Wednesday, May 18, 2011

art is personal

So – since my precious notebook is gone, I’m going to vent to all of you, right now, right here, on this blog.

Advanced apologies.

Today was a challenging day.  It was the kind of day that both deflates and defines an artist. Why? Because to be an artist you have to fail time and time again. It’s written in your job description. You have to fail until you succeed. The truth is though, nobody ever talks about all the crappy photos that Sally Mann took before she made one outstandingly amazing image. I mean common people, the woman had to have made a bad image at some point or another in her career before the magic began.  Here’s the truth though - even writing those previous sentences above (about Sally Mann’s bad photographs) feels wrong in a deep and upsettingly devastating kind of a way. Why, you ask? Because nobody wants to believe that the great artists in the world aren’t perfect. They are supposed to be our heroes. They are supposed to be the people who are strong and wise and talented. They are little slices of the divine from whom we can feed off of like creative-driven zombies. But guess what? They aren’t! They too tried and failed at some point. I bet the ones who are still alive are still trying and are still failing. They faced and still face hard defeating days, and they must have felt, and still must sometimes feel, like walking away from it all. Because you know what? Art is personal. Every part of making art requires exposing ourselves and pouring ourselves into what we are trying to create. What we make defines us in a way, and when we pour everything into something that we are trying to create and it fails miserably, we can’t help but take it personally and question the nature of our very being. 

Writers always say, “write a crappy first draft”. In fine artist’s laymens terms I think that means keep fucking up until something amazing happens. Keep producing bad art until one day you stumble upon a process that makes something beautiful. So, even though I spent a whole day yesterday preparing eight different versions of printable surfaces that I planned to try printing on in six different ways, on five different printers, in four different labs, and today when I tried to print on those surfaces not a single one of them produced results -n o results at all, net even bad results - I’m talking none, notta, zilch, zero. And even though I got nothing, I decided, I will not give up. Even though I spent the last forty-eight hours attempting to be great and original and produce something amazingly inspiring – nothing came of it. But you know what, I will not give up. It’s a hard battle to fight though, the ego, but I have to; I see no other choice.

Today I won’t let my failures define me. I’m going to bed with the knowledge that everything I’ve been working through has made me stronger, wiser, and has allowed me to know myself better and experience the world in an even more fun and challenging way then before. We are all artists. The only thing that has ever separated someone who creates art often and someone who doesn’t create art at all is practice, experience and willingness to let it go when they make a mistake and to keep trying. It’s a personal journey, being an artist, and I’m up for it, I think.


  1. Wise. You have come around full circle to what it takes to find your masterpieces. The only part of this I don't like is: "I think." You "Know". Today will be good!

  2. To quote Thomas Edison, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." You've done a beautiful job summarizing the artists' fight against the media's harmful perpetuation of the overnight success myth, a huge pet peeve of mine. We have only one responsibility, I believe, as artists, and that is to commit to our work. And if by some miracle a notable creation should arise from that effort, then we should get on our hands and knees and thank the mystical forces of creativity that enabled its actualization. We few, brave adventurers are the blessed ones, endowed with the courage to persevere in the face of doubt, cynicism, fear and rejection. To all of us artists out there, here's to vision, courage and a life fully lived. Thank you, Dawn!