* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Interviewer: Is there any possible formula to follow in order to be a good novelist”
Faulkner: … Ninety-nine per cent talent… 99 per cent discipline… 99 per cent work. He must never be satisfied with what he does. It is never as good as it can be done. Always shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.
William Faulkner in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews First Series, edited, and with an introduction by Malcolm Crowley
Comments are welcome!
What is the point of all the discipline, hard work, and training? What does the training and preparation have to do with rehearsing a play and with performance? The training and the discipline and the sweating and the study and the memorizing are not the end point, but rather the entry. The preparation is what gives one the permission to take up space and make wild, surprising, and untamed choices. In the quest for artistic freedom and agency it is impossible to walk into a rehearsal room uninhibited, unburdened. We are generally chained down by habits and assumptions and by fear of the new. Permission is what we earn by the sweat, training, preparatory work and dedication.
Anne Bogart in What’s the Story: Essays in art, theater, and storytelling
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The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadily along the nerve of one’s own most intimate sensitivity. As in any profession, facility develops. In most this is a decided advantage, and so it is with the actual facture of art; I notice with interest that my hand is more deft, lighter, as I grow more experienced. But I find that I have to resist the temptation to fall into the same kind of pleasurable relaxation I once enjoyed with clay. I have in some subtle sense to fight my hand if I am to grow along the reaches of my nerve.
And here I find myself faced with two fears. The first is simply that of the unknown – I cannot know where my nerve is going until I venture along it. The second is less sharp but more permeating: the logical knowledge that the nerve of any given individual is as limited as the individual. Under its own law, it may just naturally run out. If this happens, the artist does best, it seems to me, to fall silent. But by now the habit of work is so ingrained in me that I do not know if I could bear the silence.
Anne Truitt in Daybook: The Journal of an Artist
The important thing is the intersection between intuition and discipline, because you have to be alert and at the same time invisible. The eye has to be alert and capture very quickly everything you have inside you – I don’t know how to explain it. What the eye sees is the synthesis of what you are or what you’ve learned to do, this is the language of photography…
Graciela Iturbide in Eyes to Fly With
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Given a small kernel of reality and any measure of optimism, nebulous expectations whisper to you that the work will soar, that it will become easy, that it will make itself. And verily, now and then the sky opens and the work does make itself. Unreal expectations are easy to come by, both from emotional needs and from the hope or memory of periods of wonder. Unfortunately, expectations based on illusion lead almost always to disillusionment.
Conversely, expectations based on the work itself are the most useful tool the artist possesses. What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The place to learn about your materials is in the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution. The best information about what you love is in your last contact with what you love. Put simply, your work is your guide: a complete, comprehensive, limitless reference book on your work. There is no other such book, and it is yours alone. It functions this way for no one else. Your fingerprints are all over your work, and you alone know how you got there. Your work tells you about your working methods, your discipline, your strengths and weaknesses, your habitual gestures, your willingness to embrace.
The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly – without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child.
David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear
Comments are welcome.