Friday, 1 April 2011

work comes from work

seed pod, illustration, Kylie Budge

One really nice thing about doing a PhD is I get to do a lot of reading. I mean this is how I'm supposed to be spending my time for the next 3 years, right?

A recent find has been a collection of essays in a book called Learning Mind, Experience into Art by folk connected to the School of Art Institute of Chicago. There's some very thought-provoking stuff in there about art, art schools, the art market, galleries, and the like.

One piece by Jerry Saltz (art critic for NY Magazine) called What Art is and What Artists Do has this great bit about persistence.

"Work comes from work," Bruce Nauman said. Artists: the number one thing is work. You have to work in times of doubt, in good times, bad times - work. In a way, you don't do your work. Can you pick your style? It partly picks you. There are certain things you decide, but certain things you don't. In a way, art is working through you. In a sense, you don't exist; your art exists. So you have to get out of its way and work. (p 30)

Now ain't that the truth? I think about the need for persistence a lot. It's a hard, but oh-so-pleasurable grind, the creative gig. When I'm having a difficult patch I get out the pencils or inks or whatever and just try to play. No pressure. No end product required. Just pure play. Some good music on, a pot of tea nearby and some time to just see where the ink takes me.

Any strategies you use to 'get out of the way' of creativity and 'let it work'?

PS. something amazingingly honest on this topic I discovered the other night in twitter-ville.


  1. I love this quote, I found it really interesting. I think like anything, the more you do the better you get, though with art is better the right word!

    I agree too about about your style choosing you. I think at some stage you realise you have a style and you need to work within that rather than yearning after other styles.

  2. The point about style is interesting I think. I agree FP, best just to go with your own rather than try to emulate ones that don't quite come naturally.

  3. It's so true that you have to work through the moments of doubt, where you have little inspiration. As well as having good music and a pot of tea on hand, I like to turn to my "inspiration book", which is a sketchbook where I collect different images, sketches etc. So much easier to work through a rough spot when you try something new, and as you said no pressure to produce anything in particular.

  4. Madeleine - that inspiration book of yours sounds perfect for keeping the work flowing!

  5. Wow! That is an amazing and truthful quote. I'll be collecting that into my tumblr blog please.
    I think I first started working with charcoal to 'get out of the way' of creativity and it certainly did lead me to strange and exciting places.

  6. Hey Priya, so glad that quote feels true for you. I so agree!

  7. I love this post, and it's so timely for me! That's exactly the problem, and exactly the solution: getting out of my own way.

  8. So glad you found the quote useful Jesse! Good luck with that illustration gig.

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