The Laws of Nature

Monday, October 18, 2010

Art & Society, Part 2

The View from the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World
By Ted Orland (2006)

Chapter 3: Art & Society, Part 2

I’m feeling optimistic today, especially after reading your comments from the last post. Thank you! It’s time to return to Chapter 3 of Orland’s book:

There’s a pervasive myth, shared by artists and nonartists alike, that art is a product of genius, madness or serendipity. Wrong. Art is not the chance offspring of some cosmic (or genetic) roll of the dice. Art is mostly a product of hard work. I think there are two sides to this coin. On the one hand, some people are born with artistic genius, like Mozart, and on the other hand, everyone has an aesthetic sensibility and the potential for artistic expression in some form. But, this doesn’t mean that we’re guaranteed to make “great” art if we work hard. And, those born with artistic genius won’t become great artists if they fail to work at it.

Orland continues: One of the … truths about artmaking is that it’s more important to be productive than to be creative. If you’re productive your creativity will take care of itself. If you are not productive then how exactly is it you intend to be creative?
OK, Mr. Orland – we’re getting bogged-down with terms that need clarification: “genius,” “creativity,” “productivity.” At what point is someone clever enough to be considered a genius? At what point does an act become a “creative” act? What amount of productivity is considered enough for the serious artist? It all seems relative to me and there’s no clear answer in this chapter.

So, we move on to making the distinction between “creativity” and “the creative process.” Here, we turn to the ideas of David Bayles who believes that creativity involves innovation and the creative process means productivity. Orland writes: But to you – the maker- the important thing is whether one piece helps show you the way down the road to the next piece. Looking back over a pile of early pieces, you come to realize that it’s the ninety-nine percent you never show others that laid the groundwork for the one percent that soar.

This means that it’s the next painting and the painting after that, and so on that matter. As the author points out, you can make some great paintings early on but if nothing of significance follows then it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. This is like the “one hit wonder” syndrome that characterizes many rock groups or the Hollywood standard line “What have you done lately?”

We’re left with this advice:

Annie Dillard – How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

Ted Orland – Ordinary people make art when they make extraordinary concerns a part of their daily life.

I think I’ll head to the studio now… tomorrow, the rest of Chapter 3.

What are your thoughts?


Mark Sheeky said...

Hmm, a bit more waffle here than incisive revelation. I also think that it's better to be productive than worry about quality, and also agree that each painting should be seen as a link or way of learning for future paintings (the two are linked). I can assure the world that my art is a product of madness, genius and serendipity - though! Oh, and hard work :) I giggled at the people born with artistic genius who failed to work at it... how would anyone know they were an artistic genius then? They would end up street cleaning or something and every so often quote Plato..?! An artist is only as great as the art. Art demands and requires proof!

Robin said...

So the big take away is...
GET BACK TO WORK everyone:)

hw (hallie) farber said...

I have those artworks that no one has seen but I'm not convinced that they're more important than the time I've spent looking at roof lines against the sky, at reflections in car windows, at shadows crossing the deck, at the moon through the trees. I suspect you can work your rear end off and never find creativity.

I like to think we all have a touch of madness.

Linda Roth said...

Does anybody out there finish anything and think it's great, I'm so creative? I never do. I think enough is enough. I think that's fine, let's move on. I think that's horrendous,let's move on. I think it's great to move on. If you don't pick up the brush, nothing going to happen. It doesn't take a genius to know greatness is decided by others--and so is creativity.

Celeste Bergin said...

When Ansel Adams was asked which of his photos was his favorite one his answer was "the next one".

Unknown said...

Hi Mark - yes, there is some waffling on the part of Orland but, in a way, that's good because if he offered definitive answers to unanswerable questions then he'd be a phony. Mostly he just gets us to think. I like that. For me, it's about both quantity and quality. Otherwise, I'm just wasting materials. I like your last sentence. Right on!

Hi Robin - yup, that sums it up!

Hi Hallie - that's a really good point. Thank you. As for madness - well - I'll have to agree. Perhaps those that know me would say that there's more than a "touch" of it in me :-) Recently, one friend said to me "You're nutty! I love it!!" Best compliment of my life.

Hi L.W. - I do! When I'm painting I'm thinking "Oh! This is great" When I'm finished I love the work. Then after I complete a few more paintings in the series I look back on the earlier ones that I thought were great and think much less of them. Oh, did I mention that I'm delusional? I agree that greatness is a label assigned by society and not the individual. However, I'm not certain that's true of creativity. I'll have to think more about that ... Thanks!

Hi Celeste - Perfect!! Thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

I think the power of productivity is that one learns, hopefully, as they produced. I get excited when I start asking "what if I do this", or try that, or make connections! Then, maybe, I start to get creative. The chance findings that make it all fun.

-Don said...

Kathy, I think I got more out of the comments today than I did with what Mr. Orland had to say. Thanks fo the forum.

Mark, the artistic geniuses that don't work at it are often self-destructive. I find that if a person with an innate desire and talent to create avoids it they find themselves consumed by it. I, too, like your last sentence.

Hallie, just a TOUCH of madness?

LW, I don't know that I think, "oh this is great, I'm so creative" when I finish a piece, but I do have a sense of pride and accomplishment upon finishing it. I think I can honestly say, though, that my first thought is, "what can I do next time to top this?".

Peggy, I LOVE the "what ifs".

Robin and Celeste, Now I'm heading back to work to create the next one.


Anonymous said...

A wonderful post today Kathy and great comments.
I'll know I've become the artist I want to be when I love just one thing I've done. I agree with Mark that art demands and requires proof. And I completely rebel against that notion.
I'm in the midst of finding balance to my creative pursuits. I've listened intently to the idea of "doing" to further skill... and I've just about done myself in. I've realized the artist laid out in exhaustion can't create art.
And since I'm not making much sense, I'll stop.

Mary Paquet said...

I agree with Don that the discussion here is much more interesting than Mr. Orland's writings, though his writing provoked the discussion. Great comments from everyone. Now, I must go paint!

Unknown said...

Hi Peggy - I agree. We do learn as we produce (usually). Good point! Thanks.

Hi Don - yup, great comments!

Hi Pam - I think I know what you're saying. Sometimes it's worth stepping back and not struggling with producing art. Instead, just let it flow ... whatever IT is ... and eventually it reveals who you are and what your art looks like. Let go, lett loose, let it be!

Hi Mary - happy painting!