do it. create. walk and see. cut and paste. scratch and sniff.
do whatever you have to do to feed your soul.
this is my commitment.

Friday, January 10, 2014

How Artists Work

I haven't written a book report for a long time.  That isn't for lack of trying.  I recently read Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry.  This is an easy read and reference and can be picked up every so often and read in bits and pieces.  There are over 161 artists mentioned with an average of a page dedicated to each.  I took notes on a few artists that peaked my interest.  

Edward Abbey
"A writer must be hard to live with: when not working he is miserable, and when he is working, he is obsessed."
Although I consider myself a painter, first and foremost, I really seem to identify with books on writing more than those regarding the visual arts.  I always substitute the word "creative" or "artist" when the word "writer" is used.  

I also identify with these intense feelings and "suffer" from both!

Louise Bourgeios
"I work like a bee and feel I accomplish little."
I also read that Louise suffered from insomnia and started/completed a lot of her drawings in the middle of night, in bed.

Willa Cather
"I don't hold myself to longer hours; if I did, I wouldn't gain anything by it...if I made a chore of it, my enthusiasm would die."
I have an addiction to the creative process.  It's so good when it's happening that, even when I know it's over, it's hard for me to stop because I want the feelings to continue.  

There are times when I find that painting turns into a chore or obligation, too, and I cannot afford this.  Once this occurs, it is best to get out and completely become absorbed in another activity.

Chuck Close
"If I work more than a few hours at a time, I really start screwing up."
me too!
"Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up and get to work."
two words: create everyday - ha!

Willem de Koonig
Even though he worked in a commercial building where the heat was turned off at 5pm, he could still be found late at night whistling while painting and all bundled up.
I consider it a good day in the studio if I catch myself singing and dancing around while painting regardless of what is produced.

Carl Jung
"I've realized that somebody who's tired and needs rest, and goes on working all the same is a fool."
a difficult lesson to learn but one that is sinking in, nonetheless

Henri Matisse
"Do you understand now why I am never bored?  For over fifty years I have not stopped working for an instant."
Yeah, I think a creative person would rarely consider any aspect of their life "boring" even though, others may label it as such.

Joan Miro
Miro was known to paint from 7am until noon, take lunch and then a nap.  He met with friends after 2 pm in the afternoon.  He did not like art openings and parties.
No matter what routine I create for myself, this is the one that is most natural for me, too.  I always love it when I hear about renown artists who didn't like to attend art openings and parties.  It's such a relief to me.  I can do one every once in awhile but they definitely aren't a priority at all (even though sometimes I wish they were).

Georgia O'Keeffe
"The morning is the best time."
When referencing the other activities of life, she said, "...But always you are hungry through these things with a certain amount of aggravation so that you can get at the paintings again because that is the high spot...the painting is like a thread that runs through all the reasons for all the other things that make one's life."

Pablo Picasso
Picasso claimed that, even after three or four hours standing in front of a canvas, he did not feel the slightest fatigue.  He was also known to be disturbed by social events and obligations.

Gertrude Stein
What I read about this gal surprised me so much.  She liked to look at rocks and cows!  She would drive around in an attempt to find the right cow to sit and watch.  It was mentioned that she completed an average of a half an hour of writing a day.
"If you write a half hour a day it makes a lot of writing year by year."
Have you tried substituting the word, "write" with creating, painting, etc, yet?

Twyla Tharp
Tharp has written the book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.  Structure and routine are very important to her.  Some might even refer to her routine as too rigid.  She says, "When it all comes together, a creative life has the nourishing power we normally associate with food, love and faith."
So true.


  1. ah! my comment somehow didn't go through. argh.
    i am affected by the jung quote for a series of reasons. and i love what you said about the edward abby quote. an artist friend of mine has said the identical thing, and i think it's because as writers, with words as our medium, we use the effectively to communicate something about the creative process that all artists/creatives feel. thanks for this post! (this time i'm copying this before pressing publish!)

  2. A great selection of artists rituals. Also a relief to discover that some disliked openings - I'm always grateful to have an exhibition but I don't enjoy the openings at all. This is a very inspiring collection you've chosen to highlight.

  3. Thanks for posting this Kari! I'm about to start my morning ritual and you really got me thinking!