Going Further

Some artists make their art and call it done. The painting is finished; the character is complete; the novel is written; the photograph is finalized. The artist, content, then moves on to the next project. Once the work is declared done, the artist never looks back.

Unless he/she is in the class of an art teacher I know. He always, no matter how good the “finished” piece, asks his students, “Have you thought about… [some twist or slight modification to the piece.]”  There are some variations; sometimes it’s a different question entirely, or seems to be. And it’s not even a real suggestion, just a question, asked very gently. I’m not sure he’s really interested in the answer. What he is interested in is getting students to think beyond themselves, to consider possibilities that they haven’t considered, to understand that when it’s done, it may not be done.

Whether the students do anything with those considerations may also be of lesser importance. What is important is that that they think about his question. They may then attempt whatever suggestion was hidden in the question, or modify the piece based on a different idea, or, having evaluated their piece, decide to keep it as it is. Regardless, they have considered going further. And that’s the point.

Most of us reach a point in the creation of a piece of work when we declare it “done.” There may be a number of reasons: a deadline, thinking we’ve spent too much time on this project, anticipation of the next project, just getting tired of working on the project. Or it may be we actually consider the project done.

Many good artists, however—at least the ones I know—are seldom satisfied, no matter when they get to the point when, for one reason or another, they have to release their creations into the world. They may call it done, but they are still thinking about it. They suspect that there is something further that can be done.

This attitude was perhaps best expressed by Picasso, who suggested that the artist is never finished: “To finish a work? To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow the coup de grace for the painter as well as for the picture.

And, like Picasso, we may never finish our pieces. Still, sooner or later, we must let our work be performed or published or shown or sold. But before we do, we need to look to our imaginations to see if we can make a little twist or slight modification that would make the piece better before its required release. This is not to suggest that the new piece will ever be finished either, only that we take it just a little further before we let it go.

Because we can always go further, this could be a never-ending journey. But isn’t the creation of art that already? Perhaps by making that small twist or slight modification we have not yet thought of, we can reduce our dissatisfaction with our own work. Perhaps we can make our work just that much better. And how could that be a bad thing?

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Date: Monday, 22. August 2016 0:43
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