how ya do it

I recently watched the tail end of a documentary on the writer Annie Proulx. I don't remember what it was called and have failed to find it on google. It followed her research journey (18 months worth) prior to writing the book 'That Old Ace in the Hole'. I remember reading her book, 'The Shipping News' and having a challenging time with the prose, suffice to say her style is unique; I found the dialogue about that from other writers quite interesting. I believe she spent quite awhile in Texas but traveled to other places as well to get her information. What fascinated and exhausted me was observing her meticulous procedure after having gathering an inexhaustible load of material and photographs. I mean this woman would sit on atop mountains and draw/watercolor(?) the area, gather as much information about the tiniest of details that usually aren't even used save for a sentence or two. She finally got home and it showed the mounds of material sitting on the floor. I forget if she said it took one or two weeks just to get everything in order, we are talking long days of filing through all that stuff. Then she hand writes the book in this very austere looking room on a cold looking wooden table.

At the end of the show she talked about how she doubted she would write another piece of fiction. She sounded tired of it, the whole process was exhausting and I got the feeling she dreaded having to go through all of that rigamorole anytime soon. I thought about art and how if I had to do even half of that I wouldn't bother. I realized there really are two kinds (probably more) of artists, those who think about everything before they even do something and those who just do. Neither is better than the other I suppose but it is interesting to me the process we go through.

Tod just bought a piece of art from someone and when he opened the box and pulled the piece out I saw simplicity and complexity. When Tod wrote an email to this person and received more information on how this piece came about, it was really cool to see that indeed no great thought was put into this. The piece sort of made itself by accident (that is my take on it). The artist had worked with his father and his father had saved these little objects for ten years and one day gave them to him. A teacher also gave him the cylinders that these objects were then put into. These dozen or so cylinders were then glued together to form a unique shape. That was probably the most complicated looking thing about an otherwise simple piece of art. This artist also makes welded sculptures out of objects that again, a teacher gave him boxes of these same objects and whala, he just welded them together into intricate recognizable objects. I think that is fascinating how a work may look complicated and be much less so than you would have thought. I know other artists who labor over a work prior to even actually starting it and most times you would never know. I just find it interesting how both styles can get you to the same place.

I don't really have any point. Just noticing and enjoying how others, myself included, go about this business of making art. As if you didn't know, I'm not one who sits there for hours or days intentionally thinking out how something is going to happen. I learn by experimenting. I have happy accidents and sometimes treacherous discoveries. It really is about being guided (I think ellen commented on this which really opened my eyes up) by the materials and letting things happen. If I get stuck on something I am not one to sit there pushing too long, I'm learning to get away from it, the simpler the better. It can be antagonizing sometimes to walk away from something and just WAIT but it is how I seem to work best. Sometimes the simplest of things can be the most daunting for me. I am making a new mini edition of functional art pieces that are by far the 'easiest looking' of pieces but of course they aren't. I have skills to learn as well as material knowledge to master. Let's hope I finish by THIS Christmas not next :)


Ellen said...

Such a good post. I've thought about this topic a lot. Research vs. pure intuition/inspiration when creating. I watched a documentary on Alex Colville recently and he did hours and hours of studies with mathematical compositions, but that's more traditional art. But even working in the vein of pure abstraction and minimalism requires a kind of visual intelligence as to wear to place or attach every element in a piece. Since there are fewer elements, each one has to count and be right. And you never really know if it's going to come easy for you one day or hard the next. It's part of the mystery of the process I suppose

self taught artist said...

great comment ellen, thank you. I haven't the capacity or knowledge to relay things the way you do, and i always feel i learn even more when you share.

deb said...

I decide to write a post about process inspired by you... so come check it out when you have time!!

Karen said...

Wonderful thought provoking post! Sometimes I think a work just starts by itself and I am just the tool that makes it. In truth there is a good deal of before thought that goes on fairly unnoticed by me. As a work finds its way to 'being' there are tell tale bits of doodles and ideas forming all over my sketch book pages. If I had to go to such lengths as Proulx does for her work None of it would get started!