Friday, September 18, 2009

Process Serving

When I find myself blocked in my own work, I stop and look closely at the creative processes of artists I admire.
A work of art doesn't emerge from the imagination fully formed. It's conceived in rough-hewn fragments, each of which has to be refined, drafted, notated, and revised (and, sometimes, discarded) several times before it becomes apparent just how, where and why it fits in a larger whole.
Picasso's several early studies for his renowned, 25-foot wide oil painting on canvas, Guernica, were barely recognisable as having anything to do with the final work. And yet, as the studies evolved, there was no sense of trepidation or doubt: the great Spanish artist explored as many elements as possible of the ideas they suggested – as if figuring out a puzzle – before committing to the final work.
The German-born, American sculptor, Eva Hesse's process included scribbling instructions and explanatory notes to herself in a small spiral-bound notebook, after sketching only the most basic shapes on graph paper. I used to be criticised for writing rather than sketching at art school but words often helped more, in the initial stages of working out a piece, than pictures. Later, I'd collage, cutting out shapes and parts of study photographs to position and move around before filling in the spaces with pencil drawings.
For more than fifteen years,
Edward Weston's Daybooks recorded the American photographer's daily struggle to understand himself and his work. His brief, sometimes clinical entries remind us that process doesn't end when one thing is finished. It's ongoing, relentless, not just through a body of work but also an entire artistic life.

Of course, the viewer sees only the completed work. What it took to get it there is, too often, swept away, lost, and forgotten – except by the artist, who has always to return to the process to develop the next idea, to experiment with new media and techniques and ultimately, to produce more work.
Accepting that – accepting, too, that it's very rarely quick or easy – helps relieve my constant, nagging frustration with myself.


Mike Wood said...

Some really good advice. I don't think many non artists appreciate the behind the scenes effort that goes into a finished piece. Whether its your work, or photography or sculpture or anything.

And Edward Weston... Awesome. I chatted with Cara Weston - his grand daughter - once via email on the occasion of his birthday. His work inspires me.

Dr Doc dlcs said...

Your art is Beautiful and i can see the hard work and dedication you have put into your work. You are a true inspiration.
Below is my url if you wish to visit. I am crippled with parkinsons disease and it is a form of therapy for me. I also oil paint on canvas:

Nick said...

One of your best posts in a while. This is one of the most difficult things to learn on the journey to becoming an artist (and something that seems to never be mentioned in art school).

melbournejeweller said...

I loved drawing when I was in high school, but felt I didn't make art like a 'real artist'; my 'process' felt rudimentary and couldn't possibly qualify me.
Until I saw a documentary on Jeffrey Smart and realised that this 'real artist' also used grids in preparing his work. I felt liberated, but a little sad for the lost time believing that what I did was somehow not valid.

Perspective and awareness of the many ways other artists go about managing their creative process is vital for keeping the creative flame alive in uncertain artists.

Many thanks for sharing these examples.

Scott Webb said...

I am looking into creative pattern or trying to go about my days as a way to enhance my creative experience.

I came about trying this from reading Twyla Tharps Creative Habit. She mentions mozart, and masters in history. It's a realy great read and much in line with your post.