I’ve written lately about the funk that I was in, how I was experiencing a crisis of confidence. This has made approaching my work difficult and I have been wracking my brain trying to find inspiration or some new catalyst to drive me forward. But deep inside I know that the remedy is just pushing aside my insecurity and doubts to do the only thing I know that has helped me in the past– get to work and paint. I came across this post from several years back with some advice from Chuck Close that pretty much sums up this cure. Here it is:
I’ve been a fan of the work of Chuck Close for some time, admiring the grand scale that much of his work assumes as well as his evolution as an artist, especially given his challenges after a spinal artery collapse left him paralyzed from the neck down in 1988. He regained slight use of his arms and continued to paint, creating work through this time that rates among his best. He also suffers from prosopagnosia which is face blindness, meaning that he cannot recognize faces. He has stated that this is perhaps the main reason he has continued his explorations in portraiture for his entire career. The piece shown here is a portrait of composer Phillip Glass that was made using only Close’s fingerprints, a technique which presaged his incorporation of his own unique form of pixelation into his painting process.
His determination to overcome, to keep at it, is a big attraction for me and should be an object lesson for most young artists (and non-artists, also) who keep putting off projects until all the conditions are perfect and all the stars align. Waiting for the muse of inspiration to take them by the hand and lead them forward. Sometimes you have to meet the muse halfway and Close has this advice for those who hesitate:
The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the… work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.
Amen to that. The process provides the inspiration. I’ve stumbled around for some time trying to say this but never could say it as plainly and directly as Close has managed. Thanks, Chuck. I think I’ll take your advice and get to work.