Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On Art & Pain

I'm working this week on an art/writing business plan, so I've been doing some serious old school web surfing. (Thank you, Web 2.0+  for the tabs. The tabs are a surfer's best friend.) I'm looking at art and design business posts with a much more careful eye. I've been skimming tips from Etsy and great creative resource bloggers like Lori McNee and Chuck Wendig for ages, but I just mentally filed it in "useful info" and skipped on to the next lolcat, #DRATW meme, or Regretsy post.

Now that I HAVE to buckle down, it seems I am. Maybe the way to be a working artist is to remove the safety net and just cliff dive into that roiling ocean of the possible.

I've found some really great, practical resources, and that's what I'm seeking. The psychological junk that gunks up the engine? I got that. I've got The Artist's Way, round three. Well, round two- the first attempt was pure art school slacker fuck-up-ery. I have my meds; I have my therapist. I need action items, concrete to-dos, and real world ideas. The best article I've seen so far is this very comprehensive list from FASO- Fine Art Studio Online, at his blog Fine Art Views. I followed FASO's link to How To Be Creative at Gaping Void, thinking it would be fun but not much help to me because I have creative in my pores, blood, and bones. I need steering and organization. But I landed at a great, informative post.

I noticed a thread, though, that set me to musing. Both articles mention pain. FASO even plays on the word painting, telling us it's no coincidence that it starts with pain. I have a loaded, giant, bulging bunch of baggage with this idea, and I've had to kick that bullshit to the dump before I even started to accept the work of art-making. In college, I dragged my art education out painfully long. I tasted every possible medium, and made myself a neurotic and fearful prolonged adolescence in that little fine arts building. Every single piece was about pain. My depression, my fears, and then my grief were formed and solid and nurtured. The content was necessary- some of it moved out of "journal" space and into a place of some depth and larger meaning, but all of it was pure, cathartic therapy. Necessary, that for sure. But it was hard. Maybe grueling. Uphill in lead boots?

After pretty much breaking my brain and soul trying to be a painter, I signed up for ceramics and printmaking classes, and I discovered a new obsession- process. With these new media, the idea and image of the art was a quick and easy thing. As always, starting was exciting. Then, immediately, it turns into crafting and working. I wedged clay and filed beveled edges on to zinc plates. I rolled slabbed walls of clay and cranked the wheel of the press. Most lovingly, I remember the long, careful wiping of the etched plates. I fell in love with the work, and the big Art Monster turned into happy artisan work. It was about skill and patience and meditation. It was tactile- the earthy sulfur smell of wet clay and the oiled inks and turpentine in the print lab. It was home. It took adjusting, and I think I was still assimilating this lesson when I graduated (and became a mom immediately- that's another post) but I'd realized that
you don't love art if you don't love the work.

You have to fall in love with typing or writing the words and the texture of text on a blank page, editing them until they work like a song. You have to enjoy cleaning your brushes and mixing the paint and priming the canvas. You have to love sculpting until your whole body's sore or losing yourself in web code until your vision translates to the screen. Sure, it can be a little love/hate but that's the work. If it hurts, it hurts like running. And fear is always going to be there, as with any unknown. If you're not at least a little bit courting the unknown I'm not sure you're an artist. But the bulk of it, the bones & brick of it- it's just work. You do your job well and steadily and hard. Deliberately, even when it's automatic.

Seems to me that if all that is painful to you, you may want to adjust your career goals. This business part- it's new and there's a learning curve for those of us who'd rather be in a locked studio with a sketchpad or easel or guitar or notebooks- but it's a part of the work, and I love that too. It's the grown up part, and I'm trying to resist blog triteness with all my will but can't: Put on your big girl panties and work. For the best pep talk ever about showing up to do the work, check out Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk.

Now, my art process isn't about exorcising demons and drawing big mythic stories. It's about taking ink to paper and working the lines. It's the pen and pencil, the scanner bed and the toolbar and perfecting color, texture, composition. It's taking the story in my mind and putting it in sentences and analyzing the grammar and rhythm. It's about getting it done then getting it out there. I am so excited to be in a place right now where my "going to work" is creating then selling. And another tech note- I'm so aware that I can do this in my way so much more than I could have 15 years ago. I can sell directly, take control of the entire process, and get my work to people who love it.

It's power, it's satisfaction, it's my work.

1 comment:

  1. I am at the same place, now. Funny how that works!