* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Serendipitously, I read two memoirs in close proximity, Julia Child’s account of her life in France and how she learned to be a first-rate cook, and Renee Fleming’s story of becoming a world-class opera diva. While there were many differences between the women and the skills they set out to master, I was struck in both books by how extraordinarily hard each one worked in private for years and years before going public, certainly before becoming famous, and how each managed shame. Both women loved what they did and thus brought to bear a similar, and I suspect key, willingness to stay with their efforts through eons of study, practice, and improvement. Both had the ability to hear criticism and to make corrections repeatedly without becoming terminally discouraged; to bear the anxiety of their efforts; neither was too proud to learn and keep learning. This willingness to be taught and corrected, without feeling ashamed, sometimes over and over again, is a huge asset when you are seeking to do something very well. And one way shame impedes people is by making them take criticism too personally – as about them rather than about what they’re trying to learn.
Janna Malamud Smith in An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery
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A: Usually a title suggests itself over the course of the months I spend on a painting. Sometimes it comes from a book I’m reading, from a piece of music, a film, bits of overheard conversation. A title can come from anywhere, but finding the best one is key. I like what Jean Cocteau says about this:
One title alone exists. It will be, so it is. Time conceals it from me. How discover it, concealed by a hundred others? I have to avoid the this, the that. Avoid the image. Avoid the descriptive and the undescriptive. Avoid the exact meaning and the inexact. The soft, the hard. Neither long nor short. Right to catch the eye, the ear, the mind. Simple to read and to remember. I had announced several. I had to repeat them twice and the journalists still got them wrong. My real title defies me. It enjoys its hiding place, like a child one keeps calling, and whom one believes drowned in the pond.
Once I have the best title, I make sure it fits the painting exactly. How I do that is difficult to explain. It’s an intuitive process that involves adjusting colors, shapes, and images so that they fit the painting’s meaning, i.e., the meaning hinted at by the title.
Comments are welcome!