Monday, November 14, 2011

The Artful Roses

Some days, art lets you down.

Some days, you get up to gray skies and reread the brilliant story you were working on yesterday to find it flat, hackneyed, lifeless, riddled with structural flaws and bland language.

Some days, you examine the portrait that you'd spent hours tweaking the night before to find it looks like a misshapen cartoon with fang-like teeth and slightly crossed eyes. 

Some days, the critical voices swarm in and ask you, "What's the point?"and (with increasing energy as the due dates for bills approach) "Does this make you any money?"

Today is a day where I have to remind myself that art is a process and a craft.  Transforming a blank page or canvas takes time, work, and skill, with a more than happy dash of dumb luck or divine inspiration. 

Developing skill takes time, and the only way to nourish those nascent talents is to keep plugging away. The roses don't bloom the day after the seeds are planted. 

The reason I delve into the arts is because of what I learn along the way. Let me repeat that: explorations in art are about learning. 

Sure, ending up with a lovely product that people ooh and aah over and pay a trillion dollars to hang on their wall would be swell. I'd love to paint in the rose garden of my mansion by the pool. 

But I paint and write as a means to explore ideas, images, techniques, craft, beauty, memory, emotion, imagination, character, story, and all the other elements churned up in the process.
As a culture, we're encouraged to be humble, to only acknowledge our flaws, to highlight all that is wrong with the world, from one disaster to disaster. 

But as I'm busily criticizing everything that is radically off with my art (and life, for that matter), and being accountable for that, learning from those missteps, I try to also put some energy toward recognizing everything that I did right.

The choices, artistic and otherwise, that worked, shouldn't be the neglected good children. They deserve their gold stars as much as the failures deserve demerits, time wearing the dunce cap, and other corrective actions.  

Maybe the good was accidental -- the shaky brushstroke that made the eyes look real, the turn of phrase that evoked more than originally intended, the good decisions made for petty reasons. Celebrate the good anyway, and learn how to reproduce it deliberately. 

Bottom line, life and art are about showing up.  Keep squeezing paints onto the palette.  Keep getting lost in words.  Explore the process of art, rather than the product, and you won't be let down. You will instead be gifted with the perspective of the journey. 

The process allows you to learn more and more and make the choices that push you closer to being the person and artist you want to be. Plus, your artwork will get better because you will keep showing up at the blank page or the blank canvas and creating anew.

This might not net you the swimming pool, but the perfume of progress smells sweeter than chlorine. 

Up from the ashes grow the roses of success.

The Artful Mistakes theme song.

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