One cannot create an art that speaks to men when one has nothing to say.
André Malraux, Man’s Hope
Something inside me warned this morning not to wait for inspiration, but to go find it. I was bone-tired, and my mind was devoid of ideas. A part of me wanted to give up and return to bed, but the better part urged me to open my current journal. Turning to pages dating from the Fourth of July, I began reading. Within five pages, my mind was surging with fresh ideas and inspiration, and the muse has remained with me throughout this day.
I stopped painting only to join Heidi Hardy for lunch. She was the radio host who invited me to take part in her broadcast a week ago. Heidi is always surging with fresh ideas and trying out new adventures. Returning to my studio, I resumed work on the piece above, and my mind stayed engaged on this notion of stirring up inspiration. I found this quote from Malraux that truly stirs my blood. I have written before, that I grew up wanting to be an artist, with no interest in academics. I hated public school, and only went to college because of a scholarship. To this day, I feel that college saved me, because in that nexus I woke up to a world of ideas and the curiosity pushed my art endeavors to the side for the next dozen years or so. Once I returned to making art, I discovered that I now had something to say, ideas worth expressing. Had the academic side not taken over my life, I would be little more than an illustrator now, a hack, with a talent to draw or paint on demand. The older I get, the less regret I feel over the past. To be sure, I’ve made many bad decisions that I wish I could redo, but I’m glad that I turned away from my study of art technique long enough to cultivate a life of the mind.
One of the reasons I love the art of Robert Motherwell so much is because he made no apologies for being both artist and scholar. In an interview, he discussed a book titled The History of Anti-Intellectualism, and the frustrations he experienced when faced with that shallow ultimatum from art dealers that he make up his mind whether he wanted to pursue scholarship or art. He always embraced both, and therefore offered up to us a marvelous body of written work in addition to his collection of paintings, drawing and collages. He chafed at the notion that an artist is a clever craftsman but the critic is the scholar who educates the public about art.
I’m starting to feel some momentum with the painting above. It is larger than what I’ve worked with recently (20 x 24″), and the sky is going to require a great deal of attention. I spent a large part of the afternoon reworking areas of the sky and rendering the field station where I lived for six days on the Laguna Madre.
Thanks for reading.
I paint in order to remember.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.