Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Georgia O'Keeffe; Poppy; 1927

Like epoxy, this essay is a two part process, but unlike epoxy, reading and writing is linear, so I have decided that part two actually goes first. I guess that makes it part one.

Part one. You know that scene in Monty Python And The Holy Grail where the king tells the guard that no matter what he is not to let his son out of his chamber. There are two reasons why this gag works. The first is because most people encounter this sequence of events in their own lives on a daily basis. We ask for someone to do something for us and then they assure us that they will and then go and do something completely different, all the while continuing to assure us that they get it, when they don't. It is funny and exasperating at the same time. Why? And here is why this is so spot on. Because of the assurance! It is the perfect setup in life. Rest assured! That is always our first mistake. We rest assured!

Paul Klee

Never rest. Ha! It is the assurance that is the kicker. It tells us that everything is fine and going smoothly according to plan. When in fact it is anything but. 

The reason that this is really part two is that when I tell you part one you are going to assure me that you get it. But you won't, and here is why. The but. Yes, but...

"Yes, but" is a "no."  Plain and simple. Yes is the assurance and the but is something else altogether. 

We have "yes, buts" for everything. "I know smoking is bad but..." And so on. "I know" is an essential part of that equation. "I know" is part ego and part assurance, and all denial. Saying "I know" destroys any chance of ever actually knowing. Delusion 101.

Pierre Bonnard

Throw away all the "Yes, buts." Clear the shelves. Instead keep "Yes," period. "No," period, is good too. "Maybe," period is even ok! Know where you stand. Let other people know where you stand!

Now here's the other part, part one(two?): keep your eye on the ball! That's right. As banal as that sounds, keeping your eye on the ball is everything. Easy enough. "Yes, but..."

Now there are all kinds of balls to keep your eye on. But for starters we are going to stick with the metaphor. Baseball. You're at the plate. There is a man on second! Keep your eye on the ball. The pitcher might be doctoring his pitches. Keep your eye on the ball! Your parents are in the stands. Keep you eye on the ball! Some guy is shouting obscenities from the stands! Keep your eye on the ball! Etc., etc., etc.!

Liubov Popova; Painterly Architectonic; 1918

So here is the deal. Art deal. As an artist you start by doing this thing you love. Keep your eye on the ball! You start getting attention for it. Keep your eye on the ball! People appreciate you for it. Keep your eye on the ball. You sell some things you made. Keep your eye on the ball! You might go to art school. Keep your eye on the ball! Your parents want you to be happy, which means they want you to make a successful living so that they don't have to worry about you. Keep your eye on the ball. 

For obvious reasons if you take your eye off the ball you cannot move forward. Keep your eye on the ball and everything else follows. 

When you choose this thing you love, you can never lose sight of it. You take your eye off the ball for whatever reason and you are lost. You will have no chance. Don't throw the thing you love to the wolves.

So many artists at some point take their eye off the ball. The pressure gets to them. Distracts them. Almost no artist goes into art for the money, but at some point they succumb to this notion that either sales equal success, or worse, that selling their paintings will be the answer to their money problems. 

When they don't sell their work they get a false sense of failure; when they do sell their work they get a false sense of success. 

Marsden Hartley

And then there is glory and fame. Be careful what you wish for. Fate planned it perfectly when she made most artists famous after they die. Being an artist requires a healthy dose of psychosis; they have to believe in themselves when no one else does. Add fame to that and it isn't pretty. 

These things are black holes. Artists can never be famous enough. There is always someone more fabulous to torment them. Keep your eye on the ball! There is a very long list of artists who achieved some measure of fame and it wasn't good enough for them and they were miserable and even killed themselves. They blinked! They took their eye off the ball!

Mark Rothko; Untitled

Furthermore being an artist takes an extraordinary amount of time and space, time and space fame won't afford them, which is why successful artists so often pine wistfully for their salad days. 

So just be happy you're doing the thing you love. And never let go. This love is your green grass; don't go looking over the fence! This love is your horse; stop trying to load up that cart in front of it! Keep your eye on the ball!

Addison Parks
Spring Hill

I write these things, get them up, and then I work them. Blogs are a process like that for me. Like a print it may progress through several states. If you like something, or more importantly, don't like something, come back, it will most likely have grown and changed.

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