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There Should Be Less Division Between Artist and Worker

There Should Be Less Division Between Artist and Worker

Mierle Laderman Ukeles made the above piece in 1976, but we still haven’t applied the concepts she boldly displayed widely enough, yet.

It’s very easy to get caught up in rock start aesthetic, superstar mythos, where we dream of rich hedonism and a life above the humdrum, creating at will and to great acclaim. This is America.

But that vision isn’t real, and the humdrum is just life in general. It’s where we are most of the time, and it feeds and sustains our practice. Ukeles asked maintenance workers to consider part of their work during the day as art, and complied her worker-artist subjects in a grid of fellow creators, not merely portrait sitters. These are lessons we should pass on and ponder. Everyone can make art, it’s for us all.

Hang One or Two of the Favorite of Your Own Work to See Its Best and Worst

Hang One or Two of the Favorite of Your Own Work to See Its Best and Worst

If you’re a painter or calligrapher, say, this is an easy one to practice. If you’re a musician or dancer, it’s harder. But there are ways to keep looking at your stuff, even if it’s a song or a performance.

You’re not doing this to leave a work in place forever. You’re doing a little study. It’s a personal gallery visit, and the assignment is to analyze this one work. It just happens to be yours, this time.

What you’re looking for is anything that keeps the work from being perfect and anything that helps it along the way. That’s a little hyperbolic–nothing is perfect—but perfection should be striven for, not achieved. And it’s nebulous: the main thing is how closely it came to the vision in your head. But you need some perspective, a little objectivity, a little time for it to breathe and live before you can see the little things.

You already probably see the mistakes you made and other choices you thought about but didn’t implement. Next time you’ll know they could have helped improve it, and some things to keep that went well.

This approach works better if you have just a little difficulty or a slight embarrassment when examining your own work than if you either want to puke from thinking it’s terrible or you think it’s brilliant, but I think those cases are rare.

More often, the art you made took a long time and you’ve spent hours, days, or weeks getting it honed, chopping it into shape. You know it well. You also can overlook the obvious.

So as you make more things, keep a fresh one handy to listen to or look at to see it as plainly as you can, to learn one more lesson from a finished thing.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race, but Maybe Not *Too* Slow

Slow and Steady Wins the Race, but Maybe Not *Too* Slow

It feels like something needs to change. And that’s after everything changed for me. If there’s one thing moving is good for, it’s taking over every other concern in your life with its alarm bells and insistent stress.

It’s easy to separate professional and personal lives, and day job from artistic practice, but you really only have one life. It flows with time, always moving forward, not giving a damn about our attempts to compartmentalize and section it off. It’s useful to organize time that way, don’t get me wrong. But ultimately it all runs together and is affected by every other part of a life.

So, when you feel restless, that things have stagnated, that wheels are spinning in place, it’s good to remind yourself to slow down and just keep working. There’s just one downside: you can get lazy and stop altogether. Careful of that. It’s easy to put off the stuff you’re supposed to be doing.

The tortoise can be tempted by naps, too.

Little Obsessions and Indulging Them Should Be No Big Deal

Little Obsessions and Indulging Them Should Be No Big Deal

It seems like we get put down for carrying on a brief obsession with something, but it can be a reason to get familiar with something new or to experience something familiar with new eyes and ears.

My current is above, of course. The bass sound is gorgeously full, the slapback echo on the vocal is almost haunting, but still charming, and the melody and lyrics themselves are fun and earwormy. I hear something new almost ever re-listen, which is amazing. Now. How to apply this obsession to something I’m doing.

The Things That Fulfill Us as Human Beings and Remembering What’s Important

The Things That Fulfill Us as Human Beings and Remembering What’s Important

I spent quite a few hours just talking with some friends old and new this evening. I’m battling a cold, and really not feeling 100%, physically or mentally.

But the chance to latch onto contact with others is valuable, and I feel it’s lacking and overlooked by many of us as we go about lives that are overwhelmed with agendas and obligations.

On paper, just stated as a concept, it’s trivial: a few people getting together to chat. But the connections we make and maintain are vital to all other aspects of existing.

You can’t create your best work in complete isolation. Art feeds off the everyday and ordinary, because that’s how it connects. The most unusual and mysterious pieces need a human connection in order to resonate and compel.

A Thing on Think Pieces and Its Followup

A Thing on Think Pieces and Its Followup

Dan Hon wrote a piece (of what?) called “Something Is Happening; And It Might Change Everything

It’s pokes fun at a pervasive kind of internet pseudointellectual herald that often turns out to be, well, sound and fury, signifying nothing. There’s a serious side of it, that we can waste a lot of time getting caught up in artificial enthusiasm for a new thing, or in the piece, the idea that we can become smarter than everyone else by consuming the perfect information.

It’s kind of a cliche for this blog at this point, but what matters is your work. Not that it’s genius or ingeniously sourced, just that it’s deeply yours. Distraction is everywhere, useful information is rare.

The followup is called, “An Important Update to Yesterday’s Think Piece

The Power of Words in One Enduring Ad Campaign That’s Applicable to Your Work

The Power of Words in One Enduring Ad Campaign That’s Applicable to Your Work

Nike’s “JUST DO IT.” branding (written about before, here) was powerful at its inception and it’s still powerful today. At least, it is for me when I’m feeling lazy about working.

In addition to the daily habit principle, it’s really good at cutting through elaborate excuses I have about why I can’t work on anything. Basically, simply, the phrase allows your determination to overcome your fear, if you hit yourself in the ego with it.

Sometimes it seems trite. It still can help get at least a little work done, and that’s what matters, day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month. Whether it’s the same project or several, well, you know.

If the World Seems Like It’s Speeding Up, Keep Slowing Down Your Work

If the World Seems Like It’s Speeding Up, Keep Slowing Down Your Work

I mean your creative work, the stuff you’re making and thinking about outside the job that occupies your work day. And I don’t mean to the point of not doing it, no. That’s too slow.

Artwork, art-work, art –> work is different than other tasks. It’s the hole in the paper. It’s flow. It’s a time warp. The world around us is bursting with improvements in media tech and a lot of it messes with our attention spans and focus. It’s how it’s being designed. The cure, or at least palliative, is creation. It forces us to both slow down and to focus.

Art isn’t just a pleasant way to pass the time. It’s a vital human pursuit.


NBC News, of all places, posted this article on books, which is somewhat related to this post. It’s one of those mid-length articles so jammed with links it feels meticulously researched, even if many of the links point right back to NBC itself. I agree with a lot of the points, though, and can’t say it better than this header:

STORIES ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE TEACH US TO BE THE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE WANT TO BE

Switching Tasks

Switching Tasks

Lots of advice on learning a new language (programming and foreign) or medium or instrument says you should just pick one and stick with it, not give it up and move to something else after the initial bout of getting the basics down. I’m not a big fan of this.

Life is short enough, and there are worse things than trying out several possibilities in a row. Sometimes you have to give something a shot to know it isn’t for you.

Or even that it’s not for you right this minute. In order to give learning something as complicated and slowly-progressing as language or the piano, you’ve got to have a connection to it. There needs to be a spark between it and you in order to make the tough middle part of the journey seem worth your time and occasional frustrated energy. Sometimes you don’t find it right away and you have to try a few different things.

After you’ve learned German or C++, you’ll often want to learn something else, and earlier experiences trying a little JavaScript or Spanish or oil paints will clue you as to the thing you want to put your heart and soul into. Or you dive even deeper into your experience.

But you won’t get chastised by me for abandoning things at the beginner stage because it doesn’t feel right, right now.