Tuesday, December 18, 2012

art is work

I just finished reading Jen Cushman’s post at Create Mixed Media on the process she went through to write her “Making Metal Jewelry” book. I know Jen personally. She’s a talented jewelry artist and journalist and I know the book will be wonderful. The parts of Jen’s post I was especially interested in were all the deadlines she had to meet to ensure the success of her project.

I too live in a world of deadlines. I split my time between being an artist four days a week and a designer and project manager for a small design firm the other three days. Our focus at the firm is hospitality venues and our specialty is restaurant design. I’m fortunate that my job involves a lot of creativity but the deadlines come fast and furious and it’s crucial that they be met on time. I can’t imagine telling my boss or a client that I wasn’t feeling especially inspired today so the design for their project isn’t finished. In addition, I’m getting ready for a exhibition of my art work at a local gallery and yes I’m creating with a fast approaching deadline…the reason I haven’t posted in a while. This is not a complaint; I’m thrilled for the opportunity to have a show.

But this post really isn’t about deadlines. It’s about something else and to tie it all together I need to switch topics and talk about inspiration. There are so many articles and books written about where to find inspiration. Some of it I get. I think every creative person has moments when the well of ideas is empty or they feel burned out by the constant need to churn out work. And there’s nothing wrong with taking a break, getting some rest and letting the creative juices flow again. But the idea that there’s a magic or quick and easy fix, for instance, turning on your favorite music, taking a walk, etc. mystifies me (although I also do those things to clear my head). Being an artist is work just like any other profession. Think about what you do for a living, you know, the thing that pays your mortgage or rent and puts food on the table. To keep that job you act responsibly; you show up everyday, on time, meet your commitments and do work. Being an artist, writer or holding a position in any creative field is really no different. Saying that “art is work” may seem dreadful to some and while it may bring incredible enjoyment and satisfaction it still takes time and consistent effort to achieve meaningful results.

So if you’re waiting for inspiration to strike, the heavens to part and the scrolls of creativity to be laid at your feet, well, you’re probably in for a long wait. My opinion may not be terribly popular but I have to agree with the painter Chuck Close who said, “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Now my interpretation of what Chuck is saying is that you have to “work at” being creative everyday. It’s the “act of doing” that sparks inspiration and sometimes it doesn’t come easy.

The idea many have that being an artist means we have a leisurely cup of morning coffee, see a movie in the afternoon and meet friends for dinner and a glass of wine is not reality. What's real for most of us is that we have to suck it up and get back in the ring (even when we think we have run out of ideas) and I think it’s that attitude that allows inspiration to truly manifests itself.