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Posts Tagged ‘Motivation’

Francis Bacon
Portrait of Michel Leiris 1976

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As you work, the mood grows on you. There are certain images which suddenly get hold of me and I really want to do them. But it’s true to say that the excitement and possibilities are in the working and obviously can only come in the working.

–Francis Bacon

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I am swamped in work today. I say that a lot and it might sound awful to many folks. But for me it is the best possible situation because being at work means that, like Bacon says above, I am amidst the excitement and possibilities that come with working. Thinking about ideas, mulling what you’re going to do has a place but they are worthless nothings until they go into process, become work. Then they usually become something altogether different because the work allows you to flesh out what the mind alone couldn’t imagine.

The process of working is the true generator of ideas.

There have been many artists through time who have expressed this same sentiment, that doing work generates new work, creates new possibilities. I know that it is true for myself.

Breakthroughs in the work always come while working, with hands in paint and eyes and mind straining to see where the piece before me ends and the next begins.

Here’s one of my favorite inspirational pieces from artist Chuck Close that very much says the same thing: Don’t wait on inspiration–make your own!

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.

I am taking that advice and just doing what I do. You do what you do, okay?

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This morning, I am taking the advice below from Ray Bradbury and simply doing things.I can tell you from my own experience that his words ring true. All too may times I have started a painting based on an idea, some novel concept that was I believed to be well thought out. Those paintings are usually the ones that die on the easel. The best work, the stuff that seems to have its life force, comes outside of thought. So, my thinking goes on a hiatus starting now. Here’s a replay of a post from several years back on the subject.
ray-bradbury-on-creativity-famous-quotes

I came across this quote from famed sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury on a post on the  TwistedSifter site that featured quotes on creativity. This struck close to the bone for me as I have proudly not thought for years now. I have long maintained that thinking usually inhibits my work, making it less fluid and rhythmic.

It’s a hard thing to get across because just in the process of doing anything there is a certain amount of thought required, with preliminary ideas and decisions to be made. I think that the lack of thought I am talking about, as I also believe Bradbury refers, is once the process of creating begins. At that point you have to try to free yourself of the conscious and let intuition and reaction take over, those qualities that operate on an instantaneous emotional level.

I can tell instantly when I have let my conscious push its way into my work and have over-thought the whole thing. There’s a clunkiness and dullness in every aspect of it. No flow. No rhythm. No brightness or lightness. Emotionally vacant and awkward. Bradbury’s  choice in using the term self-conscious is perfect because I have often been self-conscious in my life and that same uncomfortable awkwardness that comes in those instances translates well to what I see in this over-thought work.

So what’s the answer? How do you let go of thought, to be less self-conscious?

I think Bradbury hits the nail on the head– you must simply do things. This means trusting your subconscious to find a way through, to give the controls over to instinct.

And how do you do that? I can’t speak for others but for myself it’s a matter of staying in my routine. Painting every day even when it feels like a struggle. Loading a brush with paint and making a mark even when I have no idea at hand. Just doing things and not waiting for inspiration.

You don’t wait for inspiration– you create it.

So, stop thinking right  now and just start doing things.

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I have been working on some new small pieces. When I finished this piece, which is 2″ by 6″ on paper, and was trying to read what I was seeing in it, I immediately thought of the blog entry below from several years back. The article and the painting both deal, as I see them, with how we often look for answers from far outside ourselves and fail to see the riches and possibilities that surround us in plain sight. I call this painting In the Gem Fields.

“The more intensely we feel about an idea or a goal, the more assuredly the idea, buried deep in our subconscious, will direct us along the path to its fulfillment.”

—Earl Nightingale

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It’s funny sometimes what you take from an experience in your life.  At one point in my life I was in the retail car business, working at a Honda dealership both as a salesman and a finance manager.  In order to keep their sales staff engaged and excited about pushing their product, the management there would periodically send us to seminars with industry-specific motivational speakers and would also have sets of motivational tapes from other speakers that they would encourage us to listen to in our free time.

One of the sets of tapes was from a famed motivational speaker named Earl Nightingale who had a deep and engaging voice that added a serious dimension to whatever he said.  As I listened to his tapes, it was easy to feel my interest growing as he told his little tales and his lessons began registering within me.

