Say goodbye to 2018, and hello to a shiny new 2019. But in the end, it’s just another day in winter (or summer, if you’re south of the equator).
Every day is a new chance to create. Piggyback on the enthusiasm of the world’s love of arbitrary starting and end points. That can get you going on a daily habit or further toward a creative goal. But keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if you fail. Stumbles are part of life.
You always have a new year to start, every day, what matters is that you do start. And also celebrate. Putting new things into the world is a worthy goal and a benefit to you and to us.
We need time to think. Time to ponder and choose directions. It’s easy to put on earbuds and get lost in sound, or binge a few series in our off time from work.
But you’ll benefit for knowing where you want to go next, both in life and your work. And you can’t hear your own thoughts about that if you don’t just sit with them, alone. I used to do this on drives, my commute was 30–45 minutes. Now that it’s 15 minutes at most, often shorter on the bus, I do it while walking. Doesn’t have to be a big thing, but it’s good to have a direction and finalized decision-making.
We’re all affected by the weather. It’s just that we’re affected in deeply different ways. Art is the same. There are commonalities, we know something is abstract or naturalistic or minimalist. But how we feel standing in front of a Rothko or a Gericault or a Morris is personal.
One of my favorite art educators died on December 26th, leaving behind a rich and passionately devotional trove of videos and books about art behind.
Sister Wendy was a fascinating and amusing figure in her capacity as a guide and an insightful interpreter of art for millions who were enraptured by her tours through the history of art. She taught boldly and with grace. Below is a typically wry and studied segment, her description and explanation of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.
I feel as if I’ve said this before. Which is a strange thing for me to mention, because I know I’ve repeated things a few times on the blog, but it’s really a foundational idea about artists: the way you work is meaningful, and it’s worth thinking about. You want to craft and build in a way that supports the finished work, because in grand zen tradition, the journey is the reward, and the teacher, not to mention the greater part of your time.
And time is the most important thing you own. It’s going to be spent. Make sure you spend it in ways that support you and your work. If it doesn’t, time to change something.
For the past couple days, all I can hear in my internal soundtrack is Kacey Musgraves’s “Slow Burn,” from Golden Hour.
It’s a terrific album, on many Best of 2018 lists, and for good reason. There isn’t a bad song on it. But this one in particular feels very close to me. Late bloomers and older artists can tend to get caught up in negative spirals of feeling like we aren’t getting anywhere, that our time has passed. But it’s always possible your time hasn’t yet come, at least where recognition or attention of some kind that will expose you to a new audience or group.
It’s a precious message: it’s okay to do you own thing and let whatever’s going to happen, well, happen in its own time.
The thing to concern yourself with in the moment is that you’re doing your best work and it’s filling some need within you. You need to be okay with slowly burning while you wait for the fire to spread.
The thumbnails I usually put at the top of these posts turned into a series of connected works recently. I started giving them titles, and the imagery I saw in them made me think of folk tales or myths. I called them New American Mythology along that line of thinking, imagining each image could be part of a larger set of stories that remake the world in their telling.
It’s pretentious as hell, of course. But I tend to gravitate to such grand scales, and I decided to run with it, for now.
But it’s clear to me that most of them are about conflict, and danger, and skullduggery—to be perfectly pirate about it. These are elements I see prominently in the corridors of power at the moment, in government, business, and in people. And one’s feelings tend to come through in one’s work.
I’m hoping I’ll feel like making more hopeful, generous, and open-feeling work next year. Counterpoints to the negatives we see around us are always useful.
I’m at my brother’s house for Christmas. It’s great to be with family again, we missed it last year. Getting back together with your friends and/or family is one of the touted treasures of the season. But sometimes overlooked is the coexistence of winter holidays with the solstice, when the darkest days—of the northern hemisphere—turn back toward the light.
I’m never against a little darkness in the world. All those Darth Vader t-shirts and stormtrooper backpacks show that we kinda like it. We carry it within us and we use it to entertain ourselves and to teach good ways of being to others. But we don’t do well giving in to dark impulses or even weather all the time.
The light comes again, we experience renewal as winter fades and spring promises growth all around us. It just means more when we understand the cold and dark things and don’t shy away from exploring them and understanding them.
Usually, I’ll get caught up in the early December—or late November—buzz, and then suddenly it’s Christmas Eve. This long, difficult year is ended, and it feels like I’ve had some time to revel in the beginning of Winter and a gradual approach. I hope all of you have a fun and fulfilling celebration of the turn of another year, in your chosen/traditional ways.
If you’re lucky, some of them like to write, and they’ll put that out into the public sphere, too. It’s helpful to have a broader picture of the artists you admire.
Sometimes, they’ll disappoint you. That’s okay, it happens to our family and friends now and then. Once in a while it’ll be so far from your personal beliefs, you lose respect for them and won’t want to support them. That’s also useful to know.
Mainly, though, following along with a few artists you enjoy gives you an inside perspective on art that art history rarely will. We study works in isolation, much of the time. We hop around in time at a dizzying pace. But it’s like waiting for the next album from your favorite band when a painter you love announces a new show or upcoming project.
It’s the view from here, in real time, and it puts our own work on the same scale. We can be motivated and inspired by artists working right now in a way that is immediate and visceral. Uncle Paul (Klee, for any new readers) and Georgia O’Keefe are great and inspiring. But we see all their best work at once, and the scale and temporal connection is gone, just as they’re gone.
We learn a lot from the masters of the past. But the future masters who might arise from the ones we admire today can teach us just as much.