If I’m going to be completely honest, one of the things that I think sustains my practice more than any other element is the direct bodily pleasure I derive from the hands on, day-to-day grind of making art. It’s the enjoyment that I receive directly from putting pencil to paper, paint to board or glue and wire to bee (as the case may be) that shapes the look and structure of the works I choose to produce, at least in part. To put it simply, it just feels good.
When sitting down to plan a work, after I’ve considered the imagery and composition and other more cerebral elements of the message, consciously or unconsciously part of me considers how best to drag out the time it takes to make it simply because I love doing it so damn much. “Hmmm, this piece could realistically only take me a couple of hours, what can I do to make the whole process as tedious and painful as possible? I mean, my wrists have been feeling fine lately. What can I do to bring on that special carpal tunnel burn?” Is this a masochistic impulse? Yes, probably. But there’s more to it than that.
Sure, there’s definitely an element of insecurity; as though the hours spent making something will justify it as a worthy work. But I think the greater part of it is seeing practice as a meditation. The act of putting pencil to paper (or what have you) thousands upon thousands of times creates a kind of useful cathartic trance. It separates my mind from the mundanity of every day life in a way that feels transcendent. It creates a space devoid of language that is simply blissful to exist in. I’ll work in this state for hours before my tired body reminds me to reconnect to the physical world with boring reminders to drink some water, enjoy a cigarette or use the washroom.
When compared to more collaborative media like film and music, visual art can be a solitary, sometimes very lonely pursuit. This reality seems to put it at odds with it being, at least for me, about connection with others. Making very elaborate, labour intensive work feels like a way of honouring my audience, like a kind of social contract: “Please spend some time looking at my drawing because I spent a long time making it. And, hey, I really like you a lot and want to have made something that makes you feel good or bad or strange, or really anything at all will do. Just wanna connect with you somehow, k? Thanks.”
I also like to think that incorporating an element of mystery in a work, whether it be bigness or smallness or intricacy will insert another level of possible engagement for a viewer. “Hey, what’s going on with this? How was this made and of what?” I hope these added intricacies will create an impalpable richness that makes the work more interesting to look at and therefore create more possibility for the viewer. Admittedly, it could also be that I am an overbearing, megalomaniacal, control freak, so there’s that.
After a certain level of training and practice it makes sense to me that if one is going to sustain a lifelong practice one should be allowed to play to one’s strengths. I’m not very spontaneous but I am patient; it just makes sense to me to work this way. Everyday practice creates balance and purpose in my life and helps me to maintain my sanity. It’s somehow a great comfort to know that I will run out time before I run out of ideas.
So what do you think, dear reader? What are your thoughts on the daily grind of making work? How does this stuff work for you? This friendly neurotic welcomes your input, thoughts and opinions. Ring my bell, comment or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).