I imagine that most who might read this are looking forward to using some of the long Thanksgiving weekend to sew—I know I am [Note to self: remember to 1) give thanks for having a job that 2) offers paid time off for holidays]. As we all ponder how best to use our time, I offer a hodge-podge of perspectives regarding art and inspiration that have been on my mind. First up is the directive I used as the title for this post, borrowed from a poster I saw years ago by artist Fred Babb.
“Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.” This opinion by artist Chuck Close is one he must quote often; I first heard it when he was interviewed by Charlie Rose, and Googling “chuck close inspiration quote” turns up any number of permutations. In one of them he goes on to say:
“If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” *
In contrast, fabric artist Libby Fife recently addressed fear in her blog post “On the Inappropriate Usage of an Adjective,” particularly as it’s experienced by women: “Fear of starting a project. Fear of finishing a project. Fear of your to-do list and fear of your fabric stash. And my most favorite fear, the fear of your inner critic.” Instead, she says, “I just think a different internal dialogue is needed to get out of this really bad habit of telling yourself (and the world really) that you are afraid of doing something, creatively speaking.”
Meanwhile, artist/author Rayna Gillman of studio 78 notes has been reflecting on what it means to have a “voice” as an artist, concluding her encouraging post with, “Remember – every voice has a range and sings a lot of different songs – but the underlying timbre is recognizable.” You can read the whole post here.
Which segues nicely to my last item. Because I can’t pass up the slightest opportunity to quote Stephen Sondheim, I offer one of my favorite get-over-yourself lyrics from his Pulitzer-winning show Sunday in the Park with George: “Stop worrying if your vision is new. Let others make that decision, they usually do. Just keep moving on.” (I notice that one of the commenters on Rayna’s blog cited the same lyric — great minds yadda yadda…) And since I can’t pass up the chance to quote Sondheim twice, here’s another one from the same number: “Anything you do, let it come from you; then it will be new. Give us more to see.”
*Having quoted his disparagement of inspiration, I do find Chuck Close’s process quite, um, enlightening. I leave you with this clip of his August 2010 appearance on “The Colbert Report,” in which Stephen Colbert lets his inner art aficionado peek through his blowhard persona.
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