Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Biggest Problem Artists Face

The biggest problem for the artist is showing up at his/her studio. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said, "Chance favors only the prepared mind." William Blake (1757–1827) said, "Without unceasing practice nothing can be done. Practice is art. If you leave off you are lost." Each of these giants was talking about a path to success. Though Blake seem to be alluding to "practice as the end" as Suzuki Roshi (and many others) spoke of it.

It is quite a feat to knock your head against the wall of your studio day after day, wondering what will emerge (besides a flat head). But the focus has to be on the knocking, not on what emerges.

Artists use lots of excuses to stay away from their studio. Sometimes I remind myself that Sartre, the existential philosopher, wrote his best stuff after working 70+ hours a week as a journalist. There are stories and stories about artists with little time who had a steady art practice.

The secret is to go tomorrow to the studio, and not to worry about the results. Chance says that good things will come from time to time. Faith can help one believe that, if you must have good things. But imagine if you just made less bad things. Or maybe dispense entirely of good and bad and just think about Blake's "practice is art." Isn't that enough? Harry Callahan, the legendary photographer, had a dry spell for ten years late in life. Every morning he'd go out and take pictures. Then he'd come back and develop his film, eat lunch, and then print. Nothing worked. But after ten years of this, good stuff started to happen.

In the end we'll all have plenty of time to sleep. Until then, wake up and see what comes out as you beat your head against the wall.

2 comments:

sue skinner said...

Interesting. Joe and my biggest problem is taking a day away from the studio.
Could be..
I have been making a living for 20 years as a full time potter, and still don't consider myself an artist

Anonymous said...

Good advice, difficult to follow. H.