Assumptions about what I like can quickly become dogma, and it’s especially strong where music is concerned. Like any other preference in art, it’s good to push against your biases and preconceptions, even when you’re the one who made them.
Parquet Courts is a recent example. I like them, but wasn’t as blown away by their last album as a lot of people in my musical sphere of influence. And yet, somehow, this one song played while I was out today, and I didn’t remember they’d done it. It was terrific, different than most of the other songs, and made me want to listen more closely to the whole album.
There. Opinion diverted, openness to explore renewed. I hope I can keep that mindset going in the future.
When I was little, a sick day meant I stayed in bed and slept as much as possible. It seemed like it was all or nothing, either incapacitated and miserable or some sniffles. I’m still incapacitated now and then, but most days I’m sick I can still work or do things around the apartment. Just more slowly and painfully.
It’s worth working on your thing, whatever it is, and if that involves a studio across town, maybe it’s sketch time or a writing session. Getting something created, something made, feeds into the deep satisfaction and fulfillment we’re cultivating. It’s not medicine, but it will help you feel better.
One of the advantages of the new year being in the winter is that is encouraged slowing down. The wild outdoors, so alive and encouraging in summer, is more asleep than any other time, especially the further toward the poles you go.
It’s good for you, the artist—the maker and creator—to slow down with it. Got some resolutions to uphold? They’re probably internal to your own psyche or stuff you’ll do inside, mostly. So let winter slow down your approach and process. Roll with the season and see how much easier it is to be deliberate and steady. You’re making progress and it’s fun, eh?
When it warms up and things around you come alive, it’ll be time to make a big, arcing dive into stuff. But for now, relish the world’s encouragement to stay inside and slowly build up a habitual head of steam.
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.
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.
Winter Holidays Exert a Kind or Manic Weight on Many of Us
It’s not that Christmas and Hanukkah and the rest are oppressive, thought for some they are. We have the joy of the season, but there are some amount of blues that come along with cold air and holiday music.
Our job is to keep shifting those feelings into our work. Once anything is a part of your process, whatever you’re feeling is your new platform. Stand there and make the new thing.
Doing at Least One Thing in the Spirit of the Ideal
Just the image, and a mindfulness of what I’m after, here. I think the thought of giving helpful advice can toughen after a while. I’m not sure how much more wracking my brain for different things to say about making art is than keeping on making a brand new image. I’m
Not sure that isn’t just the nature of this dualistic mash-up that I’ve started.
Expecting and Assuming the Best Both Work Out in Your Favor More Often Than You’d Think
There’s a choice in your daily interaction with someone, whether they’re a stranger or friend. You can’t change what they’ll do or say. But you can choose what you assume about them when you come together. It’s easy to jump to conclusions if something goes wrong, or it seems like they said something weird.
Your reaction maybe isn’t as much in your control as you’d like, but setting yourself up for confrontation, sarcasm, or annoyance is. And before you have to react, you could just as easily assume the best of them.
Assume they have good intentions and most of the time, you’ll be right. I’m aware of the road-to-hell cliché, but I’m just talking about the very small, in-the-moment things. Times when you could be working together on a problem or even a disaster to resolve something. It seems a small or silly thing. But it puts you on a more equitable level.
We’re usually the heroes of our own stories. We’re the one in-charge, the one who knows what’s up, and it’s easy to forget most others are the same. But assuming the best of someone—that they’re trying and sincere and engaged—means a mutually beneficial result of whatever you’re doing together most of the time. Be kind. We’re in this together.
Here in the U.S., we’ve been entertaining ourselves by letting lots of outrages from factions we oppose stand in for our various personal grudges and grievances. I would like to say I’m hopeful we can find common ground somewhere, but I’m not sure that will happen soon.
I have my own personal beliefs and desires for helping the greatest number of people the most, but some of my beliefs are concerned with ways to live and those aren’t always objective, superior ways. We need some compromising largesse toward each other.
But we can keep sending more art into the world. More expression, more passion, more remixing and recombining old ideas into new ones. When times are troubled, creative work can act as both refuge and inspiration. It’s the place to channel your energy and focus after they’ve been hijacked by TV ads and yelling heads.