The quotations are piling up - ones resonating or provoking thought that I think worth sharing. Most of these are coming off of Austin Kleon's Tumblr - a constant source of thoughts about art and the making of it - I highly recommend it if you are not already a follower. Let's begin with this:
“As an artist, you make your work and you push it out into the ether. People are free to react however they want. Whether that means they buy a print from you, or print it out themselves, or even adapt it into their own work. I’ve friends who rail against every perceived slight on their copyrighted style, and it brings them nothing but misery and constant frustration. They see imitation and parody as a price you pay for doing good work. It’s not a price you pay. It’s a reward you’ve earned. You were lucky enough to making something with which people connected, and it got a reaction. You can’t police what that reaction is.” (emphasis mine)
- Olly Moss ( @ollymoss ), reacting to posters parodying his work
I'm not here to argue the pros and cons of copyright infringement although I do understand its importance in the grand scheme of things. But for me, who is not trying to make a living with my art, and who knows how much borrowing has always gone on in the art world, I rather like loosening that grip we try to keep on our "things & ideas" with this more uplifting idea of imitation being a reward that you've earned. Yes, I have to admit, there's a bit of flattery involved when I discover someone wants to emulate something I've done. (Austin says in his book, though "Imitation is not flattery - it's transformation that is flattery, taking the things you've stolen and turning it into your own thing.") More flattering still when they think to give me credit. Always gratifying when there's a reaction.
Somewhat akin, here is a portion of a Robert Genn letter that speaks to the benefit of putting your work out there.
"A kind of karma takes place when a work of art goes out the door. Even as a gift to a friend or for charitable purposes, finding a home outside the workshop or studio completes the circle. The artist can rationalize that while the work is still his or her very own, it has a more illustrious future on someone else’s wall. It marches out to create good will, win friends, influence people. When a work hangs in a gallery or some other space, even a virtual space, it begins its true life. At least it’s on its way from orphanhood to finding a home and a family. We artists have to realize that our work is our principle currency, a source of joy, and the bringer of a lot of the good in our lives."
Hold what you create too closely, for fear of it being stolen in some way, and you lose a major reason for creating in the first place.
This one speaks to the feeling I often get that I have very little to do with what's going on as I move through my day, that I am NOT in control of my senses!
“I don’t invent. It’s not about my signature. It’s something about perception. My eye picks up things in nature… It has to hit me as something I haven’t seen before, and that gets harder as I get older. But I’m not searching for something. I just find it. The idea has to come to me. I find myself in nature—the roof of a building or a shadow, something that has the magic of life, fragments I can take out and build on…. I have trained my eye to play with images. My eye is like a dictator for me. I don’t understand it, but it rules me. And it always surprises me.”
- Ellsworth Kelly
I was surprised at how closely this describes how I've been operating the last 10 or 15 years. My eye really has become a dictator.
This next one comes out of a sort of fun post about Marie Condo, the "tidy up queen" that some swear by and others hate. Austin finds things to agree and disagree with as well as quotations to provoke additional thought about some of her methods. Boy, did this one ring true for me:
"My friend John Unger had a good take on balancing tidyness and messiness in the studio: My rule is— keep your tools very organized so you can find them. Let the materials cross pollinate in a mess. Some pieces of art I made were utter happenstance where a couple items came together in a pile and the piece was mostly done. But if you can’t lay your hands right on the tool you need, you can blow a day (or your enthusiasm/inspiration) seeking it."
When I put together my first solo exhibit, pulling out lots of old work to go with new pieces, I noticed a trend that became the theme of the show: one thing leads to another. I've always known that scraps left from one project often sparked the idea for the next, and that many of my fabric pairings leading to a full formed idea were the result of them accidentally ending up next to each other. So yes - a bit of a mess can be a really good thing for the creative mind. But when it extends to your basic tools - rulers, markers, cutters, etc. - you really do need to stay organized. Hate to admit how many times I've blown my studio time trying to track some small thing down and yes, feel my enthusiasm fade away. You can read the entire post here.
This last one speaks to my misconception about needing to stick to one thing. I'd read so many things discouraging "serious" artists from branching out into different mediums or styles if they wanted to build a clientele, among other things. Also that idea of jack of all trades, master of none has played on my mind. Stop dabbling and focus, I'd chide myself. Stop working on things having nothing to do with textiles - or art for that matter. But that really isn't very good advice, as Austin points out at the end of the post.
"The thing is, you can cut off a couple passions and only focus on one, but after a while, you’ll start to feel phantom limb pain. I spent my teenage years obsessed with songwriting and playing in bands, but then I decided I needed to focus on *just* writing, so I spent half a decade hardly playing any music at all. The phantom pain got worse and worse. Luckily, about six months ago I started playing in a garage band with my friends every Sunday. Now, I’m starting to feel whole again. And the crazy thing is that rather than the music taking away from the art, it find it interacting with the art and making it better–new synapses firing, new connections being made, etc.
So, yeah, it’s a lesson I constantly have to re-learn: don’t discard. Keep all your pieces in play."
Fortunately, I'm learning to keep the guilt thoughts at bay, having gained more understanding of how all our activities are inter-related and benefit each other, if we only let them. Read the post here, where there is a wonderful selection from Steven Tomlinson talk at TEDxAustin in 2010.