two books and two things said

Last time I spoke about reading and rereading Art & fear... that may give you a hint just where my mind lingers at the present moment.  Another book I picked up again today is Austin Kleon's Show Your Work.  Something I would like to do physically more often.  

First an aside...  that phrase "show your work" always brings me into  Math class!    As a student I hated that command.  As a teacher it made sense.  I needed to be able to see that a student  had discovered the path that lead to the answer; that, guessing even though it may have helped initially, the concept needed, to do the work, had been processed and followed.  Which meant a demonstration of understanding, or at the very least a rote method  of how to solve  certain problems that had similar variables. 

Kleon is more shouting out loud in bold type that to be discovered as a creative "artist", crafter. entrepreneur, you must show, meaning share your work. Otherwise it will never be seen.  Absolutely true,  and I think you can see why this was an aside... grin...

 But he takes a couple of quotes out of Art & fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland and suggests a very different meaning than the one I came away with. In his defence Kleon is using their words to support his notions without some of the complications... a quick fix,  a sound byte ,if you will,  to counter the fear that all artists feel at some point.

In his chapter "take the people behind the scenes"  he says:

"Traditionally, the artist has been trained to regard her creative process as something that should be kept to herself.

Then he quotes Art & fear:"To all viewers ,but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process; the experience of shaping the artwork."

Without separating that quote out on the page he goes on to elaborate his notion that this statement means that an artist should keep  the"toils" to herself until she has a fabulous product that she can show ... Ta Da... to her audience. 

Then he closes the paragraph with another quote from Art & fear: " The private details of art making are utterly uninteresting to audiences because they're almost never visible-- or even knowable--from examining the finished work."

Criticizing this perspective as belonging to those of the pre digital age,he goes on to suggest the artist of today has a much larger opportunity to do exactly as she wants, to share whatever she wants whenever she pleases. 

 Well it just so happens  I bought Art & fear just before Christmas and have read it through once and am rereading it again so I went hunting for the quotes Kleon used to see if  he had got the context wrong for his interpretation of one of the ideas in the book was not the same as mine.  The two quotes he has used come from very different places in the book therefore to couple them as support for a position seemed a tad presumptuous.

The first quote comes from page 5 and  occurrs under the subtitle 'Making art and Viewing art are completely different at their core".  The authors say that process only matters to you, then go on to say :" the viewers' concerns  are not your concerns(although it's dangerously easy to adopt their attitudes.)"

I read this quote to mean the viewer has a different set of priorities when looking at  an artwork. The maker does the work. The viewer looks at the work.   It doesn't mean an artist should not share  her process. It means that just because the process is important to her does not necessarily mean that the viewer will automatically appreciate the work. 

The last quote comes from page 61 and the authors are talking about  how an artist keeps doing the work over and over, through the years, that we often have habits that are crucial to how we begin or brushes that work better or???   The sentence that is immediately before is:

"Only the maker(and then only with time) has a chance of knowing how important small conventions and rituals are in the practice of staying at work.  the private details of art making are utterly uninteresting ... etc..."

and they sum it by saying:

The hardest part of artmaking is living your life in such a way that your work gets done,over and over-- and that means among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain useful.  A piece of art is the surface expression of a life lived within productive patterns."

If you read to the end of  Kleon's byte... he  indicates just what his aim is in "showing your work"   it is in his words..." By letting go of our egos and sharing our process we allow for the possibility of people having an ongoing connection with us and our work,which helps us move more  of our product."

Kleon is writing about selling more and Bayles and Orland are  writing about making more, not giving up for fear that you or your work will never mean anything. Bayles and Orland are not about  staying silent about process so the art appears magical and only done by the talented or genius.  They say out right at the beginning "Art is made by ordinary people." But they want you to continue to make art throughout your life not to just sell it.

 They are not afraid of the digital exposure we thrust ourselves into each day.  Bayles and Orland are about dealing with the individual fears that prevent us from continuing to make art even if others don't listen,read,or want to look for us. They want us to reflect on the fears and face them by doing more work. To keep working, to grow and not just be visible.

Much deeper than it appears if you only read Kleon, reminding me to take the time to read deeply, to see more, to register the nuances of thought and how reflection bring us to play.

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