"To make art is to sing with the human voice. To do this you must first learn that the only voice you need is the voice you already have. Art work is ordinary work, but it takes courage to embrace that work, and wisdom to mediate the interplay of art and fear. Sometimes to see your work's rightful place you have to walk to the edge of the precipice and search the deep chasms. You have to see that the universe is not formless and dark throughout, but awaits simply the revealing light of your own mind. Your art does not arrive miraculously from the darkness, but is made uneventfully in the light.
"What veteran artists know about each other is that they have engaged the issues that matter to them. What veteran artists share in common is that they have learned how to get on with their work. Simply put, artists learn how to proceed or they don't. The individual recipe any artist finds for proceeding belongs to that artist alone -- it's non-transferable and of little use to others. It won't help you to know exactly what Van Gogh needed to gain or lose in order to get on with his work. What is worth recognizing is that Van Gogh needed to gain or lose at all, that his work was no more inevitable than yours, and that he -- like you -- had only himself to fall back on.
"Today, more than it was however many years ago, art is hard because you have to keep after it so consistently. On so many different fronts. For so little external reward. Artists become veteran artists only by making peace not just with themselves, but with a whole range of issues. You have to find your work all over again all the time, and to do that you have to give yourself maneuvering room on many different fronts -- mental, physical, temporal. Experience consists of being able to reoccupy useful space easily, instantly.
"In the end, it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot -- and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice."
Today's photographs: The hound at one of our favourite spots on the hill behind the studio. I often sit and work here in the spring, nested among granite and moss, while Tilly watches ponies and sheep drift through the valley below. By summertime the pathway to these rocks will be impenetrable, swallowed up in bracken and briars. This is a secret place, a faery place, opening up and disappearing again as the seasons turn. Folklore warns us to be careful of such spots lest we, too, vanish under the thorns.
Words & Pictures: The passage above is from Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art-making by David Bayles and Ted Orland (The Image Continuum, 1993). The poem in the picture captions is from All One Breath by John Burnsides (Cape Poetry, 2014). All rights reserved by the authors. The drawings are by Eleanor Vere Boyle (1825-1916) and Walter Crane (1845-19150.