A player breaks away, speeds down the ice, then, in a confused dust-up, loses control of the puck. Somehow, miraculously, he manages to get it again — and goes on to score. It’s called “recovery.”
Think of it this way: Some artists, whose planning and executing are steady and predictable, progress toward their ideas of perfection. This is okay. But it’s sort of like playing hockey with no one else on the ice.
The more I’m in this game, the more I realize that it’s a matter of knowing what you’re doing — being able to do it — and being able to recover when you don’t. Accepting that the latter condition is commonplace is part of the game. Furthermore, just knowing that you can get into recovery mode frees you to take chances — particularly at the early stages. As a matter of fact, the recovery mode is where the most inventive and creative moves are discovered and made. A lot of recovery is instinctive. A player needs to act instinctively to bring his will back into play.
So, here’s a thought: Calculate ways to push yourself so you have to be in recovery mode. Introduce other players — adversarial ones — like the “wrong” colours, “bad” brushes, “outrageous” ideas, “horrible” mistakes. When you bring in those and other mean customers, real action begins. Apart from the game heating up and getting more interesting, you get a chance to test and build your powers of recovery.
In our business, not every hotdog has to have the same amount of mustard. Not every hotel room need be the same as the last. Paintings are best when they are not done by the numbers. Art is the ability to make changes on the fly. Brilliant art is often done with clever stick-handling, rapid reversals of direction, and slap-shots faster than a speeding puck.
PS: “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” (Carl Gustav Jung)
Esoterica: Training tips for better recovery shots: “Blind start” — paint the first fifteen strokes with your eyes closed. “Grab your partner” — try fixing the mess that your friend is making. “Transformer” — make something into something else. “I think I’m painting a picture of two women but it may turn out to be a landscape.” (Willem de Kooning)
This letter was originally published as “Recovery” on May 27, 2003.
Golden Dash, Le Tour de France
watercolor, 24 x 32 centimetres
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