Those who use the best tools often do the best work. (It’s required of them). However, these people aren’t necessarily the most inspiring.
Example: to build a highrise, you need very exact tools to ensure it’s done correctly, safely, and in compliance with a ton of constraints. This is a matter of safety if nothing else.
When it comes to artwork, you may try to apply the same principle, but to little avail. The best tools for art-making (brushes, raw materials, studio lighting, etc) might be used by highly skilled artists, but what is to be said for folk art? What about the blues?
There are undoubtedly countless “have-not” artists whose souls could fill a swimming pool with the deepest sorrows, and possibly even deeper joys. For several reasons, they inhabit the opposite waters of the highly-paid, highly-skilled counterparts who can barely wring out a few drops of soul, wading in the relative safety of accessible…frolic-worthy work. Let’s call this work “splashable”.
Splashable work might be that which is easily accessed by the largest of audiences. The audience stands on the beach, able to dip their toes in easily. Perhaps some choose to swim out further, but splashable work does not require it.
I don’t mean to equate skill with shallowness, nor mass appeal with unworthiness. But skill can become a way to not have to engage with the power and mystery of the deep.
What value is there for an artist who tackles the depths, regardless of skill or the right tools? How might skills or tools actually get in the way of honesty in creative expression?
Artist of the Day: Peter Ellenshaw, “Matte Painter” for the film industry.
Peter Ellenshaw created hundreds of matte paintings for movies in the “golden age” of Hollywood. Matte artists were used to extend the backgrounds of movie sets which would cost too much to build or visit on location. Their trompe l’oiel works achieved astounding results on screen, and the paradox of their work is that the better it is, the less likely you are to see it. Ellenshaw’s work would be written off entirely by most of the contemporary fine art world as being merely technical. I find his skill to be not only undeniable, but very inspiring in terms of creative problem solving. Watch a short documentary about his work here.
I know a business that turned a significant liability into an asset. The business is a bakery, and although they’re tucked behind a pizza restaurant, not even visible from the street, they’ve capitalized on their location with one brilliant move. The name: Hideaway Bakery.
Pay them a visit if you’re in Eugene, Oregon.
It occurred to me today that on so many levels, in every aspect of my life, I am wrestling with how not to create waste wherever I see it. In so doing, however, I run the risk of being penny wise and pound foolish, in addition to becoming less effective.
Now I don’t mean to suggest that my wife and I are never wasteful, especially in ways we don’t see, but there are countless moments where waste-consciousness can serve as a distraction, however well-intentioned.
The simplest example comes from my landlord’s garden. He’s growing food we didn’t ask for him to grow, yet he doesn’t eat. That’s his business, but sometimes I make it mine. There’s a direct principle here of reaping what we did not sow. And while it may seem like a good thing–“reaping” the fruits of his labor–such non-essential activities take time from more important things. The wrestle with waste becomes a self-inflicted wound at that point…to say nothing of our family’s own general striving against waste, toward efficiency.
Even in my fine art practice, I’ve faced the question many times in recent years: is it better to go back in time and reclaim/restore the many half-finished works (potential waste) in my studio, or is it wiser to begin fresh, discarding (perhaps donating) old things so that they don’t dangle like a weight around my neck?
Artist of the Week | Antonin Gaudi | Architect
“Those who look for the laws of nature as support for their new works collaborate with their creator.”
“The straight line belongs to men, the curved one to God.”
Think back to a time when you needed something: maybe you needed beauty, in some measure. It could’ve been a time of pain, a time of isolation, or a time of uncertainty.
I’m looking at a hibiscus flower I brought in from our back yard. There’s something about its beauty that charms, suspends, and even lends direction to a moment, (whether a positive or negative moment). Borrowing beauty means obtaining something lofty while in a low place, obtaining something noble while in a humble place, and remembering something worthy while in a seemingly worthless moment.
Isn’t it fair to say such a borrowed moment is capable of changing not only the recent past (by reshaping the present), but is capable of changing all of history itself? If beauty (and with it, goodness) can redeem and reshape an otherwise meaningless moment, whey can’t they also (in greater quantities) redeem the entire world?
Artist of the Week | Kenne Gregoire, Painter
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