Friday, May 9, 2014

Art Advice

Three pieces of art advice that I have gotten over the years stick with me, surface from time to time. The most recent one, received at an artist residency around seven years ago from a visiting curator has proved pivotal to my practice since then. The first two, received from my brother maybe ten or fifteen years earlier helped me get through the intervening years.
    He looked at a drawing I was working on and simply said, 'use more black'. I repeated this to a friend or two for a laugh and they carried the wisdom around, inserting it into any remotely relevant conversation. I indeed started using more black and I found the advice fruitful. Too much space left untouched can leave a drawing free floating. Fear of blocking in white space with ink can stop a young artist from just going for it - fill that page, thicken those lines, shade like you mean it, like you don't care if something goes overboard, you can always make another one. The advice of course pertained to a specific drawing. The advice became abstracted and took on other finer meanings. It meant, roughly, work it. Or finish it, or make it more of itself. Another piece advice that my brother gave me has been told elsewhere, was issued when I was down after not getting a mainstream job drawing editorial cartoons. It was a 'use more black' tailored just for me. Brother John said, 'Bill', he calls me Bill not Billy, 'you can freak out better than most people can freak out, so … freak out'. I've been freaking out better since.
    The result of freaking out led me to continue feverishly a program of rampant experimentation begun in early adolescence. This then led to the third piece of advice, given to me by someone who hardly knew me personally and only knew the art that I made during the seven week residency. He told me, simply, 'stop inventing'. This threw me for a loop as I have always prided myself on what I perceived as versatility. The curator showed me the flip side to that. He was suggesting that instead of constantly churning out new ideas I may want to hunker down and refine a select direction. This would lead to a better grasp on my overarching themes and a honing of my skills. I don't think I've stopped inventing but I certainly keep the advice in mind. I often find myself spinning a whole new look instead of refining one that has served me well in the past. Since that day I have made a conscious effort to understand my various tendencies, to group traits and relate them in a cohesive manner.
    I have continued to invent but have become much more proficient at contextualizing, refining and understanding the art that I make.
    Thanks guys.