Art & Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking
by Bayles and Orland
Continuing in chapter 2, we arrive at the section entitled "imagination." The authors begin by defining the role of imagination during the creative process:
Imagination is in control when you begin making an object. The artwork's potential is never higher than in that magic moment when the first brushstroke is applied, the first chord struck. But as the piece grows, technique and craft take over, and imagination becomes a less useful tool. A piece grows by becoming specific.
I never thought about it in this way, and it makes sense. When I'm initially drafting a painting in pencil my imagination is my guide. But, when I pick up the paintbrush to color in my design technique takes over. My imagination has already done its job, although it occasionally guides me through color strategies and corrections as I work. That may be the reason why, when I'm in the midst of painting a piece I'm thinking about the next one. My imagination doesn't want to turn off.
The authors point out that the first few brushstrokes to the blank canvas satisfy the requirements of many possible paintings, while the last few fit only that painting - they could go nowhere else. So, at the onset of creating a work of art the possibilities are endless. But, once the piece has begun, the possibilities eventually disappear and we're locked into only one solution. Although this seems paradoxical, it really isn't. After all, don't we intend to express something in particular when we begin a work of art? Isn't there an idea or concept that we're going for - one thing that inspired us in the first place?
Bayles and Orland portray the moment of completion of a work of art as a moment of loss - the loss of all the other forms the imagined piece might have taken. I have just the opposite feeling. When I complete a piece I'm either elated by the outcome or determined to do better the next time. I never feel "loss" because it's always my intention to create an unending number of paintings. There's always a next time!
The final idea expressed by the authors in this section is that a finished piece is, in effect, a test of correspondence between imagination and execution. I suppose that what we imagine in our head is always better than what we create with our hands, but that doesn't mean we can't find satisfaction in it. These authors feel that the artist's life is frustrating because our imagination and execution don't match. While that may be true, I tend to be a little more pragmatic about it. I don't expect my work to be perfect and, certainly, my imagination isn't perfect either. For me, it's a matter of embracing my flaws and making the best of it. After all, perfection isn't all it's stacked-up to be!
What are your thoughts??