Monday, August 16, 2010

How Artists Work

On a recent road trip that went through the Quad Cities area, I was listening to a radio interview with the Arts Educational personnel at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, IA. (A link to the museum website is here.) It was a very interesting interview that discussed art as communication, relating art to the everyday world, and how both children and adults responded to art. I was in agreement with much of what these educators had to say. However the discussion on artists and the way artists work was an area that I could not see eye-to-eye, and feel I must comment.

A member of the Figge staff was explaining her view on the relevance of art in relation to how artists remain productive. She commented that distractions and outside personal commitments could sometimes slow production. She also added that when the artist is not in the studio everyday devoting 100% of his/her time to art making this represents the beginning of giving up.

I disagree with this line of thought. Much of what makes art successful is based on experience and observation. I believe that an artist must spend an equal amount of time outside the studio observing and experiencing life and human interaction as in the studio working. It has been my experience that art making is a successive process that builds on the ideas and thoughts of predecessors in much the same way science is built on previous scientific discoveries.

A favorite artist of mine (John Piper) once described production down time as opportune for artists to explore and research the ideas that influence how he/she works. I would add that by engaging in this method of working, a context for the art work is established. If an artist truly spent all efforts in the studio the quality of those works would be lackluster.