Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Learning to Talk: Art is about Experimentation and Endurance

An artist developing their skill is very much like a person learning how to communicate.  The words of an infant are, at first, the sounds of gibberish, erratic vocalizations as the child learns how to control the muscles in their mouth and throat.  


This is very much like the artist learning the most basic technical aspects of their medium - they experiment and adjust the outcome based on a conflict between the internal and external response.  The internal is the desire to make themselves understood by the outside world.  The child hasn't yet been crushed by the knowledge that the whole of humanity doesn't share the same thoughts and feelings as they did with their mother in the womb.  There is great frustration - a concept needs to be communicated, but the intended recipients of the message aren't receiving it.  Sometimes, the internal and the external are in consort, and the message is received and understood - the reward being some basic needs is met (the basic need for an artist, of course is simple authentic appreciation).  Often they are not.  


If the child is lucky, they've the benefit of a nurturing and supportive environment in which to fully explore, but often this is not the case for the artist.  The struggle to persist and endure through all the 'bad' work that comes from the beginning stages of inexperience can solidify the convictions of the artist, or it can completely destroy them. 


If the artist can endure the humbling 'slings and arrows' of failure and master the technical aspects of the meduim, the challenge then becomes that of basic sentence structure.  A student learning a second language understands the difficulties in mastering word usage, tense, homonyms, participles and all the other bizarre rules required to communicate clearly.  And the deep frustration that comes from knowing how to communicate in one language, but not in another.  An artist intimately understands this painful frustration as they learn color usage, composition, perspective, negative space, and all the other bizarre rules required to clearly communicate their nebulous feelings.  


Another layer of frustration is added when the impetuous emotion fades during the process of production, and the inexperienced artist is left with hollow, half finished work.  An emotional callouss needs to be developed - not to dull the senses, but in order to cocoon the initial impetus, the first spark, so that it can be called on again and again to rejuvenate the failing energy.  Like a marathon runner, the endurance required to finish is something that is practiced through the completion each project - wether the final product is considered successful or not.


The artist must give themselves time to experiment, and room to fail, in order to create furtile ground in which to grow.  Creating regular habits of playful experimentation, and time to exercise communication muscles through drawing, research, and studying life are the building blocks of successful artistic communication. Making opportunities to create simply for the sake of creating - steadfast to the the idea that whatever comes out, no matter what it looks like, it is the intended result for this exercise.  One nice side effect is the perfect opportunity for the artist to laugh at themselves, and their art, and reconnect with the joy of creating.


What do you do it help build artistic endurance?

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