Jump to content

Some thoughts for a friend.


Guest Clive

Recommended Posts

When I developed a serious spinal problem two years ago I got very frustrated at not being able to work.. to be quite candid about it now.. although most of that battle is now behind me, it did almost break me.. both physically and emotionally. I'd always thought that the 20 years of carving up until then were really just me doing my apprenticeship so it was a cruel universe that would rob me just as the first signs of something a bit more meaningful were emerging. I think about it all now slightly differently.. it was a hard lesson to learn but the apprenticeship concept was just a way for me to excuse myself from not having to truly examine what it was I was doing for much of that time. You see.. I believe good art is about self expression, but what do we do when most of the time we don't have anything to say? What I think I and perhaps a lot of us then resort too is a form of mimicry.. we create what we believe we would like to express rather than what we at that point actually feel. Our art mimics the image we would have of ourselves.. rather than a true window to our soul... ?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good question, Clive and I hope your back problem's improved now.

 

It's sometimes difficult to know the boundaries between when you're just being an apprentice, just being a mimic (even of your own work!) and genuinely having something to say and expressing it with feeling in an art form. I find it easier to recognise with poetry. I usually write in bouts of about 2 years at a time. After that, I seem to dry up and start forcing the words, phrases, meters and ideas. As I can feel the forcing, I then usually stop for a while. It's frustrating when these gaps develop into years, but I've learned to do other things in the time available, as I know now I always go back to it with new/different themes in hand. With textiles, the cycles or working time are usually much longer, but, even then, I need a break when I get stale. Now, with netsuke, everything is still new - carving, kumihimo, knot-tying, macro photography - so I'm truly back to the beginners stage and it'll take years to get beyond that, if ever I do.

 

That stop-start process is fine for me; I don't have to earn my living by either poetry or art; as long as I have something creative on the go, I'm happy. It's much more difficult for someone who's devoted his/her professional life to the development of one art form. I know one artist who could churn out paintings in a particular style and they always sold. He grew to hate it, realised he was stuck in a rut and started experimenting with different styles, themes, ideas. His gallery and art world judges were very dubious about the new work at first and for about 4 years his annual sales diminished. He bit the bullet, though, and is glad he made the change (and other changes since).

 

I think many artists hit this kind of turning point and all have different solutions to the issue and different emotions/feelings they feel confident of bringing to the work. For myself, being true to what I'm feeling at the time, about myself and the particular piece I'm working on/material I'm working with, aligned with both skill and the ability to still experiment is important. Do I ever achieve it fully? No, but at some points the combination runs smoother than at others.

 

Otoh, what is 'bringing feelings to a work'? Is it one particular feeling you want to express in/for a particular piece, or to express a combination felt at one particular time, or to express some genuinely felt and not others, or to express the whole of your personality in the presnt piece? Basically, in any art form, the feelings/emotional area, along with conscious or unconscious suppression/expression is, at best, very complex and, at worst, a minefield.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To pull the curtains back from the true window to my soul would be uncomfortable for others and for myself. It is a frightening thought at the moment.

 

Questions abound. Will I ever not feel like a student or an apprentice?

 

I will be 59 in a couple of months. How much time do I have to carve? What fills my mind may not be suitable for expression. My thoughts are visited with mortal concerns for some of my family members. Why must I face having to work for mere financial survival at this point in my life? What does it mean for my work, what might it cause to happen with my choices for the next pieces?

 

Reflection upon that which brings calm and peaceful memories into my mind are what I carve. True memories and a desire to revisit such places fuel the work. When I did begin to carve the young and old frog piece some year ago, it became a prophetic image. Begun before knowing that my father's death was imminent, its completion was realized when I was able to return to work after his death. That took a lot out of me. I do not want to (perhaps cannot) invest such emotional energy into every piece that is to be shared with the world.

 

Clive, your thoughtful question stirs deeply in the place of my inner turmoil. I hope that it will encourage the many concerns to coalesce and move me towards meaningful work. There are so many concerns to deal with, at times I don't know how to move forward. Was not life supposed to get simpler as we age?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, Janel, I think life gets more complicated as we age. I think that one of the reasons that we might "resort to mimicry" is that we develop habits. Whether carving, painting, writing or even just making dinner, we unconsciously tap into our reservoir of learned responses to the tasks at hand. We take shortcuts and simplify our techniques due to a plethora of reasons. When all of us began our journey on life's creative path we were wide eyed and open to anything. We were (in our minds) immortal, full of energy and thought we would change the world (that we thought surely owed us a living). As we get older other responsibilities creep into our collective attention spans. Family issues, paying bills, and the constant reality that old age and death is lurking ahead of us. Also our fanbase changes along with their spending habits and purchasing priorities. Fortunately, in this field, we don't fail or succeed on how we look (thank God) or our athletic abilities, but we simply can't stop the cellular degeneration that takes place in our bodies and brains. One thing that I feel in response to concerns voiced often in this forum is that we really need to make a concerted effort to stop judging ourselves and become our own best friend instead of our worst critic. It's like never attaining Nirvana when always focusing on the Mantra.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe good art is about self expression, but what do we do when most of the time we don't have anything to say?

