On Wednesday this week — it may have been the phase of the moon — there were so many questions in the inbox that I buckled under and lost it. Don’t get me wrong — I love being of service to others, and there was great stuff to talk about, like how to dispose of toxic thinners while painting on a boat, or how to get perspective into curved things. Some of this stuff I can answer. What I need around here is a Michelangelo who is willing to sit at a computer 24/7.
Funny though, when painters ask how often one should change their brushes, I’m sometimes thinking they really ought to be asking other questions. Like how the management team can be revitalized. That’s one of the big questions. How can I get better quality stuff coming out of this studio? How can I get my little solar system to be even more highly evolved? How can I prevent the blockage of my creative sun? Sure, brush-changing is part of the process, but I’m also conscious that when the planets are all lined up you can get good work out of a blunt stick.
Then suddenly there were three emails that asked how I do it — paint, write, etc. “Do you sleep?” they asked. This I could handle. “Reclaim the management,” I said. Look around the workplace and fire all the bums, sloths, doubters, and other negative seat-warmers. If there’s anyone left, pay attention to the creative, persistent and enthusiastic of the team. Start managing. Starship Enterprise may be moving along in the universe, but somebody has to take charge and drive it. The daily life of an artist is chockablock with a million minor issues. A lesson for me has been not to micro-manage, but to watch out for the big picture — both in the art and the art career.
Then another funny thing happened. An email popped up that asked, “What do you do when so many trifles make you crazy?” They’re not trifles, I thought, but it made me warm all over to know that someone else was feeling the heat. “Try our Resource of Art Quotations,” I suggested. Try Michelangelo: “Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”
PS: “Blocks are part of an artist’s natural cycle, and mine come whenever I reach a plateau. I’ll feel bottled up with negativism, but when I blast through the garbage, I find I’ve emerged as a better artist.” (Nick Payne)
Esoterica: A manager is not always the best worker. But he or she may have the talent to direct. They say that managers succeed when they are lazy. Managers get others to clean up, do the changing, the work and the renewal. In artists these opposing qualities need to be combined in one tiny imperfect soul. It’s tough and it’s lonely. “Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that’s where I renew my springs that never dry up.” (Pearl S. Buck)
This letter was originally published as “Reclaim the mangagement” on April 30, 2004.
“Let whoever may have attained to so much as to have the power of drawing know that he holds a great treasure.” (Michelangelo)
There’s a hush… a palpable electric presence radiating from some of the paintings in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the galleries of the Frick Collection.