First, Richmond relates her own creative process. Typically, she enters the studio with a plan or concept for her work and strays from it as she lets the materials lead her in unexpected directions. Although she doesn't use the term, this seems to me to be intuition. By the time she leaves the studio, her work is very different from what she had expected it to be at the start, which makes it more authentic.
The second example reinforces the first. Richmond cites an event described in a book by Bayles and Orland, where a ceramics teacher divides her class into two groups at the beginning of the semester. One group is told that they'll be graded on the quality of their work by the semester's end, and the other group is told that they'll be graded on the quantity of work they produce. As it turned out at the end of the semester, the group with the highest quality of work was the group who had produced the largest quantity. That group was constantly learning and improving while the other group invested their time theorizing about perfection and didn't progress in their actual work. So, she concludes, producing a large volume of work is a way for the artist to reach the desired destination.
I agree. As you know, I am a careful planner, but my plans can only take me so far. I must make unexpected changes to my work as I paint if I want it to turn out well. And, I've also found that quantity - completing lots of paintings - is essential to finding "my voice" and producing a few that are "good." The more I paint the better the results. It's like practicing scales on the piano in order to perform a sonata.
Richmond encourages the artist to "cultivate a state of not knowing." She believes that artists have an obligation to enter unknown territory. It is through exploring new techniques, materials, and concepts that we cultivate creativity and bring authenticity to our work. The "unexpected" yields innovative solutions.
Key to this is "removing editors," as the author puts it. The editors are those who offer their opinions about our work. By listening to them too much, we don't listen enough to the work itself. As she states, "One of the greatest values in the process of art making is the dialogue that goes on within the work itself." Richmond cites Michelangelo's process when he was sculpting The Dying Slave. He claimed to simply "free" the figure from the block of marble that contained it. So, she concludes, finding authenticity in your work involves getting rid of the crusted layers of opinions, styles, and accomplishments (yours and others). The conversations, the influence, and the momentum are within the work: one step leads to another; one mark informs the next.
This is great advice. Although I believe that it's necessary to plan the general design and values of a painting in advance, it is important to establish a dialogue with the work itself as it's being created. Right now, I'm developing a new series of paintings in watercolor. Every day I paint a new "study" to experiment with ideas and techniques that eventually will become incorporated into a single larger-scale painting, and then another and another. I still don't know what the end product will be, because I'm in the midst of a dialogue. Below, are two of the seven studies I painted this week that will be incorporated into the larger work. In case they aren't recognizable to you, the paintings feature kelp that the tide has left behind on a rocky coast.
Next post: "The Creative Process Loop."