Saturday, October 3, 2009

Inspiration is for Amateurs

"Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work."

- Chuck Close

I came across that quote on and it clicked. So often my art starts to lag, and almost invariably that correlates to my own mental state, a state which I am increasingly learning to associate with 'waiting for inspiration'.

What it really consists of is self-doubt... I start to get all kinds of ideas of things I want to do, I look at other people's art (which is, in itself, a great way to get inspired), but then I start overthinking it. I think 'if I want to do that, I should really plan it out perfectly so it comes together well' and 'I have all these reference shots of the cats, but if I could only catch this one in that angle of sunlight - maybe I'll wait until I can get some morning sunlight shots'. And before you know it three weeks has passed and I've talked myself out of starting the project before I take blade to board (or pastel to paper, or whatever medium I'm avoiding at the time).

The idea behind the quote above is that sitting, waiting or planning for perfection is all well and good - but if you are trying to be a professional artist (ie. if you want to make any money from your art) that's just not good enough. Few people would produce enough to be viable (okay, *I* would not produce enough). But more than that.. focusing on perfection is stifling. First you limit what you are willing to try, then you limit yourself more. You stay in your safety zone because you know you can produce something of a certain calibre. But if you do this for any length of time you don't grow as an artist. You stagnate. And the worst part of it is that stagnant art is very obvious - and not all that appealing. It's a bad vicious cycle.

But it's such an insidious cycle - one I've fallen prey to many times. Knowing that I'm susceptible to this I've taken the title quote, printed it out in big font and stuck it above my drafting table - so each time I'm sitting staring at a blank board (canvas, paper, etc) waiting for inspiration I can hear Chuck telling me to get off my keister and just do SOMETHING. In really dire straits just grab the nearest object and make it into a still life - I know in the past I've surprised myself with how much I like some of the most unlikely subject matter once I got working with it (I recall a particular cupcake a year or so ago...). It may not turn out to be the primo best work that I've done, but then again it might.... and at the very least I'll learn something from it!


In other news...

If you've been following my erratic blogging efforts you'll know that I've been attending the Basalt Sunday Market with a little booth for the past month (really it's been a fair amount of work, being the first time I've set up a booth or sold prints - that is my excuse for the aforementioned erratic-ness of the blogging).

Each week I set up my easel and work on a piece - the board that I've been working on is a 16 x 20" scratchboard that I posted a teaser detail of a few weeks ago. Sandy was close with her guess - at least the textures were right! Here's an update:

This is Ben - the Belgian draft horse that I had in vet school. When I moved we had to sell Ben, he went to live on a big Belgian farm and finally decided he was okay with the harness after all (thanks for the bruises, Ben!).

Even on a 16 x 20" board this doesn't come close to his real size - in reality his head was the length of my arm, meaning that if he was nuzzling my armpit I could just reach his poll (the very top of his head between his ears) with my outstretched fingers! Any horsey people out there can see how I used the 'natural' approach to grooming :D

And a close-up detail of his muzzle (so soft!):

Anyone who is in the Basalt area this weekend (Sunday, Oct 4th) stop on by and see "Ben" (the scratchboard) in real life! This is the last week for the market, after this I'll be working in the studio and working on that whole discipline thing I recall mentioning some time ago! ;)

~~ Pam ~~


Chrissy said...

I liked this...some great thoughts. I can talk myself out of something too. then because I try something different, I label it as rubbish because it isn't like my more "normal" work..
The other scenario is having lots of ideas and then not being able to do anything because my mind skipping around in hundreds of different directions!

kaslkaos said...

I'd amend to "WAITING for inspiration is for amateurs". Of course the best of art is inspired, but in the meantime there's always practice and hard work and sometimes that's enough to get you to the next inspired moment, plus you'll be technically ready for that moment.

Cat-in-a-Box said...

Chrissy - I hear ya!
Kasl - I like that...'waiting' really is the key, I guess the idea is not that inspiration isn't necessary but rather that inspiration comes to those who seek it, not those who just sit and wait for it to hit them (or at least it comes more OFTEN to those who seek it!). :D