I have been thinking about the last post and the idea of the Blank Review. A critique traditionally comes from others. They tell you what they want to see in your work, and sometimes how to get there. But the blank Review is one you give yourself. It isn't about what other people want to see, but what you want to communicate. It's an invitation to explore your own work. Asking questions is the usual advice. Comparing, and - borrowing from Sarah Lewis's analogy - identifying the specific parts of a tune that might up the entire song.
I read an interview with graphic Illustrator Yuko Shimizu, where she pointed out the necessity of starting with a certain style, but over the years allowing the work to grow into something uniquely your own. She said she wanted to “lead and not follow”, and that her “ultimate goal is to be respected by peers and people I respect.”
Developing a vision for your work takes the perseverance of the everyday. Sometimes this comes from others - I have asked artists to look at my work, and at times I didn’t want to hear what was said. At other times the opinions held no relevance to what I wanted to achieve. Not all information has value, but I could not distinguish between the valued and the valueless until I appreciated my own strength and vision.
So these days I work differently. Sometimes this looks like I’m doing nothing. Other times I am trying everything, creating more problems than I know how to solve. It’s frustrating, and I’m filled with doubt then, and perhaps a fear of the unattainable.
But an artist works on speculation. Everything is vulnerable - to rejection, or acceptance, or misinterpretation. It is a state of tension most artists learn to live with, or they find a differnt job. The ones who hold out, though, they have developed the skill of perseverance, the ability to validate progress and meaning in the small acts of the everyday.
As I grow older I realize the actual work in the studio is a meditation. On theme, on technique, on surface preparation and mediums and paint. I recently realized I wanted to see more complexity overall, and I began to explore the skills to accomplish this goal. It's akin to standing at the edge of a field, seeing the distant flag, and plotting the strange path to get there. First you have to see, and then to plan. But ultimately you need to take that step into tall grass.
Everyday perseverance can be described as the process of remembering what you envision, and to making small steps toward an outcome you cannot clearly see. But then one day the fog lifts. And you make something uniquely your own.
[i] Laurence G Boldt, Zen and the Art of Making a Living, pg 514