We play!

 

And I don't mean something like mimicry. Do not play somebody else. Avoid that at all times and everywhere in life. I mean, enjoy the skills you have developed. Use them just for your own pleasure. That is the key: For Your Own. Nine out of ten you find yourself talking sense. Might take a while but who cares, you'r having fun!

 

Besides, I don't believe there is a true 'feeling like a master'. Those who feel that way are for sure no master.

All artists I admire are seeking, trying and learning. No... life ain't simpler as we age. So you better start learning to play!

 

Dutch historic J. Huizinga wrote "Homo Ludens" in 1938 about play and playing as a cultural phenomenon. See: link

Lots of nice quotes possible. I like this one: "Play cannot be denied. You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play."

 

It is okay to be unsure about ones intentions and even achievements, but don't overdo it. (or you end up like Van Gogh! ;) )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suppose that comes down to personality and perspective.. I think the lesson I learnt during my recent illness was that I hadn't confronted my deepest fear.. when the thought of not working ever again became a possible reality my deepest regret was that I hadn't been a severe enough critic of my work or path... and it is really only you, yourself that truely knows. What now lies beyond saying something or minicry for me.. well its something really scary.. its my ordinaryness... my common speckyness.. and therein lies my meaning if ever I've got the balls to go after it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

mimic |ˈmimik|

verb ( mimicked , mimicking ) [ trans. ]

imitate (someone or their actions or words), typically in order to entertain or ridicule : she mimicked Eileen's voice. See note at imitate .

 

mimicry |ˈmiməkrē|

noun ( pl. -ries)

the action or art of imitating someone or something, typically in order to entertain or ridicule : the word was spoken with gently teasing mimicry | a playful mimicry of the techniques of realist writers. See note at caricature .

 

I took a moment to look up the above words. I wonder Clive if your use of the word is meant as imitate or the act of imitating only, not necessarily "in order to entertain or ridicule" as the definition reads.

 

-----------

 

That you met the fear and possible reality of not being able to carve again while incapacitated must have been a heavy and transformative time for you. It is difficult for me to ponder the depth of thought and emotion you must have experienced during recuperation. You had a lot of time to think. Every day that you are now able to return to the carving bench or to other creative activity must certainly bring with it a gratefulness for the ability the body has for repairing itself, that you have more time to create.

 

 

------------

 

It will be a difficult exercise, to express what is felt ... greater than realism in a subject ... or an imitation. The concept posed with your first post may urge some of us towards deep introspection. What might result as our expression attempts to describe a feeling?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course it is about personality and perspective. And about experience and circumstances. Don't get me wrong (damn language barrier) I do not think light about this. I understand you faced your greatest fear, that changes perspectives.

But as Roosevelt said: "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

It's good to reflect and trying to struggle out of "common speckeyness", but it's not a life living in need to make every work a masterpiece. That's a sure way to unhappiness my friend.

 

Warm greetings, Leon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wonder Clive if your use of the word is meant as imitate or the act of imitating only, not necessarily "in order to entertain or ridicule" as the definition reads.

 

I mean to use it in an imitation sense Janel.. while the dictionary might refer to another common usage, it is a word that is commonly used in natural history and in particular in entomology... another of my interests. No sense of ridicule meant at all... I did say a "form of minicry".. and defined that to be "our art mimics the IMAGE we would have of OURSELVES..."

 

A really crass example.. grossly simplified for effect.. When I lived in Ireland a lady who for many years was a nun but later became a painter used to live next door.. she was well known for her beautiful serene muted landscapes, delicate and subtle colour graduations. harmonious compositions.. really peaceful images. Sadly she developed cancer and was tortured by the most severe pain for a number of years.. but the painting stayed the same.. .. it was almost as if she clung to an image she had of herself.. terrified of letting go. Then one day after a long chat (actually I got her very drunk on numerous pints of guiness) she just popped.. she started painting the most violent storms.. she later told me gave her an enormous sense of actual physical release from the pain. She died a year or so later peacefully but those last paintings sure where powerful pieces and amongst the best she ever did.

 

It's good to reflect and trying to struggle out of "common speckeyness", but it's not a life living in need to make every work a masterpiece. That's a sure way to unhappiness my friend.

