Posts Tagged ‘View from the Studio Door’

Productivity vs. Creativity

December 13, 2019

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There’s a pervasive myth, shared by artists and non-artists alike, that art is a product of genius, madness or serendipity. Wrong. Art is not the chance offspring of some cosmic (or genetic) roll of the dice. Art is mostly a product of hard work. When you look back on the results of a lifetime of artmaking, even the role that talent played is insignificant. Living life productively, however, is very significant. If you learn to live your life productively, your atwork will take care of itself. If you do not live your life productively, nothing will save your artwork–not even talent. One of the less-advertised truths about artmaking is that it’s more important to be productive than to be creative. If you’re productive, your creativity will take care of itself. If you are not productive–well, if you’re not productive, then how exactly is it you intend to be ceative?

Ted Orland, The View From the Studio Door

My response to the more than one dozen works-in-progress spread across my bed was to begin work on three new watercolors last evening. Train commissions. One of many reasons I enjoy the Christmas holidays is patrons ordering paintings to give as gifts. I always feel good inside when working on something requested by a patron, but even better when I know the warmth that goes into Christmas giving. As it turns out, none of these three have Christmas deadlines, so the removal of that pressure makes this even better. I would still be happy to turn them out before the New Year arrives.

Re-opening the Ted Orland book this morning brought me to the passage quoted above. I can never emphasize this enough when talking to emerging artists: productivity yields the quality we seek. Long ago, I fretted over whether I was talented enough to pursue this. Once I got over that fear and began pushing out works of art, I found my work improving, and feel that I learn something new with every single painting I attempt.

I never tire of posting this passage from an article in Newsweek, June 28, 1993, “The Puzzle of Genius”:

The creative geniuses of art and science work obsessively. They do not lounge under apple trees waiting for fruit to fall or lightning to strike. “When inspiration does not come to me,” Freud once said, “I go halfway to meet it.” Bach wrote a cantata every week, even when he was sick or exhausted. Though most composers would kill to have written even one of his best pieces, some were little more than wallpaper music. Eliot’s numerous drafts of “The Waste Land” constitute what one scholar called “a jumble of good and bad passages [that he turned] into a poem.” In a study of 2,036 scientists throughout history, Simonton found that the most respected produced not only more great works, but also more “bad” ones. They produced. Period.

I repeatedly meet individuals who describe themselves as “frustrated artists.” This  frequently means they have talent, but never get around to making art. My response is: if you have no work to show, who cares about your talent? In the year 2010, Jason Horejs (Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona) got my attention while giving a public talk, saying the only questions gallery directors have of prospective artists is: “Are you productive? How many works per year do you turn out?” From that year forward, I have created at least one hundred pieces per year, many of them small ones, no doubt, but dozens worthy of framing and presenting. I honestly believe this past decade has been my finest, and I look forward to seeing how much futther I can push things in 2020.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.Shultz reduced

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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The Sanctity of an Artist’s Working Space

February 25, 2014
Working on a Small Watercolor Tonight

Working on a Small Watercolor Tonight

I seem to have only been like a boy playing on the seashore, diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton

Putting more space between tonight and my recent illness, I am finding a renewed delight, tinkering with watercolor projects.  The shock of discovery is returning, and I feel like a small boy again, oftentimes my eyes widening with suprise at what comes out of the end of my brush, or what pools up on the watercolor page.  And all the while I work on this watercolor, I feel ecstasy in knowing that I am a part of an extensive tradition, an endless line of creative spirits.  In the stillness of this studio, I work while listening to the voices of Robert Motherwell, Willem De Kooning, Andrew Wyeth and Joseph Campbell on the VHS and DVD documentaries that I have stockpiled over the years.  I love being a part of something much larger than myself, something much larger than this moment.  I sense an immortality in all of this.  I have read, over and over again, Julia Cameron’s work The Artist’s Way.  Writing from her Upper West Side Manhattan environ in that day, she pushed out these words: “Artists toil in cells all over Manhattan.  We have a monk’s devotion to our work–and, like monks, some of us will be visited by visions and others will toil out our days knowing glory only at a distance . . .”  I love the sanctuary feel that floods my studio space in the night when things get quiet and I have only my thoughts moving about as I bend over the watercolor and explore its dynamics.  There is so much waiting to be explored, that I keep coming back to Newton’s testimony that the small boy turns over pebbles while the ocean of truth waits beside.

