Christmas comes but once a year, but it’s a long series of train cars speeding past that start the day after Thanksgiving. We’ve been complaining at one end of our culture about the relentless commercialism of the season, but indulging in it at the other.
One aspect of the turn of the year I’ve always enjoyed is the shift in thinking as we spin around the back side of the sun—also, a cold face while the rest of me is wrapped up in warmth is hard to beat, but its not the main event and can last well into the following months.
Renewal is it’s own relentless feature of life on Earth. We’ve evolved with it and as a result of it. As biological imperatives go, so goes our ache to interpret and make something new in the world.
And it can feel lonely to look backwards on a year gone by, and forward into the unknown. But it’s a quiet time well worth settling into. The sun brightens and beckons soon enough.
That’s a Troy McClure quotation above. The relevant idea I was thinking of was that artists get things made mostly on their own, from the depths of their own personal being. You won’t find a lot of writing defining art as channeling. We tend to think humans do it from within ourselves, even if divine inspiration used to be taken for granted. Artists were still always praised or berated as creators, not the lucky or cursed vessels of other beings with the real talent.
And what’s the point of inspiration without the work needed to bring it into being? You’re the factory worker as well as the visionary—at least the vast, vast majority of artists. It’s very human to make art and still human to work hard at it. It’s ironic: a play is still a work.
Keep it up, because you get the work made, and only you can make your kind of thing.
We always have a choice on whether to make art or not. I know it’s become a standard thing to say “I have to paint,” or write songs or books or dance, but it’s good to know you have to decide to bring something into the world. These are difficult thoughts to try to focus in on. It can feel like we have to create, and that intense, fiery desire makes it important.
But I think it’s more valuable to consciously—or deliberately—decide to make things than to hand wave away the choice. It’s definitely cool to believe someone is so monumentally driven by their artistic soul that they simply found themselves overtaken by its demands.
Cooler to me is the knowledge that it’s sometimes a struggle to come to the metaphorical drawing board and bring something new into the world made from small parts of it.
I finally finished the 31 Inktober drawings, only a few weeks late. Sarcasm aside, it’s often worth it to finish a marathon, even when you’re far behind. Discipline can be its own reward.
Not to mention, completing things is precedent for future projects. The more we get used to abandoning the things we start, the easier it gets to never finish anything. (NOTE: This is in addition to knowing when to quit. Sometimes it’s best to change paths, and the wisdom to know when is hard won)
Several of the drawings started as sketches which I drew over for the finished piece. There’s a power in these raw sketches, and sometimes more life than the most polished completed work. A lot of time and effort goes into capturing as much of that life as possible. This is where the art is.
This article on Quartzy reviews D. B. Dowd’s new book, Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice. The article makes much of the idea that drawing is a kind of learning, which is somewhat true, but limited, I’d argue.Instead, I think there’sgreatvalue in championing the idea of drawing as a tool for many aspects of life, and not just the province of artists and fumbled attempts to imitate the pros.
Near the beginning, it says drawingshould t be limited to the artists. But I’d say that misses the point, at least for me. Drawing is for all of us because to make art is human. We are all artists by nature. Most of us just lack refinement and practice in becoming connected to our creative cores and in utilizing various techniques of creation.
It’s well worth reading, and I hope it’s another bit of inspiration to start or keepworking on your thing.
It’s a cliché that we shouldn’t wait for the world to recognize us for our work. So how do we get the attention? Instead of offering any how-to advice—because, hell, I don’t know, either—let me pose a couple questions you might ask yourself that I find myself returning to.
Why do I want recognition? Answer this and you’ll either spotlight your ego (“I’m a genius, duh!”), or realize you care less than you thought you did, or understand you don’t know why.
The first is shallow, for good or ill, and that might not be a reason to disavow seeking fame for your amazing thing, but you should own it. The second is a pleasant revelation, and you are now free to do whatever you want—but do keep sharing your work. The third is the hardest, and you can either engage a therapist, or think hard about it till you figure it out. Or both. Both would probably be good for you.
Does it matter if I don’t get the thing I want?
This can lead you back to the first question if the answer is yes, or free you to stop making art or forge ahead in sheer abandon, finally not giving a damn what other people think.
You’re making art. You get sucked in. You forget the universe outside the one you’re making.
It happens, and you don’t have to feel bad about it. Sometimes if you’ve fallen into the work, and there is no time—for a blissful, weird micro-infinite period—its the best moment you could hope for, and a good reason to keep trying to regain a foothold in that pocket universe of your own creation.
One of the things about being an artist that separates you is the quality of noticing things others overlook. Seeing unusual things or ordinary things in unusual ways is a key principle in most creativity. So how do you start?
First attempts: slow and steady. Any regular route you take-to work, regular errands, family houses—tends to blur into sameness over time. We get used to the sights and sounds and stop looking, seeing what’s there.
So start with your regular route somewhere. Start expanding what you notice. Small things. Out-of-the-way things. Write them down, somewhere.
I think it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be making art if we didn’t love it. Maybe there’s some tortured genius out there who’s just ambivalent about art in general, but keeps making it because she’s really good at it. But probably not.
It doesn’t follow that because we’re fascinated and enamored by a few or thousands of artists that we appreciate our own. Artists as their own worst critic is more true than not, in my experience, and that can easily extend to bald hatred of their own work.
I’m here to ask you to go easy on yourself. Making art—creating at all, really—is hard. Our visions of what could be don’t match what comes out in the physical world. But there’s tremendous value in giving of yourself so deeply. Pulling the viscera of your inner being out into daylight is brave and revealing. You deserve gentle adulation just for that.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.