Welcome to my never ending art/science experiment:
Now this is the part where you envision me like a young and muscular Tim Curry, of Rocky Horror Film days, wearing the typical white lab coat, giant puce dishwashing gloves, enormous fake pearls that would make the Queen roll her eyes (because it’s paste) and 8 inch platform heels, we can just skip the rest of the costume and the fact that I’m not male, young, muscular or Tim Curry. Actually most days my lab coat is actually a black half apron and my puce gloves are disposable black plastic military grade. (You can also find me passing these bad boys out in the undergrad painting lab like some kind of deranged tooth fairy.) So to quote the great Dr. Frankenfurter, “Step into my lab and let’s see (pause for emotional effect) what’s on the slab…” because “I can see you shiver with (pause again) anticipation..”
A Cautionary Tale: What Alice was talkin ‘bout.
Kids, don’t do art. Seriously. There is nothing more addicting, more frustrating, and yet more gratifying than doing art (or making art, selling art, buying it, reading about it, talking about it and interacting with it.)
First, this is a passion you will never get out of alive. Judy Chicago once said, “Artists don’t retire. It’s every artist’s dream to drop dead while they are working.” Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 78 and worked all the way up until she died at 101. Picasso worked till his death at 91. The making of art is a compulsion, to really do it, you do it every day, whether you feel inspired or not, the trick is recognizing and utilizing different means of inspiration.
Second, it will be very difficult for you to not talk about it. You will probably drive your partner, parents, co-workers, school mates, the lady at the registrar checking your supplies out, nuts with all of this art talk. So find a supportive partner, one that will be happy to come along this journey with you, possibly even one that will participate but definitely one who will enable your addiction.
Third, it’s an incredibly expensive habit and I haven’t met a single artist that wasn’t also a bit of art supply hoarder. Some of them are great at hiding it, and even organizing all of their materials. It starts small and the next thing you know, that shoe box full of colored pencils turns into a closet full of papers, paints and brushes. That closet turns into a corner in the room, and then before you know it, that room that everyone used to refer to as the “dining room” or that other really weird word “garage,” where you use to park your very expensive toys, becomes a (insert gasp here) “STUDIO.”. Those of us that have completely succumbed to the disease will soon insist that we acquire a separate space away from our living quarters and loved ones where we can become even more apart of the art hive and rent a space with others of the “borg” that also suffer from this ailment.
Fourth, the making of and studying of art requires both sides of your brain. You are using more of those tenacious brain cells, causing more neurons to charge down new paths and pushing your mind to use all of the skills it has acquired. Math, science, history, language, comprehension, all these things are put into use in what you are making and many of these subjects are simultaneous. You must be a linguist and storyteller, a translator of symbols into words, thoughts into productions, stories into the crux of a moment, and somehow magically capture that in either a 2 dimensional or 3 dimensional plane. You have to be a historian; knowing what came before you allows you the freedom of knowing where you want to go and also helps you to not look like an idiot when you are looking at work that you don’t understand the importance of, yet. You must be a research analyst: taking data from many sources and then experimenting with different materials to see what works best for the work you are creating. It all depends on the medium and it can be a daunting task. You must be a chemist: mixing red and white is called what? Pink, did you say, yes, but also a “Tint.” Everything you studied in school comes into play, everything you are studying now or experiencing now is fodder for creating art, and that is why it is so addicting and why it becomes a habit.
There are so many rabbit holes you can fall into and every answer leads you to another question and another answer and so on ad infinitum. You are a problem solver from the moment you decide you want to make something and there are so many rules: rules to learn, rules to break, rules to learn to break. Don’t even get me started on how to make a living out of it, this is not “living,” this is a constant contest of outlasting your own patience. Making art is frustration, vexation, failure after failure, it’s hard and it’s completely worth it. A really good artist makes it look easy, but they have also devoted a lot of time to the work, they developed those skills, they practiced their scales and arpeggios and with time, you can too. All you need is that compulsion, that drive to see it through, whether its bad, mediocre or great, see it through. We all have to strengthen our legs as infants to walk, this is the exact same process, only this time you are completely conscious of the experience.
Thank you for taking the time to come on this journey with me.