Friday, October 28, 2011

Making Good Artists

My colleague, Liz, and I recently delivered a presentation about research in the visual arts as part of a statewide symposium on undergraduate research. As we prepared our remarks, we worked together to build a list of the traits that undergraduate students need in order to excel as artists. Ultimately, we decided that all of us artists should aspire to the following:

You must come to the work with a sense of rigor and commitment—taking it seriously and doing the work of it by showing up, and then showing up again tomorrow.

In addition to working hard, you must work well, always being sincere in the work, while working on your own or with others.

You must think flexibly enough to internalize criticism and outside ideas, to see the blind spots in your own work, and to challenge yourselves out of your comfort zones.

You need a good blend of confidence, daring, and even arrogance that will make you set ambitious goals. However, at the same time, you need the willingness and the humility to fail really, really well—and often.

You must have the focus to stay on course in the work, but also the ability to be blown off course in purposeful ways. You must have an awareness and appreciation of accidental discoveries and chance.

You must appreciate the fact that this is really serious business—it’s not frivolous. You must be sustained by the intrinsic rewards of doing good work. Your internal motivation and tenacity need to keep the work burning independently of any assignment, professor, or degree program. You must realize that the work is worth you investing your best self. Good work is indispensible and important for everyone everywhere.

Finally, you must be able to put all of this heaviness aside and just make things.


And click HERE to learn more about Megan Boehm, whose workspace is pictured at the top of this post.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Back to the Ivory Tower

It's my favorite time of year again--the beginning of the new school year. As I divide my days between making drawings and syllabi, I am prompted to consider how different creative processes overlap and feed one another. This week's intersection of meticulousness and messiness inspires me to revisit the exquisite paper constructions of Peter Callesen, whose Castle is pictured on the left. You can get to know his work HERE.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Favorite Things: Muto, by Blu

As I dive into my studio practice these days, I feed myself with exciting drawings like this one. This animation embodies the way one idea--or drawing--leads to another, and how these transitions can be like blooming or mutiny.

Click HERE to see Blu's videos.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Here and Now of Working from Observation

I recently had a conversation with a student about the differences between working from photos and working from direct observation of a subject. I have conversations like this one fairly frequently, and the choices that we artists make about where and what and how to work could be the stuff of many, many posts. In essence, though, my case for working from observation is this: Working from direct observation of subject matter that occupies the same time and place we do roots us even more firmly in that time and place. On the other hand, working from a photo emphasizes all of the spaces that we're not moving through, all the things that we're not seeing, and all the moments that we aren't experiencing. There are certainly occasions when this "not-ness" can be a useful thing to grapple with in the work. However, I find that working from photos causes a disembodiment that most makers don't even realize while it's happening. Working from observation puts us back into our bodies, and it yields work that embodies the world of lived experience.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Drawing Everywhere

Here is a beautiful drawing that I encountered walking across campus this afternoon.  I doubt these marks were made intentionally (or with intentionality).  All the same, I think this composition is incredibly elegant, and part of that elegance is wondering what made these marks and how.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Artist as Mentor and Advocate

I was recently invited to participate in a panel discussion about the many lives that artists lead and all of the roles that we play as we lead those lives. I've been asked to discuss (or represent) the lives that we lead as mentors and advocates. All this has gotten me thinking about what it means to be and to do these things, and (more importantly) about what it means to be and to do these things while simultaneously being and artist. I think of mentors and advocates as people who lead the way, both by teaching and by modelling excellence in their own creative lives. These are the individuals who embody and protect the values that we share as artists. These are the artists who move through the world with grace, making the case for the arts' indispensibility as they go.

What do effective mentorship and advocacy look and feel like in the visual arts? What are the responsibilities that we have to one another, in terms of guiding and supporting one another's creative work? How do we make a compelling case for the importance of our work and our discipline within the academy and, more broadly, within our culture?

Going West

Here is a favorite thing of mine, a video created by the New Zealand Book Council. I first learned about this beautiful cut paper animation while perusing the website accompanying a paper exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design: http://movingpaper.madmuseum.org/

I'll never look at a book the same way again.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Welcome, Possibility

Here's a favorite from Emily Dickinson, posted while hoping it will shape my thinking about all this.