What is art? We’ve been batting this question around on the blog for a while now. Here is another aspect: It is getting to the easel (or the wheel, the piano, the computer, the camera). Without this simple thing, presenting ourselves to our art, there would be no art. Simple as that. So art is, in part, artists’ continued willingness to make it, sometimes at great cost to themselves.
Van Gogh is, sadly, a great example in a couple of ways. Not only did he lose his mind (some now believe that was because of toxins in the particular yellow paint he used) and cut off his ear, ultimately taking his own life. He was also unrecognized and impoverished his whole life. But he had to paint. Like most of us who make art for a living, it’s not so much a choice as a need. We have to make our art even if it means poverty, or insanity for that matter.
So, without a boss telling us to do so, usually without deadlines, we must get ourselves to the work. This is the point at which some people fail. They just can’t, consistently, produce. It’s true, I believe, that art comes from desire and not discipline, but at the same time there must be a commitment, one that allows a blend of freedom and play within it. Otherwise our art becomes strained. It’s a fine line we walk.
I believe it was writer Anne LaMott who said that no matter our mood, our desire, our inspiration, we must show up at the page, every day. Even depression, she said, has something to offer our art. I’ve used this thought more times than I can count to remind myself that I either bring myself to the work every day or nothing will get done.
So with this in mind, I give you another glimpse into my studio where I’ve been working. The paintings are progressing—slowly perhaps under all the many layers of my process—but they are, indeed, coming into being.
A new herd of horses is finding its way into the big canvas. Their inspiration comes from a photo Kathy shot (see blog posts In Pursuit of Art, Art—How Much Does My Soul Need to Stay Alive? and What Just Happened? filed under “An Artful Life”) on her first visit to Truchas. I love that Kathy is becoming a part of one of my horse paintings in this way.
More canvasses are prepared.
More layers of cream begin to show themselves.
And then the painting became silent. It was no longer guiding me and I couldn’t see where it wanted to go next. I’ve learned over the years that when this happens, it’s better to stop and come back to it another time. So I took Kelee out for a walk and, as Julia Cameron would say, refilled my creative reservoir.
Hey, Bill Franke, I’m missing our lovely sessions in the gallery when I throw a piece in the car, often still wet, and discuss it with you. Can you tell me what you think of this piece from a distance? WHEN ARE YOU COMING HOME?!
Love to you all,