*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Art is… a longest road through life, and when I think how slight and beginnerish what I have done till now is, I am not surprised that this production (which resembles a strip or half-tilled field a foot wide) does not sustain me. For plans bear no fruit, and seed prematurely sown does not sprout. But patience and work are real and can at any moment be transformed into bread. ‘Il faut toujours travailler,’ Rodin said whenever I attempted to complain to him about the schism in daily life; he knew no other solution, and this of course had been his… To stick to my work and have every confidence in it, this I am learning from his great and greatly given example, as I learn patience from him: it is true, my experience tells me over and over that I haven’t much strength to reckon with, for which reason I shall, so long as it is in any way possible, not do two things, not separate livelihood and work, rather try to find both in the one concentrated effort: only thus can my life become something good and necessary and heal together out of the tattered state for which heredity and immaturity have been responsible, into one bearing trunk.
Therefore I shall determine my next place of abode, all else aside, from the point of view of my work and that only. I want this the more, since I feel myself in the midst of developments and transitions (changes that affect observation and creation equally), which may slowly lead to that toujours travailler with which all outer and inner difficulties, dangers and confusions would really be in a certain sense overcome.. for whoever can always work, can live too, must be able to.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, Translation by M.D. Herter Norton
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A: My working methods have changed dramatically over the years with my current process being a much-simplified version of how I used to work. In other words as I pared down my imagery in the “Black Paintings,” my process quite naturally pared down, too.
One constant is that I have always worked in series with each pastel painting leading quite logically to the next. Another is that I always have set up a scene, lit and photographed it, and worked with a 20″ x 24″ photograph as the primary reference material. In the “Domestic Threats” series I shot with a 4″ x 5″ view camera. Nowadays the first step is to decide which photo I want to make into a painting (currently I have a backlog of images to choose from) and to order a 19 1/2″ x 19 1/2″ image (my Mamiya 6 shoots square images and uses film) printed on 20″ x 24″ paper. I get the print made at Manhattan Photo on West 20th Street in New York. Typically I have in mind the next two or three paintings that I want to create.
Once I have the reference photograph in hand, I make a preliminary tonal charcoal sketch on a piece of white drawing paper. The sketch helps me think about how to proceed and points out potential problem areas ahead. For example, in the photograph above I had originally thought about creating a vertical painting, but changed to horizontal format after discovering spatial problems in my sketch.
Also, I decided to make a small painting now because it has been two years since I last worked in a smaller (than my usual 38″ x 58″) size. I am re-using the photograph on which “Epiphany” is based. Using a photograph a second time lets me see how my working methods have evolved over time.
Comments are welcome!
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
I believe in art.
I do not believe in the “art world” as
it is today.
I do not believe in art as a commodity.
Great art is in exquisite balance. It is
I believe in the energy of art, and through
the use of that energy, the artist’s ability
to transform his or her life and, by ex-
ample, the lives of others.
I believe that through our art, and through
the projection of transcendent imagery, we
can mend and heal the planet.
Audrey Flack in Art & Soul: Notes on Creating
Comments are welcome!