The other evening at dinner, I remarked to Tom, “Well, today I really felt like an artist.” He gave me his “I-don’t-know-where-this-is-going-but-I’m-willing-to-follow-you-there” look & waited for me to continue.
Here’s what I explained: During my studio session that afternoon, I had experimented, observed, documented, jettisoned, recommenced & practiced, all the while enjoying the thrill of discovery & a blissful freedom from expectations. I had entered the studio at 1 PM with an idea, a willingness to explore it & a bit of trepidation; at 5 PM I departed with a pleasing sense of accomplishment, a clear trajectory for my project & happy anticipation for my next painting session. In short, I had engaged in typical, felicitous, art-making behaviors.
This was all noteworthy because lately I’ve been feeling rather too workmanlike – or whatever the female equivalent is – behind my easel. Maybe this is because I’ve been mostly using the same medium for the last decade. Over time, as skills increase, the proficiency bar gets raised higher & higher. Eventually, a quest for breathtaking technique can inadvertently supersede a project’s raison d’être & become an end in itself, an implacable goal to be achieved at any cost. Life in the studio then becomes much less felicitous & rather all too tedious, or at least it did in my case.
Fortunately I found a remedy: It was to become a sort of flâneur – or whatever the female equivalent is – in my own studio. Flâneurs are, most popularly, figures in 19th C. French literature who spend their time strolling the streets of Paris. More than mere idlers, though, they observe closely, delighting in & analyzing all they see & it’s specifically this quality of “detached engagement” that served me so well the other day: Instead of holding on to preconceived, joy-sapping goals, I was able to freely move about, so to speak, riding the wave of new-found creative energy, regardless of where it took me. And where it took me, plain & simple, was straight back to my passion for making art.
If life behind the brush or in front of the easel ever becomes plodding & dull again, I will summon up the metaphor of the 19th C. flâneur & roam freely along the streets of my creativity once more.
(This blog is dedicated to Charles Baudelaire.)