January 2, 2008

Cleaning One's Studio...

I find that cleaning one's studio to be a challenging experience. It offers an occasion for deep reflection and self assesment.

Going through the layers of earlier artwork, all piled up acts like a lens to bring into focus one's accomplishments, or lack thereof. Previous failings come into crystal clear focus. The inner critic shows little mercy from the vantage point of experience.

But there's more to cleaning. It empowers one with an almost religious zeal... as cowebs of the past are cleared away in a mighty sweep. Let there be light! Let reason and sanity return again to this encrusted maze of confusion!

I always liked that scene in Rebecca, (or was it Sunset Boulevard?) where the secret room is cleared of cobwebs. The dark chamber which had hidden the decades of madness is breached. And with one fell swoop the dusty old curtains are town down to let in the sunlight. Out with the old... let the sunshine in!

That's the same zeal I find in cleaning my studio. Looking back through the years of less than stellar artwork, the striving for years after ideas. There's the regrettable artwork... along with the amazing artwork that no one seemed to notice.

It all adds up, or fails to add up.

I understand this is actually a common point of view for artists. I read that even Leonardo da Vinci considered that he had failed as an artist, when he looked back at his accomplishments in old age. Such a cruel mistress. this Art!

I once had a very well known children's book artist in my studio. I had gathered her old books to offer up as reference, as I was doing a project with her. She gasped when she saw them and exclaimed "Don't look at those! Those aren't any good. I work entirely differently now!". They all looked fine to me, but as I say, an artist can be the very worst when it comes to self appraisal.

Oh, and I forgot to do the real zinger... I forgot to add up my yearly income! That's gonna hurt when I do that... best arrange a bike ride soon afterwards or something. I think I'm going to need a little fresh after that.


Onwards & Upwards with the Arts!


Mark Monlux said...

I saw on Evening Magazine last night that folks often do not give themselves enough time to organize their office. It took an expert 60 hours to help the person on the show. And here I was trying to spend just ten minutes a day cleaning up. No wonder my office looks like a filing cabinet sneezed.

Paula said...

You say it so poetically, John! I was doing the same thing today, cleaning my studio and sifting through old art work. One accordion folder packed with old pieces had me cringing time and again. Some I'd still deem "okay", but the rest, I'd never want anyone to see. I even took a spot I did probably ten years ago and redid it. I agree, it's quite an emotional experience, seeing where you came from and the process of your growth. I'm glad to know I'm in good company with other great artists being dissatisfied with their body of work. Thanks for sharing.