When I first started out doing art, I lived from painting to painting. Each new painting was going to be my masterpiece! I would pour everything I had into it. I did have fun and was usually fairly happy with the piece but it was never quite as glorious as I expected. I’d post a painting on facebook and get 20+ likes… then post another and get 5! Was I getting worse?
While taking an art history class and studying the lives of artists, it dawned on me that most of them weren’t concerned with that one big dynamite piece. They were interested in experimentation… in learning something as they painted or did other art forms.
One of the most obvious examples of this is an artist named Christo. He’s done projects like covering buildings with canvas and making a canvas fence that ran for miles along the coast of northern California. His projects take years!… tons of paper work, permits, planning, promoting and city meetings. But he doesn’t consider only the final project a work of art. He considers the whole process a work of art. In an interview Cristo says… “Jeanne-Claude and I, we do these things for ourselves. If somebody likes it, it’s only a bonus. We do things we enjoy visually. But you should understand, the work is not in the results. The journey is the work—it’s incredible.”(1)
Another example is Marcel Duchamp’s piece titled “Large Glass”. He worked on this piece from 1915 to 1923. The “canvas” of the piece is a large pane of glass. The “paint” used on the piece is mostly dust! Over time the dust would collect. He would then varnish the part of the dust he wanted to keep and clear the rest. The piece was even dropped by movers. Duchamp put it back together and pronounced the piece finished! This obviously was very time consuming but turned out amazing.
So the lessoned learned was that art wasn’t just a pinnacle you reach. It isn’t that huge glorious painting you crank out after a couple years of practice. Art is a life long journey and experience. By thinking of it like this you can relax and enjoy. Maybe a work didn’t turn out like you wanted but you learned a lot for the next one. Maybe your art wasn’t excepted into the show, but you put it out there and you can get passed it and try again. Maybe you spent weeks on a little painting. Painting parts over and over but it didn’t even matter because you were having fun and you were experimenting.
I believe that art (not just visual… music, writing etc.) isn’t perfected by your talent but by your determination and love of doing it.