By default we think of drawing, both noun and verb, as dragging pencil across paper or the evidence of that action. That is not untrue. If we also consider drawing as anything that works in parallel to, or in preparation for, an artist’s primary practice, then these collages are also drawings. Using cut paper, and quickly assembled, these sketches allow me to record ideas for possible future sculptures. There are always so many more ideas than there is time to make them in sculpture. Some ideas are not worth pursuing further. Drawings are artworks and sometimes they are the only record of an artistic idea or impulse. What I find most interesting about drawing as a record is that it gives insight into an artist’s thought process, sometimes more than the resulting sculpture. These collages are part of an ongoing sketchbook. Some of these thoughts make their way into The Hankie Project, some into the Welcome to Oblivion or Stimulatorium series.
There are artists, especially young artists, who tend to focus on originality. These artists try to do things that “haven’t been done before” or something “entirely new”. This is a waste of time. I’d like to say that originality doesn’t exist, that it is a notion based on a failure of research, which I do believe to be true, but with technology moving so quickly I have to allow that there will be new, utterly original ideas, tools and objects.
So I guess my argument is, so what? SO you were the first to use a material or technique? Who cares? Other people will do it; some will even do it better than you. After a while it won’t matter who did it first. Quality works of art that resonate will stand the test of time and be examples of their form and style.
Young students, especially those who have not had much exposure to art and design history, often think that because they have never seen something like what they have just made, that it is something entirely new.
I tell them newness is irrelevant. Not good or bad, just not relevant. The more research we do, the more real looking, the more we are able to recognize elements of other artworks in our own. This is a good thing. Acknowledging these influences and investigating them is deepens our engagement to the work and the rest of humanity.
Humans have been around for a long time. All along we have been making things. We are all connected by those objects and images.
Originality doesn’t matter, quality does. For an original object there has to be no other before it, the only one of its kind, never been done before. As soon as something is invented in the world, artists begin to adopt the new material, style, equipment or technique to use in their own way.
The point is to do what you do in your own way. Do not be too concerned about whether or not is has been done before. If you are working on making your most authentic work, you will be creating a unique artwork, even if it may share some qualities with an existing artwork.
Tomorrow, May 21st is the North Park Festival of Arts. During the festival, the Art Produce Gallery will be open with the Looking Back/Forward; An Art Produce Retrospective on display. Here’s some information about the exhibition:
Join Art Produce for a 2-month celebration of the past 15 years of exhibits and the launch of new cultural activities and engagement opportunities for the neighborhood of North Park in San Diego, CA. Looking Back/Forward is a retrospective group exhibition of 25 artists who have previously had solo exhibits at Art Produce. This rotating exhibit will include site-specifici nstallations, and performance based/participatory interactive pieces in the Art Produce Gallery, the Community Room and the Art Produce Garden. Additional weekend activities in May and June include all ages art workshops, artist talks/salons, pop-up dinners, social dance in the beer garden, and the community wide North Park Festival of Arts on Saturday, May21 st 10am-10pm.
The Exhibition is open to the public from May 14th through July 3, 2016
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 11 th 6-9pm
Gallery Hours: 11am-6pm, daily. Entry through Tostadas and by appointment. Art Produce 3139 University Ave. 619.584.4448 San Diego, CA 92104 www.artproduce.org
This summer I have the pleasure of leading a two-week Ceramics handbuilding intensive for artists of all levels in the beautiful mountain retreat center, Idyllwild Arts Center.
Plans for the workshop include working from the live model and 24 hour studio access.
Class sizes are small so register now! I can’t wait to see you this summer in Idyllwild.
www.idyllwildarts.org/ceramics for more information and to register.
Art is an open country. Everyone can stay. In a creative environment where everyone is welcome, there are bound to be differences of opinion, differences in modes of expression, and delivery systems.
Sometimes there is chaos in my classroom. I see it as controlled chaos, but some may see it as out of control. I am aware of that. It is ok. Some may think that I am lazy and that is why I do not take control of my class. Or perhaps I am inexperienced and lack the ability to deal with the disorder. It may be that I don’t notice it.
I assure you, none of those things is true. I see who gets annoyed, who sighs and judges and shakes their heads. I see you. I value your comfort, I do. But I value the chaos more. No one is getting hurt. No one feels threatened either physically or emotionally. It’s all ok.
Art is an open country. Everyone can stay.
Even the noisy ones. Even the ones who mutter to themselves. Even the ones who ask the same question over and over again. Even the ones who need a ton of extra help just to get through the day.
All opinions are valid. You get to have yours, I get to have mine. That guy who is going to vote for Donald Trump gets to have his. We all get to express ourselves in art class. That is why we are here. We may not love the chaos. We may prefer a more serene environment in which to practice our art. Sometimes I prefer that too.
If you want silence, go to a library. If you want an open forum for self-expression, come to my art class.
Music, theatre, literature, and visual art can all represent the highest form of human expression. In fact, entire ancient cultures are evaluated based solely on their artistic output. Perhaps art is not valued so much these days, but that’s a topic for another time. Art matters and always will, despite current fashion.
Human expression needs an open forum to grow. An open forum can, at times, be chaotic. Controlling that chaos could limit the potential for human expression to grow. I’m not willing to risk that.
So what if we are uncomfortable? Art thrives in discomfort. If it doesn’t, it should. Sustaining an artistic practice demands we be resilient. There will be many things in life that to try to distract us form our practice. Partners, kids, and jobs come to mind.
If we can learn to create within the chaos, we will be better artists. If we can accept and appreciate a variety of opinions, diverse manners of expression and different temperaments, we will be better spokespersons for our culture.
As artists we are always making manifest our ideas, literally making stuff, physical objects. Some are good. Some are bad.
Some of us throw out the old or unsuccessful (we think) objects. The others we display or place in boxes in storage. After years theses objects accumulate, as residue of our lives. Looking back we can see the objects and remember what we were thinking, feeling and struggling with during the time the pieces were made.
If we are making life meaningful through making artwork it is because the process itself feels important, the results are mostly satisfying, and/or we benefit in some other way, by making sales or having exhibitions. What we also do is leave a legacy behind. Our personal histories are in those boxes and digital files. We leave this history behind, a record of us. Adding to the history of the era of our lifetime. Art becomes a record of our own existence as well as part of human history.
On the personal level, something more substantial than the trail of breadcrumbs that Hansel and Gretel left behind happens when we leave a path back to our former selves through our art. As artists with many years of practice and production under our belts, we are able to clearly see the arc of our development, to see how far we’ve come. Looking back through the old work is important not just for the historical aspect but for our current work as well. We change as we go through life but some fundamental aspect of who we are remains. It is fascinating to find the thread of imagery or issues that persist in the work throughout the years. It can also be helpful to be reminded of topics, materials and ways of working that once interested us. There was a reason we made these things. They are the seeds of our current practice.
I’m sure someone famous once said, “Work from your work”. This means that we start where we left off. If we’ve been out of the studio for a while, we start again by making what we were making before we left. It is ok to repeat ourselves; in fact, making things in series is a useful and legitimate way to make progress. Van Gogh painted the same bridge over and over; Monet painted the same pond again and again. There’s something about repetition that brings us ever closer to the essential truth about a subject.
Having access to our own historical body of work can be a valuable resource when we are stuck or stagnant, or having a hard time getting started after and absence from the studio. There are the dominant themes that we remember, but there will also be many other things in the old work that we will have inevitably forgotten about. These little surprises can awaken a dormant interest we once had. Don’t throw away old, seemingly unsuccessful work before completing a thorough documentation, it may turn out to be a future source of inspiration.