Tolkien’s Words Illuminated His Illustrations as Well as the Reverse

As related in this article about the current Tolkien exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, J.R.R. Tolkien thought of his drawings and paintings were of a piece with his writing. He didn’t do either as afterthought. They went together.

“As he was writing the story, he would draw the scenes to help him create the textual description…and, in turn, what he was writing would inform his illustrations.”

— John T. McQuillen, Ph.D.

There’s a place for these kinds of media combos, outside places where they work together, as in animation. There are worlds to explore, still, and genius that will spring up and give us new ways to work and explore. All art is remixing.

Thinking About Minimalism as a Life Methodology Won’t Necessarily Carry Over to Art

The Minimalists aside—Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, Carl Andre—art is connecting the disconnected. It’s making associations from thought to thing.

We need to keep feeding our eyes and ears in order to make new things for the world. A clean, ordered room is a good thing, but art rises from chaos and unknowable juxtapositions.

Rediscovering Discoveries I Thought I Wasn’t Into Subverts My Assumptions

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.

“Wide Awake” on Spotify

The Secret Is, It’s All About X

But seriously, though, it’s never just about one thing. Your quest to be genuine, authentic, sincere. Your drive to be great at your thing. Your desire to connect with people.

Life and business and creativity all have multiple paths and more than one reason things go either wrong or right.

Taking a Sick Day, but Nah

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.

Excitingly Going Slow in the Cold Months

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.

Have Some Heroes, and Follow Their Work

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.