ART STILL HAS TRVTH.  TAKE REFVGE THERE.  These immortal words of Matthew Arnold are chiseled over the portal of the Saint Louis Art Museum.   I have read them on repeated visits to that “cathedral of art.”  And I take them to heart tonight.  My working art space has become the cleft in the rock, the shelter from the storm, the safe haven, my refuge.  Life has had its difficulties lately, but I’m grateful for sanctuary this night, for the quiet hours to pursue art, while outside the temperatures continue to drop and the rain continues to fall.

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.

Thoughts Scattered in the Winds

February 24, 2014
Trying to Get Some Thoughts to Fly in Formation

Trying to Get Some Thoughts to Fly in Formation

In a traditional school setting, intensity is dilluted by short and widely-separated class meetings, continuity is lost as everyone scatters to the winds at the end of each class period, and ideas dissipate before they ever fully develop.

Ted Orland, View from the Studio Door

Throughout my years, I have wrestled with this reality.  As a graduate student, when ideas moved me profoundly, I found myself frequently scrambling to assemble my scattered, fractured thoughts into some kind of order and save them in such a way that they would not disappear between class periods, or while sleeping at night.  I never found a “system” for organizing all that knowledge.  Years of teaching school since those days have only added to the mix.  Students stimulate me daily with new ideas, alternate vistas, novel perspectives, and every time the bell rings and they sail out the door, I find myself reaching for the journal and trying my best to record the snippets of thought as the next class files in with their new packages of words and ideas.

This evening, while working on a commission, I continually found myself stopping in the middle of a brushstroke, drawing out the journal and recording yet again.  It never ends.

Waking
Stream of consciousness
On a sleeping
Street of dreams

Thoughts
Like scattered leaves
Slowed in midfall
To the streams

Of fast
Running rivers
Of choice and chance
And time stops here 
on the delta
While they dance
While they dance

David Crosby, “The Delta”

I suppose I have recovered from my recent illness.  I’m thinking again.  Painting again.  And smiling again.  Maybe some of these things will assemble themselves into something sublime.  I can always hope  . . .

Thanks for reading.  Once this commission is completed, I’ll hopefully get some new paintings back online to share.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

First Attempt of the New Isis Theater in the Fort Worth Stockyards

June 30, 2013
New Isis Theater, Fort Worth

New Isis Theater, Fort Worth

. . . having a working command of the creative process–that is, all those elements that lead to the making of art–is truly essential.  The creative process unfolds as you find the essential tools in your toolkit.  It means finding your subjects (not someone else’s) and finding your materials (not someone else’s) and most of all it means finding a way to live your life so that you can engage again and again the things you care about the most.  

Ted Orland, The View From the Studio Door

As Sunday fades into the late afternoon, I realize that I will soon have to lay aside my art work and take up Shakespeare for tomorrow morning’s summer school class.  Teaching pays the bills; I do that so I can live to make art.  Teaching supports my habit, though I must immediately add that this is the only profession in my career that has truly fit me.  I have never stopped loving the educational enterprise.  Perhaps that is because I am still a student, and always will be.

I have made two trips to the Fort Worth Stockyards in the past four days, both times in triple-digit temperatures, and both times returning to my studio with a renewed interest in pursuing a series of studies in the edifices on North Main, especially the New Isis theater.  As I continue to work on this watercolor, as well as additional compositions of this historic theater, I will have much to report concerning its history.  I have been fascinated to find pages and pages of data on this remarkable structure and the stories it embodies.

I have not put much work into this piece yet, save for the sign, the part that holds the most fascination for me.  I’m about ready to move down into the awning and left to the pair of doors ready for rendering.  The sign was a great source of joy, and I guess I can say that the most “fun” part of the painting is now behind me; everything else should just be supporting detail.  Having said that, I may be closer to the end of this sketch than I realized when I began this blog post.  But so it goes.

Thank you for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.