Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fall in love with the process

Recently, a friend was trying to explain to me his philosophy about making art. The term he used to differentiate a true piece of art from the noise out there was "flow". Does the work reflect the artist's flow? But how does one define this concept?

It's something I've been trying to describe to myself for years, ever since I watched George toss a gorgeous piece of in-progress bronze in the back of his car, unlocked with the window left down! If I had to take a gander at it, I'd frame it in terms of loving the process over loving the product. What do I mean by this? I mean allowing yourself (as the artist) to let go of the outcome, and focus on the mechanics that get the work done. This could include embracing brushstrokes you don't like; choosing not to work and rework a section of the piece in an attempt to get things "just right"; focusing on the qualities of the paint you are using instead of worrying about whether you rendered proportions perfectly; or letting the paint dictate the outcome of the session as one color grabs another while you drag your brush through space. And it certainly means believing in yourself along the way.

Such thinking allows the artist to be less invested in each individual piece, which should lead to better production and, in turn, a better body of work. It also allows for more freedom to be creative, because when you are less invested in a given outcome, you'll probably take more risks or perhaps be more playful in your execution. These actions should lead to more success overall. The more work you make, the better you'll get and, hopefully, the more work you'll sell.

But why is this so? I suspect that if an artist can decouple a certain subset of their emotions (mainly fear, pride, shame, hope, and love) from their actual work, and instead focus on executing the process with confidence, then they can achieve this so-called "flow", which will become apparent in their body of work as it becomes stronger. It's almost like you have to step back from yourself in order to bring out the best qualities of your art.

For the record, loving the process over the product and achieving flow are things I struggle with. I've historically been a lover of the product, and very rarely the process, which means that making art has at times been painful. So it has been in my best interests to change my way of thinking and learn to love the process, and to let go of much of the outcome in favor of, well, creating better art.

Pictured here is a new piece, Catwalk. 16 x 12 inches, acrylic on cradled panel. Painted with brushstrokes I didn't like, lines I wanted to clean up but didn't, and an energy that can best be described as... "flow". And I think it came out divine...

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