The Good Drawings and the Bad Drawings Are Always in You

The Good Drawings and the Bad Drawings Are Always in You

There’s a very popular trope that gets thrown around all the time—without qualification—that

you, a prospective artist, have 10,000 bad drawings in you, and until you get them out, you won’t be good.

But I’m here to tell you that you can always make a bad drawing. Or song. Or film.

It isn’t that artists are just good one day, after climbing the mountain of practice and forever rolling greatness down its slopes. You get to a place where you’re used to how it feels to be in flow, how your muscles work in concert to get things composed in a pleasing (or at least intentionally specific) way, and you know better when to stop.

But you can always, and will occasionally, make a crummy drawing. That’s perfectly fine, you can always make another. No one has to see the bad one.

This matters to know, because if you make a lame piece of work, and you think you’re past such stumbles, you’ll get discouraged and depressed, and it’ll be harder to make the next thing. Don’t worry about getting past your bad drawings. Just keep making things at all, and they’ll be few.

There’s Value in Story, Even When It’s All Plot

There’s Value in Story, Even When It’s All Plot

Lots of film and visual media get criticized for being just plot. Simply story with no subtext or message.

But even simple story has value. I’m not advocating for stupid or ill-thought stories, but meaning can come from characters and their situations and conflicts that remain true to who and where they are.

When You Feel Like You’re Worthless, Try to Remember You Aren’t Worth Less

When You Feel Like You’re Worthless, Try to Remember You Aren’t Worth Less

‘Ey, clever, huh? What I mean by the title is that we all have crises of confidence, and they aren’t limited or even able to be headed off. But your value and contribution aren’t limited to what the rest of the world notices. It seems like the human condition to doubt. I’ve written about confidence and your work before, more than once, and I think it’s interesting how this blog is becoming a little less dogmatic over time.

It’s my hope to be wise, but beyond that to be a sympathetic and understanding teacher of—well, something. We tend to listen to the voice of success, that is, the voices of the famous and those who sell a lot of work. But everyone who’s been doing their work for a long time has valuable and insightful things to say about how to do it and why you should.

I think it’s a common human good to make art and put it into the world. I think it expresses and enhances our collective humanity and enriches and informs your own life.

What you’re doing, whatever form of art it is, has value, and I hope you find ways to keep doing it.

Fairs, and the Fine Art World Catering to the Fancy and Overlooking the Littles

Fairs, and the Fine Art World Catering to the Fancy and Overlooking the Littles

It deserves as much longer post, or a series of them, but the Frieze art fair debuts in L.A. this week. It’s long been staged in London and NYC, and I’m glad the west coast is being recognized by the organizers as a worthy art center, but still have major problems with the concept in general.

As with the secondary market (auctions and such, the phenomenal prices of which are what make headlines), small, lesser-known, and—let’s face it, because it’s practically a detriment—living artists are often paid less attention. It’s true lots of contemporary creators get to showcase through their galleries who pay a high entrance fee to exhibit, but the fairs are there to make money, primarily.

This is fine. But it leaves out a vast section of artists who may feel, well, frozen out. I don’t have a ready solution, except to say I think we should be thinking more about what art gives to humanity, and the capacity we all have to make it.

Making Plans As Charcoal Sketches, Not Oil Paintings

Making Plans As Charcoal Sketches, Not Oil Paintings

There’s a tendency for the organized—even slightly organized—to spend lots of time designing the plan for a project or schedule. It can be really satisfying to see a detailed layout of your time, and how it’s supposed to get used.

But life is tricksy, and tends to defy our expectations and demands. The detailed scheme is like an oil painting you spent weeks on, perfecting the details and carefully mixing colors and layering. It’s sometimes fulfilling and valuable to make something with the full force of your skill and intention. But the plan isn’t that time.

The plan benefits from a little flexibility, like a charcoal sketch you can erase and blend as you go. Unless you’ve got a trust fund and a studio and all the time in the world to yourself, life inevitably throws curve balls and monkey wrenches into the works with regularity.

Adaptability and an openness to small changes in the plan means you can keep the main effort for your work, and your time spent where it’ll be most satisfying.

Laurie Anderson on the Changing, Mass-Moving World, and Needing to Embrace It

Laurie Anderson on the Changing, Mass-Moving World, and Needing to Embrace It

Anderson has long been one of my favorite artists, hard to pin down, stylistically, and spanning multiple media. Here, she breaks down the need to change our perspective to embrace the changing humanscape, where cultures meld and millions have to absorb either an influx of new people or being thrust into a new society.

These thought patterns have implications for thinking about and moving forward with your work.

Hang On to What Matters, and Let Memories Exist on Their Own

Hang On to What Matters, and Let Memories Exist on Their Own

There are things that matter to our emotional selves as relics of our own past. They are reminders of who we were and how far we’ve come, and sometimes of how others saw us.

There’s a lot of memento clutter, though, with things being saved as treasures that are really just footprints—they don’t have much intrinsic meaning and they’re everywhere.

Consider there are a few things worth holding on to, and see if you can let the footprints go: old text messages, emails, social media posts. You have memories of vital things, and probably some things to uphold the best moments of your life. Keeping most stuff as memories let’s you focus and care for the best.

Getting Past Your Need for Perfection and Finishing Your Work Is Vital

Getting Past Your Need for Perfection and Finishing Your Work Is Vital

There’s no shortage of creativity coaches out there. Advice abounds on techniques and tools, finding styles, getting inspired and so on. I don’t think it’s stated enough that you should finish your things. People really do get stuck in attempts to make the best thing they can make.

In art school, you often have no choice about finishing pieces, because there’s a bloody deadline breathing down your neck with a fearsome fiery breath, and you’re going to damn well get your ass in gear. I think this is an advantage to paying money for art school. You get a set of projects and have to complete them.

I tend to believe you should:

  1. Work. Exercise your praxis. Do the thing.
  2. Finish the stuff you begin.
  3. Make another thing.

It’s totally true that a lot of would-be artists/writers/musicians never get anything done because they can’t start. They’re so wrapped up in the vision and their (imagined) inability to match it, fear stops them cold. They’re the Never-Good-Enoughs.

Then there are those who start a boatload of things because, hey, art! But they never finish them because it’s hard to get through the boring middle part where you realize it’s a hell of a lot of work to complete things. These are the Forever-Beginners.

One secret I learned pretty fast is that your finished piece will never match your vision—except in extraordinarily rare circumstances. The artists who get a lot of shit done are very okay with this fact, and by getting a lot of stuff done, ironically, they get ever closer to matching their vision to their work.

it happens gradually, but you need things to compare to, and there’s nothing that shows your progress more than the thing you made three years ago, if you kept making things along the way. This is being simply an artist. You’ll learn how long you should take on a piece the more you make.

Trifles Aren’t Worthless, They Can Lead to Big Ideas and Big Projects

Trifles Aren’t Worthless, They Can Lead to Big Ideas and Big Projects

The first thing you are asked to do in any drawing class for homework is to start a sketchbook. Sometimes there are specific things you’re asked to draw, but often the bulk of the pages are up to you as to what you fill them with.

Most working artists keep a sketchbook, too. It’s a repository for thoughts, lists, and…throwaway scraps of imagination and observation: ephemera. And they usually stay that way. The stuff we put in the sketchbook is just practice and things that occur to us in the moment, visually.

But having captured those fleeting shreds, every so often we’ll find a gem of an idea that’s actually a vein of possibility we can mine and turn into something big and meaningful. Keep an eye out, you never know where the scraps will reveal themselves to be more.