Saturday, August 29, 2015


After reading yet another article proclaiming that an artist “must make art” (You’re only a writer if you “must” write.) I can't help wondering if this is true. Wouldn’t it rather be non-artists who have to go out and earn a living doing something they hate who must do what they do? 

There are two facets to this idea: obligation and inspiration. But what is the schedule for creating? Must you make art every day, once a week, bi-annually?

The inspirational aspect would be that we have to do it because the urge to write/paint, dance/compose etc. is so strong that a real artist can't resist it. This is a very seductive but unrealistic idea. Inspiration doesn't happen every day and just because you don’t write every day doesn’t mean you’re not a writer. The same goes for painters, dancers, sculptors and musicians. As a matter of fact some people think it’s a bad idea to try to write every day, to schedule creativity. Read Lev Raphael's thoughts on the subject.

Artists don’t create all the time. We don’t do it every day. We do it when we feel like it. If we want to make something good, even great, we wait until the idea is fully cooked before we execute it. Creating every day because we've been told to leads to half-baked, mediocre art. Even commercial art that has to adhere to a deadline takes thought and thought takes time. Usually longer than a day. To make good art we must fritter and procrastinate for a while as we think. Very little good art is ever created spontaneously without considerable thought. ("Must fritter" would be a better idea.)

Like Picasso’s lengthy pondering on how to render a three-dimensional effect in a two-dimensional painting which lead to his creating Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (above) which eventually evolved into cubism.
“I’m an artist, I must make art” is a grand statement that was probably made in a passionate moment and it may make some people feel important but mostly it creates pressure, making us feel like frauds deficient in passion or talent if we’re not driven to make art every day. Feeling obligated isn’t conducive to producing good art. It's a wise artist who waits until they're ready rather than rushing into art unprepared.

When inspiration does strike however, it’s a different matter. Artists can withdraw into a zone of creativity for days or weeks, even longer. We don’t want to talk or think of anything but the creation. It’s like falling in love. Like Pygmalion and Galatea. Nothing else exists. That’s when we “must” and do create.

But it’s temporary. Thanks goodness, or we’d all be dead from too much passion and there’d be no more art at all. 

                                             ART, WRITING, CREATING, PASSION

Thursday, May 21, 2015


One day, 35,000 years ago, a group of homo sapiens were hunting bison in what would become Northern Spain. It wasn’t the first time they’d hunted together and they soon made a kill. As they skinned the beast and prepared the carcass for eating, one of the more observant hunters remarked on the color of the skin and the beauty of the beast they’d killed.
    “Beauty?” said his co-hunters looking at the bloody carcass, perplexed.
    “Yes,” he said picking up a stick and drawing in the sand as the herd had run off by then. “Their back has lovely angles with a tuft of fur on it here and the horns are fine S-curves.”  When he mis-drew, he smoothed the sand and redrew the shape of the bison.
    His mates were impressed.
    “Wow, you’re good at this. That looks just like it.”
    “Did you notice its legs are darker than its body? An elegant animal.”
    “I know a deep cave where you can draw that on the walls and it will last longer than the sand.”


Is this how parietal art came to be?
However it happened or why, Paleolithic people did make many finely observed studies of the animals they hunted and of their fellow hunters and above all they selected deep caves protected from the elements to paint in. And because they did we can be moved and inspired by what those artists saw 35,000 or so years ago. One of those anonymous parietal artists could even have reached through the millennia and influenced some of Picasso’s very modern drawings.

People today arrogantly wonder how Paleolithic people could be so talented and observant 35,000 years ago. And why not? They were of the homo sapiens  persuasion, just like us, why would they not be able to observe their surroundings and record them just as skillfully as we do? Human inventions and cultures may have evolved greatly but actual humans haven't.

People also wonder why these artists made their finely observed paintings and drawings in caves where they apparently didn’t live. Perhaps as legacies to the future? Perhaps these well-protected caves were considered the museums of the time and Paleolithic people went there to marvel at the art, just as we do today and future generations will too. Ars longa, vita brevis n'est-ce pas?

     Top left: Altamira 23,000-34,000 BCE  / Top right: Picasso's "Bull - Plate 5" 1945