The Art of Not Giving Up

One of the most notorious creative blocks in a serious artist’s life is the fear of doing bad work.  If we made a close examination of the commonly accepted, contemporary opinions of  “good” work, we would see that the concept of  “good” has no real meaning outside the simplistic market ideology that drives it.  The great contribution of modernism to art has been to emphasize the importance of personal creative seriousness in the artist’s practice, out of which then comes new insights into individual and social values and their subsequent transformations.
Every artist eventually reaches a limit to their technical and inspirational capacity.  The problem then becomes how to break through to the next level.  Taking classes; going back to basics; exploring every subject matter of their own lives (especially the fearful and shameful ones); hanging out with other artists and talking out the work–are all classic ways to try to solve the dilemma.  It turns out that simple hard work is most often the best stick for beating back the adversity of staleness.
At a local venue some years ago, Manuel Neri remarked that eventually, for the serious artist, “good” and “bad” come to have no meaning, and the only important artistic value is simply to go to the studio every day and do the work.  Chuck Close likewise commented, “Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up and get to work.” Eventually, constant practice, absolute honesty, and unending patience are those qualifications of the artist most conducive to producing interesting and relevant art.

Doug Riggs

originally posted 07/31/11

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