Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.
No, that isn’t a typo and I’m not offering an e-course about making “bad art”. I just wanted to share some thoughts about the process of making art.
Lately, my work has been going through a bit of a transition. I’ve long wanted to make different work without knowing exactly what I wanted it to look like. (Spoiler: I still don’t know)
For more than a year, I’ve been experimenting with more and more abstraction in my painting. I dip my toe in a little, then retreat back to representational work. Then I put half of my foot in, then retreat back to representational but incorporating some abstraction.
So where has this brought me? Sitting in a studio, surrounded by abstract sketches and studies and paintings in varying states of completion.
I’m working less on representational work. Sometimes I miss it and go back for the satisfaction of being able to actually finish something, but most of my studio time is spent working abstractly.
Aside from not making finished paintings, I also make a lot of bad art. But I know this is a necessary part of the process. It’s the growing pains of working through ideas and fumbling into a new way of working. All in order to figure out what paintings feel the most like me…Paintings that resonate with me so strongly that I know they’re finished because I don’t really want to part with them.
But it is going to take a lot of bad art to get there. Just like all the bad art I made throughout my life in order to learn to draw, paint, print, sculpt. I don’t know what the percentage of bad art to good art is for an artist but I suspect we all have heaps of the bad stuff.
I’ve been thinking about this in part because of Instagram. Most of what I see of the art world these days is through the lens of social media. It’s been great to meet artists online and see work all over the world.
As I see all this wonderful and inspiring artwork, I find it important to remind myself that the artists I admire probably have a stack of bad art like I do. They struggle with transitions in their work, with color palettes, with techniques, ideas, etc.
Although they may not show the bad stuff or talk about their struggles (though thankfully many do!), I can rest assured, they are making it.
I also have to remind myself that good art takes time. A lot of time. There are no short cuts and the work required is deep and intense.
(This may not be true for everyone of course, many artists could be totally content to reach a certain level and continue to paint the same subject, the same way – that just doesn’t interest me.)
I’ve only been painting consistently for the past 5 years or so and my style, subject matter and materials have all changed. Sometimes I wish I had time to do all of it – the watercolor portraits, the detailed graphite drawings, the miniatures… but I won’t get to the good stuff unless I spend my time focused on one thing.
I need to hone in and get specific. The artists I admire are doing that too. They are laser focused. They are not trying to do it all.
So here’s my reminder to myself in the hopes it may help you as well:
Slow down, focus, let the bad art out and the good stuff will come…eventually!