top: Nils Stodberg; Bottom: Andrew Wyeth