Since there are no absolutes in what you should make, is it easier to have that question answered for you, or do you feel that it’s important to answer your questions through your own process?
Artists can never create purposeful work if they aren’t attempting to solve a problem, answer a question or challenge contemporary methods or standards. Each artists’ purpose or question is different. Whether there’s a desire to experiment with media within the confines of a particular subject matter, or--like Robert Irwin--a scientific-based thought process to alter the physical, sensory and temporal experience of a viewer through different artistic explorations and endeavors. Even if the question isn’t a grand one like attempting to change the art world—it can be a simple question like “how can I stay engaged in the creative process,” or “how can I create artwork that is improving in skill and technique?”
As one grows as an artist—both in exposure to historical and present art forms and as skill advances—the questions he or she asks of the process morph to fit his or her current situation. I am in a season of prolific creation as an artist. I’m working almost non-stop each day on artistic endeavors. I’m teaching classes, then I come home to teach online art classes and end my days creating in my studio. I pepper my days with drawing and painting here-and-there as I am able. There are many questions and reasons for creating, but the one that looms the most importantly over my head is, “How can I create work that tells a story and is significant beyond aesthetic enjoyment?”
There must be some significant element to my work to make the fruits of my labor stand out in the sea of other artists’ creations. If my work is not in some way noteworthy or important, the work is devoid of value for me.
Diving deeper into this question, I’m encouraged to peel back the multiple layers that go into creating this onion of a query. Creating work that an artist is passionate about is a challenging endeavor. Staying interested in something for an extended period of time without wanting to abandon the work as a whole is a trial for me. I find that once I really explore a subject and transpose my thoughts onto a sketchbook page to explore it more, I’ve already moved on to another idea in my head, so it’s a constant battle to defeat the stagnancy of experimentation I feel once I’m locked into a project. Take, for instance, my series of prairie animals. Once I had only partially rendered one, I was already moving on to the concept of the monolithic faces in my mind. It’s hard to make room for commitment to one idea when the mind is seemingly working against itself to create more ideas for successive concepts.
If I myself can’t stay committed to my work long enough to really hone in on an idea and explore it to completion, how can I expect anyone to commit to purchasing my work to hang on their wall or in their gallery for eternity (theoretically, of course)?
Will I ever get my answer? Quite likely, no. But this is the reason that when you walk into my studio, I have nineteen works-in-progress hanging on the walls. Some will be worked back into the flow of my creations; however, some will hang or prop in their unfinished state until I am tired of looking at them. This constant drive to make artwork that makes people think--and is more than just beautiful-- is the reason I am an artist; it’s the reason I’m getting my Master’s degree and is the reason I carve out time every single day to create. For most individuals, it’s eating or breathing. For me, it’s making.