“Every intrepid traveler knows that each journey, no matter what its length or degree of difficulty, begins with a single step. How one take that initial step and in what direction determines much of what will follow. As the order of the journey unfolds, we need to design the sequence of our encounters while being mindful of several characteristics of journeys that seek not simple the new, but the transformative.
The invitation to take the first steps should be presented in such a way that everyone can take that step; in other words, it should present the lowest threshold to participation. If we feel in any way inadequate in these initial engagements, our sense of inadequacy is likely to permeate reactions to all subsequent activities. The initial engagement should therefore require the least amount of specialized information about art or any external subject matter. For instance, the following would seem a poor initial question: “If you could be any artist during the Italian Renaissance, who would you be and what would you paint?” A thoughtful introspective, question, but one that presupposes detailed information about time, place, circumstance, style and biographical information. NO affect is required; it is all conscious and deliberate work. There is nothing personal to wrestle with and overcome. Furthermore, response to the question requires a degree of visual literacy and memory that not many people possess. A better phrasing might be: ” If you could transport yourself to any time and any place, where would you go, when would you arrive, and what would you see?” Here, the response can go to any time and any place and the only place they can go is where they CAN go; the place is of their choice and making , not the questioner’s . They can image whatever they are capable of imaging, not something esoteric and difficult as is the task of imaging someone else’s style of seeing image- making.
The first steps (to making art) ought to be technically easy for the same reasons. Technique is always one of the great fears of any apprentice. The greater the fear, the greater the preoccupation with technical things. This in turn leads to timidity about the scope of imagination, narrowness of range of expression, and a concern for safety rather than depth.
The initial portions of the creative journey have as their prime purpose the establishment of a sense of trust and comfort in oneself, one’s peers , and the general kind of terrain to be explored.Once this foundation is developed, we can move on to the subsequent phase of the transformative journey, a gradual expansion of the invitation to fathom the whole depth and range of our thoughts and feelings concerning the place in the world we would have for ourselves.”
” Create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave.”
One week down,one to go. What’s that you say? One week done , of teaching the Winterim session at Edgewood, where students get an entire semester’s amount of work and credit.It’s an intense experience, 3 hours a day for each class ( I’m teaching 2 classes) for the students and for me as well. I chose today’s quote because as an artist I know what Brancusi is talking about but , HEY, as an art TEACHER he has hit the nail on the head! I create the environment for them to make art, I “command” them to try their best, and seriously folks, teaching 6 hours of art everyday is working like a slave!! Teachers out there , are you with me??
This past week started out with me standing in for the model for Figure Drawing class. He hadn’t arrived yet so I got up on the platform and started explaining the measuring tools used by artists to map out the human figure. At some point I got down off the platform to check on people’s understanding. Thinking I would LEAP back up onto the platform gracefully , I miscalculated and fell flat on my face , IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY!! NICE! Great way to make a first impression. I have big black and blue marks on my legs marking the exact spots of impact….
The rest of the week went by in a blur of activity. The students get so much accomplished with so much time to work every day.They work ,”like slaves” and I’ve seen the frustration, the tears ( oh yes), the excitement when it starts to come together, the relief when I tell them to not worry about the GRADE but make a big mess instead. I’ve heard all the excuses, ” I have control issues,” ” I was never good at using charcoal”, ”I CAN’T DRAW !!!!” And have given them all the same ‘feedback’ , (command) ” Just keep trying”
If all goes like it has in the past , the second week will be more of the same; different projects, more frustration, more successes and by the time it’s all over , most of the students are amazed at what they’ve accomplished in 2 short weeks! They’ve created art, gained some insight into what it takes to BE an artist , and gained confidence in their abilities to continue making art in the future. It’s an amazing thing to see!
” If you’ve studied so much and you’re so aware of the achievements of other artists , how do you find a place for yourself in a world where genius has had it’s stamp ? I think that every artist has to come to terms with that. At some point you have to realize that you may not be Shakespeare, forget it. They never give themselves permission , they never value what they DO have. They’re always comparing themselves. And it stifles voices that should be heard !”
And , for the New Year….
“When the last living thing has died on account of us, how poetical it would be if earth could say, in a voice floating up perhaps from the floor of the Grand Canyon, “It is done. People did not like it here.” – Kurt Vonnegut
Let’s hope for strong action by all of us on stopping global climate change!
Where does “art” reside ? In the intent of the maker? In the piece itself? In the response of the viewer? In the space between?” This quote is from a book called, THE VIEW FROM THE STUDIO DOOR : How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World, by Ted Orland. This author also has written a book called ART AND FEAR. Both books are valuable in helping artists surmount their creative obstacles. As I now embark on BLOGGING , I am encountering lots of new obstacles and will use the things i’ve learned from these books and try to apply them to my learning process with creating my blogsite.
The focus of my blog will be to help my readers gain confidence in their creative process just as I gain confidence in my blogging process. Please accompany me on this, our mutual path to discovery.