Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Open Book...

I can't decide. Do I show you what I'm working on or not? I'm doing a lot of comps and figuring out in general for my next big figurative painting. I don't always go through this process, often jumping into paintings and solving problems as I go. Should I share this process with you? Do I risk being seen as an artist with a lot of unfinished works? What if it all sucks, and I end up scrapping the idea completely? Open Book, full disclosure, or hidden secret production only showing the final gem image (or nothing at all if it doesn't work out)? I am really conflicted about this. Please share your thoughts...


  1. I think it would not only be educational for everyone observing. It might also make you more careful in the planning stage. Which is an area where most of us should spend more time than we do.

    I don't think you should worry about having a lot of unfinished work posted either. People will be able to see it for what it is. I tend to appreciate the finished work of an artist a great deal more when I know a bit about the process they went through to get there.

    Show us how your brain works!

  2. I've thought on this too. I felt the pull of my ego saying, "only show your best," and "only finished stuff." But then it kind of bothered me for some reason why I would be so hesitant. Like, am I scared somebody will say I suck? Well screw them. I know what's good and I know what's bad. Even horribly unsuccessful work has a lesson to give.
    Also, when I was at your place Greg told me about this incredible guy at a figure drawing session. He spilled some coffee on this great drawing and didn't even flinch. He pushed the coffee around with his finger like watercolour. Greg was shocked the guy wasn't getting all bent out of shape. The guy said it's just practice, he wasn't out to create a masterpiece. I love that story.
    To me it's about the road, and not the destination. I always think of that story when I get selfconsious about a sketch that goes south or a painting I just turned into mud. Ah the journey, the sweet science. It's a religion to me.
    Anyway, all the stages, in my opinion, are important and worthy of sharing/discussion. For example, it's interesting how one person blocks in vs. someone who just jumps into rhythm or gesture or color, etc.
    Also, I think we all grapple with the same issues. Anyone who would judge in a non-constructive way is a piece of crap to begin with. I plan on bloggin my early stages, my faceplants into the wall. Warts and all! AL

  3. Thanks for your comments guys. I'm still working on it. It's spring break for the kids this week, so my work time has been compromised. I am still not whole heartedly for or against sharing my process. I think for me to be more comfortable, I won't use my current piece (because 1. it is deeply personal, and 2. because I don't want me sharing process to constipate the creative juices). This one is 'tough' enough as it is. Hope you can understand that.

  4. What a great post Alia. This is an interesting topic you're bringing up and I'm so glad to read the two fantastic comments. I wish more people would chime in on this.

    I think your reluctance to post at this time is perfectly fine. Sometimes ideas are so new and so close to us, that we really shouldn't put them out in the public eye. Some ideas need time to fully evolve before we get any feedback at all.

    As far as posting process in general though, I've had many face plants - starting a painting with tons of excitement, posting and sharing process, only to end up less thrilled with the outcome or abandoning paintings mid way - and then feeling REALLY silly. It isn't easy because we all want to put our best face forward and be seen as serious artists who know what the heck we're doing. But, we aren't really being serious artists if we aren't messing up. As a matter of fact, now that I'm thinking about it, maybe messing up is the biggest single factor in being an artist who is pushing and striving for better work. It is a lot easier making a flop in private than in public, but maybe we can think of these faceplants as visible concrete evidence that we are not just pumping out formula tried and true ideas, but really striving to create something new, meaningful, and different.

    I can't wait to see your new painting, whenever you are ready!

  5. Karen, well said. I agree that to become greater/better you have to go the edge of what your skills can accomplish. It takes guts to do it too. It's complete honesty with yourself.
    Alia, I understand what you mean. Don't compromise your process. But we all love to commiserate with you on the struggle. This is a great discussion!

  6. Karen, I so appreciate your very well stated input!! I've been mulling (i'm horrible at spelling, is that spelled right?) it over, and I've got a few interesting ideas (like documenting a restoration of a very damaged work). Afterall, I consider myself a teacher (and a good one at that), so to not share, doesn't seem right. Keep posted and posting :) Thanks again!!

  7. My .02 on this is:

    I remember hearing an artist give a talk once on how they destroyed all their early work that didn't fit in with what they were currently doing - the reason they said was they didn't want anyone to see any work that didn't fit in with the image they were trying to present of themselves. At the time I thought that was vain and silly. But I can see the point - sort of like you are building a brand. Your brand is your persona as well as your style and talent.

    If you publicly reveal your human side it may not always jive with professional image you might want to present at some point. (the web has a long memory!) Plus there are lots of mean spirited sorts out there that someday might take something you say today and use it to mess with you later on.

    I know that might sound a bit paranoid - but I thought I might jump in with something a little contrarian. Someone once reminded me that there is nothing in the rulebook that says painters have to be nice people!

  8. Hee Hee. I know some nice painters.

    I did that destructo thing too and have recommended it to countless students, but not for the reasons your lecturer gave.

    Toward the end of my studies, there was this push to produce, to have a strong voice, and clear opinions. Nothing is that clear for me. I tend to see all sides of things. I was forced and forced my self to make some awful paintings. Once I had that diploma in hand, I held a bondfire on the beach. It was so amazingly freeing. I didn't have the burden of sour memories to stare at and each painting since then has benefited. Yet, I must confess I am not in any mood to get my MFA anytime soon. I'm thankful for the experience though, because infact it's made me more mindful of what I want to create and celebrate (beauty and the human condition, now vs psychological tension and ugliness, then). I really like the idea, especially for students, that some works are just practice and beyond the lessons learned there is nothing precious about them.

    I will be posting more process thoughts and images, but they will not be of my current works (in real time), as to not stop up any groove I may be in. The last thing I really want to be thinking of while painting is "I wonder if this will look good on the blog".

  9. Great discussion! Alia, your comment about the bonfire reminded me of this post by James Gurney. http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2007/09/gallery-flambeau.html

  10. ok... now I'm really paranoid and believing Larry's statement... did one of you give my Outlook Email account a virus? Talk about haters! Uggh

    Jeremy, I love the link you gave. It totally reminds me of some of the crazy difficult things my brother used to create (with assistance from his ever adoring sister), that did the most rudementary of tasks. It all comes full circle, because now he's working on a very neat wind turbine thingy (obviously liquid physics is not my forte) and he needs drawings... I'll get to them soon Noah.