One of his stories was a short retelling of a classic lecture  called Acres of Diamonds from Russell H. Conwell (1843-1925), an interesting fellow who was a baptist minister, a lawyer, a philanthropist and the founder and first president of Temple University.  The lecture, one that Conwell delivered over 5000 times during his lifetime, made the point that the riches we seek are often right in our own backyards.  His tale is of an African farmer who sells his farm in order to go in search of diamonds and finds nothing but failure that ends with his suicide.  Meanwhile, the man who took over the farm found an abundance of diamonds and ended up with one of the largest diamond mines in Africa.

There were a lot of lessons to be learned from this tale but primarily  what I took away  was that I must leave the car business–it was not my backyard.   It was the place to which I had come in search of my own diamonds.  I had not even, at that point, began to search my own backyard. I am not sure if that was the message that management had been hoping would sink in.  Or maybe it was.

The other part of Nightingale’s message was that you had to set a course, aim for a destination.  Everything was possible if you knew where you wanted to go and truly set your mind to it.  He gave a laundry list of great human accomplishments that were achieved once we put our minds and wills in motion towards their fulfillment.  That resonated strongly with me.  I had seen many people over the years who seemed deeply unhappy in their lives and most had no direction going forward, no destination for which they were working.  Aimless, they drifted like a rudderless boat on the sea, going wherever the strongest current took them without having any influence over this motion.

If you can name it, you can do it in some form.

As I said, it’s funny how things influence you.  It’s been about twenty five years since I heard those words but they still resonate strongly with me, even now.  I try to be always conscious of the goals I set, knowing that the mind and the universe will always try to make a way for the possibility of achievement.

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GC Myers- Heliotrope sm“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”

-John Quincy Adams

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I don’t what made this pop into my head but I was thinking about a conversation from a few years back that I had with a friend who is also a painter. He has been an artist for almost his entire adult life, pretty successful for much of that time. We both agree that we are extremely fortunate to have found the careers that we have, one that feels like a destination rather than a passageway to some other calling.

For me, I knew this was the career for me when I realized I no longer looked at the job listings in the classified section of the paper. For most of my life, I felt there was something else out there that would satisfy me but I didn’t know what it was or how to find it. Maybe it was as simple as finding the right job. Or so I thought. When you don’t know where you’re going, any direction might be the right direction.

But during this particular conversation this friend asked, “What would you do if you suddenly couldn’t paint? What if you were suddenly blind?”

For him, it was unthinkable. His life of creation was totally visual, based on expressing every emotion in paint.

I thought about it for a second and said simply, “I’d do something else. I’d find a way.”

In that split-second I realized that while I loved painting and relished the idea that I could communicate completely in paint, painting was a mere device for self-expression. But it was not the only way to go. I knew then as I know now that the deprivation of something that has come to mean so much to me would, in itself, create a new need for expression that would somehow be satisfied. I have always marveled at the people who, when paralyzed or have lost use of their arms, paint with their toes or their mouth . Their drive to communicate overcame their obstacles. Mine would as well.

If blinded, I could or do something with words, using them to create color and texture. Perhaps not at the same level as my painting but it might grow into something different given the circumstance. The need to communicate whatever I needed to communicate would create a pathway.

It was an epiphany in that moment. Just knowing that I had found painting gave me the belief that I could and would find a new form of expression if needed. And i found that greatly comforting.

Yes, I’d find a way…

This post ran back in 2009 and remains one of my favorites.  I often think of this one when I feel myself floundering a bit and need a reminder that perseverance is needed.

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close_chuck_2

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:

chuck-close-phillip-glassI’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 thatThe 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.

chuck close at work

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GC Myers- Mountains to ClimbJanuary is usually a month of probing for me,  a time of looking for a direction in which to move, work-wise.  Sometimes it’s a struggle and sometimes it comes more easily.  I’ve written recently about a feeling of being on a plateau with my work, one that has been my home for quite some time now and one from which I am beginning to feel  anxious to move above.  This plateau feeling has made this January searching more of a struggle than normal, as though I were a rock climber faced with a sheer cliff before me  and can’t quite make out my next move.  I am just standing there looking for an edge in the rock face to find a hold that will me to pull myself up.

Maybe it’s that analogy that brought about this new piece, Mountains to Climb, a 12″ by 12″ canvas.  It features a swirling sky and a more prominent peak  beyond the foothills that have been a fixture in my typical work,  There’s an alluring quality to tall peaks that can’t be denied.  It is both a question and a challenge that stands between you and the horizon: Do you have the will and the ability to climb higher?

It’s a question that still rings in my ears as I stand before my own personal mountain.  I think I have my answer and I am beginning to see a way upward, a first hold to pull myself up.

We shall see…

 

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