e s s a y s
It’s Done When You Love It
We tell our students that a work of art is finished when,“You love it”. What may seem like a simple statement really is at the heart of the artistic experience, and for some may open up whole new ways of being in the world. We would like to explore this idea of loving one’s work as a form of empowerment and introspection. By centering our curriculum around the student, teaching whatever each asks to learn, we are also saying that only the student knows when a piece is done. In the same way that we step in to help problem solve with students so that they can get at their ideas during the process of creation, so do we look at the declaration completion as something as personal as an artists own heartbeat.
Love is a word that embodies qualities of forgiveness, and compassion and honesty and celebration. To love one’s work is to embrace all that goes into its creation. It’s a work that strives for emotional maturity, that acknowledges success in the presence of flaws. In art, the struggles and frustrations as well as the surprises and accomplishments can be found in every brushstroke, scratch, smear and marking. It is the presence of a real human that makes art so valuable to us. Think about how much we feel through Van Gogh’s emotionally driven style. The thickness of paint and drive of the brush stroke are heavy with feeling. Think about the dripping intensity of Edvard Munch’s “the Scream” or the wild abandon of Jackson Pollack’s splatterings. Art at its core is really is all about deeply getting to know one’s self and one’s life experience through the process of creating. Recognizing the truth revealed in the work is the biggest step towards learning to love.
We discussed earlier how so much of art is problem solving. How beginning a piece is like creating a problem, and it is not finished until the problems have been resolved. Just as we seek to empower our students to work through problems until satisfying solutions are found, so do we encourage them to keep working on a piece if there is anything about it that they do not like. It’s a process that keeps the decision making in the hands of the student while the teacher asks questions about the success of the work. “Do you like how this tree looks? Or would you like to change it?”
“Do the eyes feel alive, or would you like to add some depth and light?” Do you feel you have captured a sense of light to evokes a feeling?” You can see how leading questions encourage a student to be specific in their satisfaction because they elude to the knowledge that a teacher can show them a way to improve the work.. A great teacher is poised to see authenticity in student work and is dedicated to helping that student recognize it. In this capacity, a great teacher has great knowledge and experience in the language of art and can help a student understand what they are expressing in their work. It may seem funny, but this is often not so obvious. It’s a skill that deepens and sharpens with practice, guidance and time. Ultimately, when a student expresses satisfaction with their work, a teacher must always be respectful even if they disagree as this dance is how trust is established. Every student must feel their creativity both supported and protected.
A student/artist may feel a piece is done simply because the process has been one they valued, and the work represents that experience. Sometimes a student will feel that they have learned from the project, yet may loose interest in the actual manufacture of it. Loving the work is about finding a place of compassion for ourselves. Sometimes feeling love for work is a quiet compromise sympathetic to weakness but optimistic about the process of getting better with practice and patience. As the famous architect Corbusier said, “Creation is a patient search.” In a sense this process of learning to love ones work is also about learning to love one’s self. It is a very healing experience. Most therapists will say that self love and self forgiveness are some of the most elusive and important healing experiences. This process puts the concept of success into a subjective context. It cannot be quantitatively measured, and should not be compared to others. Success can be evaluated in the context of goals and growth over time. It’s important to help students see their success as so many have a very critical internal dialogue that may impact their ability to recognize their great accomplishments.
It’s done when you love it. The choices and paths that lead to this place are infinite. This process of finding love for and in work is very much a philosophical approach that mirrors the eastern yoga tradition where growth and change happen best when a result of a balance between effort and relaxation. As artists, we strive, we make efforts, towards goals of self expression. But inevitable along the way, things change, almost as if the work its self has a mind of its own and wants to be a certain way out of the control of the artist. Relaxing into a state of mind that celebrates these deviations rather than fighting them is vital to finding joy, and love, in one’s work. In a sense, this is a process of acceptance, and openness to unpredictable opportunities. It is a willingness to be even greater than we can imagine. It is process that taps into unknown forces, internal and external, and celebrates the lack of one black and white answer. This more feminine, more receiving, way of approaching creativity can have lasting effects on us culturally. Our society has long held the tradition of manifest destiny, of reaching out and taking what we want. Sometimes this instinct can lead to picking no the sweetest, ripest berry, but the one that is biggest, closest, or easiest to reach.. In art we learn to be patient and to stay open to the surprises inherent in the creative process. We learn to be excited about the unknown, and the unpredictable. We learn that life in balance is more a matter of exploring the gray area rather than grabbing what is black and white and holding on tightly. As a culture we are expert at effort, and only beginning to embrace the more vulnerable, yet equally powerful, art of surrender.