Monday, May 2, 2011

What you can, when you can

It is May 1st (or it was, when I began writing). Today was the first day of the challenge that will last for the next four months, and I kicked it off with a small, hour-long painting of an egg, which will be uploaded once I can scan it without smearing oil paint all over my scanner. I didn't want to let the big day go by without any comment, however, and so: instead of a painting, I have for you a quote.

"What you can, when you can - to suspend the manic urge to fulfill my potential and instead focus on doing what was possible, with the materials to hand."

I don't know who I'm quoting by posting that line - oh, anonymity - but whoever it was has my thanks for reminding me, on the first day of this personal challenge, what I'm trying to do. The point of this summer is to take the skills and knowledge I have and use them, and by that use improving them. I am not here to demand perfection from myself, or to count anything short of not painting as failure. Taking small steps and pacing the ground trod before me by my elders and betters is the name of the game, and 'what I can, when I can' is as good a mantra as any to remind myself of this fact.

I probably won't need the reminder, given the impact this past year has had on me. There is nothing so defeating as pushing for an entire year, determined to fit some image of the artist I 'should be', only to fall short again and again and again and blaming myself each time. I was reaching beyond my means and somehow coming up surprised every time I fell, cutting corners and somehow still winding up disappointed in work that 'should have' been better.

Last week, one of my professors told me that my ambition was greater than my technical ability. It was at once a revelation and blindingly obvious: of course I was overlooking the basic technical building blocks of painting, which of course was the reason painting itself was so difficult.

There's nothing wrong with ambition. I don't think I could be the artist I am today if I hadn't spent the past three years reaching for the ledge that was just out of reach. On the other hand, I wound up becoming intimately acquainted with what happens when one tries to race for the top in lieu of building the actual staircase.

To end the tortuous metaphors: this year hasn't scared me off pushing myself to make better art; it's just taught me that I need to take the time to know what I'm doing before I can succeed. And if your response to that is a resounding "duh" - well, welcome to my life.

And now, to make myself feel better, here's my progress through art school, from my freshman year to present. Nudity ahoy:

Freshman year, first semester
Freshman year, second semester
Sophomore year, first semester
Sophomore year, second semester
Junior year, first semester
Junior year, second semester

1 comment:

  1. I know I should definitely mention this more: you write pretty.