Early on in my painting life, my dad made an observation about our creative differences. “You are, for the most part, an idea-driven artist,” he said. “I am, for the most part, subject-driven.” At the time, I’d been building a written list of titles for work not yet made, drawing from literary reference, word play and free associations with colour and forms pulled from nature. Meanwhile, my dad was cruising sketches he had made during a recent material-gathering trip, his ideas emanating from the memory and visual record of a specific place, time and experience.
Yearly Archives: 2019
Dear Artist, Late yesterday afternoon and then again all last night a terrific storm passed…
When asked how an artist finds her voice, writer Roxane Gay says it’s not something that you really find. “It’s something that’s in you and you allow to emerge,” she says. “Oftentimes people go looking here or looking there, instead of just recognizing that they already have the voice, and they just need to use it.”
About fifty documented instances exist of children reared by animals. Children brought up by wolves or bears tend not to speak or draw. On the other hand, children born into a world of speech and art adopt the skills of their elders. Most cultures encourage children to make images as soon as they can hold a tool. Remarkably, at about four years of age, all children produce similar imagery. In a now-famous research project, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) found that toddlers from all cultures, when encouraged, do the following:
A friend, I’ll call him Cosmo, was a lifelong art collector and a generous museum benefactor. He loved to support artists young and old, and had even infected his kids with his collecting joy. Early in our friendship, Cosmo and I paddled the rapids of his beloved Northern river. There, he told me that his passion for business was like mine for art. Another time, he took me to the top of a skyscraper so I could see a banker’s view.
Yesterday, in the New York clubs — Salmagundi Art Students League, the Society of Illustrators — I was cruising historical and current members’ work, listening to wisps of conversation, digging in archives, wandering down memory lane.
Howard Pyle (1853-1911) came to New York from Wilmington, Delaware, in 1873. “Pyle arrived at the right time and instinctively recognized the power of pictures for everyone,” says Pyle’s biographer, Henry Pitz.
“What happens with you when you begin to feel uneasy, unsettled, queasy?” wrote American Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron in her 1996 book, When Things Fall Apart. “Notice the panic, notice when you instantly grab for something.” For artists, we may make sense of the discomfort of creative inquiry by giving it a name and influence. A genuine self-delusory avoidance activity is better known by its power-handle: “Block.”
The well-known physicist and writer David Deutsch is also well-known for the messiness of his workplace. Once, when a TV crew came in to record an interview with him, they offered to tidy up a bit before beginning. He told them they could if they put everything back exactly the way it was. They did.