Last Saturday we lost power and it wasn't restored until Tuesday night. Living without the TV, computers, and lights was actually kinda nice for awhile. Evenings spent with oil lamps and candles, reading, playing Scrabble and cards, listening to the birds and frogs, made for good conversation and early bed times. But for all my good intentions I lost my focus on writing here. So now I'm attempting to gather my thoughts about art in general, and what I do specifically, in order to throw light on the work.
Focus, dedication, perseverance... these words come to mind when thinking about what it takes to make significant work. I was listening to a talk by the painter James Rosenquist, and could relate to his observation. He said: " you only have so much time, so why not do what you want, if you have an original idea?" There's the thing: an original idea. So much of what I see in galleries around here is so blatantly derivative. Study the masters, look at their work, read about their lives, be inspired by what they accomplished, but go your own way.
As artists we can achieve some great things if we focus, slow down, don't get too distracted. Time goes by so quickly, so the more we can focus on the work the better. Some days it seems so hard; the materials seem to fight with you, that brush won't cooperate, you can't get that color you are searching for. You doubt what you are doing is any good, and it may not be, you question if you have anything to offer. You can't see a way forward. Past failures haunt you. Yet, you have to move forward; at these times you have to believe you can do it. Work through these times. Other days it seems almost effortless; thank goodness for those times.
Periodically I go through work I have in storage and purge things I know are never going to be finished, or that I feel are not that good. You have to be critical. Don't let mediocre work on to the market. Stop fooling yourself. Look at your body of work and see it's weaknesses, but also it's strengths. And, move forward from there. If you let work out of your studio that you are not happy with it will come back to bite you in the ass. It will mar your credibility. Ultimately, you must work to please yourself, only letting work out that meets your criteria, if you have a sense of leaving any kind of legacy. I guess it depends on your reason for making stuff.
As an example... one time several years ago I was getting ready to throw a few pieces in a dumpster behind my studio, stuff I knew was never going to go anywhere, unfinished stuff. A friend came by just at that time and saw what I was doing, and begged me for one of the big pieces. I let my guard down and gave in to her wishes. Some time later a local restaurateur bought it in a garage sale cheap and hung it in her restaurant. Everyone loved it! It was featured in a newspaper article about the place. I was appalled, and angered. Not only was an unfinished, technically weak piece of my work on public display, it was bought cheap at a yard sale. But, this reaffirmed a valuable lesson to me: do not ever sell you work too cheap, and don't ever let crap out of your studio.