I understand my good friend.. and appreciate your concerns.. I am however OK.. more than OK.. its the way it should be for my character.. going back to what Janel asked earlier.. about things getting simplier with age.. in some ways yes they do.. we understand more the challenges we face and yet at the same time because of that experience and wisdom we can attempt to climb the highest mountains that lies within us without fear of falling...

 

and fall I probably will.. but it will be the most gentle of landings... to fall without regret.

 

Kindest Regards

Clive

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you Clive for opening this topic. It helps me to acknowledge that most of what I do is perhaps that sort of mimicry, without insertion of what roils inside or is involved with my life at the time of working. Having grown up stuffing personal feelings, not making waves within family and personal relationships, choice with what I do create quiets the work while trying to do it well, living and working in a quiet setting, in a quiet way. I am aware of it, and wonder if I will ever dare to carve the storms.

 

Thank you for the explanation of how you use mimicry, it is what I thought you meant. Thanks also for the illustration with the work of the painter. There is much to learn yet in this life, much to reach for and to try. I appreciate the opportunity for constructive introspection.

 

Janel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Clive, this is a great topic. I've been thinking about this subject now going into the second day. Two things that I read today come to mind as appropriate to the subject matter:

 

"In the time of your life, live-so that in that wonderous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite variety and mystery of it."

-William Saroya, American author (1908-1981).

 

and this from an unlikely source: "Non Sequitur" by Wiley.

post-1558-1256481247.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Clive, I've seen far too few of your works to make any comment on mimicry, but from the pieces I have seen I am prepared to wager that you are at your best when working. It is a gift both in the receipt and the giving. I suspect you fall into a "zone" when working and bollocks such as economy, notoriety and failed democracy to some greater or lesser degree, fall away, and in those moments although Nirvana is not fully attained, you feel it caressing, tickling and prodding you onward. I've seen you do it and I want to see more.

 

cheers,

 

Jim

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Believe me, Clive, I understand the gravity and seriousness of the subject.

This was me last year after my 3rd emergency trip to the hospital. The first time, I was misdiagnosed as having pneumonia and acid reflux disease. The second time my gall bladder failed and I collapsed at work and was rushed to the emergency room via ambulance for emergency surgery. The third time, I collapsed on the bathroom floor and my wife rushed me to the hospital at about two in the morning. My pancreas was shutting down due to a blockage from the previous problem and had it hemmoraged, I would have been dead.

Doctors said that I had a 40% chance of dying then. I didn't like those odds.

 

Anyway, I fully recovered, lost 20 pounds, gave up drinking alcoholic beverages, renewed my committment to art, but mainly stopped competeing with myself and others. I just do my thing and enjoy making things, knowing that I do something that not everyone else in the world partakes in. I have fun again with it, and so can you!

post-1558-1256482184.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Mike and Jim,

 

A few months ago I sat on the log in a wood while looking for the beetle I posted a picture off.. its called the wasp beetle.. its a classic mimic. The log was covered in bracket fungus.. and since I had just finished a piece that featured those fungus, I just sat there looking at them like they where a familiar old friend. Then something dawned on me... I thought I had carved the bracket fungus.. but I had imposed my image of myself on them. I told my story through them... I always do that.. everything is autographical.

 

So I started a new carving... one in which I'd let the brackets tell their own story.. free from me and my idea of what my art should be... or at least to whatever conscious degree I could.. I'd just try to provide the raw energy that drives the story but who is essentially just a conduit. I suppose that what I've been getting at.. Its a scary thing to let go like that.. and as I sit at my desk now.. I wonder how their story ends.. the essence of this fungus is to drain every last little bit of nutrition from its host!! .. I hope I've got the wit to bail out just before in gobbles me up completely.. but I'm also very curious as to what will happen if I don't.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's another story, perhaps related, perhaps not.. it just came to mind.. a soldier in the trenches of the first world war is found wondering about in a trance like state.. he just keeps picking up little pieces of paper.. looks at them and drops them.. again and again.. just wondering around. Well the medics are called and they suspect the fellow has lost it and so take him to hospital.. but there he just carries on doing the same thing.. looking for bits of paper.. picking them up.. looking at them.. dropping them.. Well after a few months its decided that this fellow is of no use in the army.. and in an office he stands in front of a panel of doctors who shake there heads and hand him a piece of paper.. he looks at it and shouts HURRA!!! .... his discharge paper.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I have said in the past. I too have confronted and still am dealing with the same questions as you Clive. After 30 years of carving I realized a great deal of my work was craftsmanship not art. There was no true exploration or expression just expanding on previously learned techniques and themes. This was a real wake up call for me.

 

The past five years have been a continuing stream of traumas and dramas with family, health and business. I have been trying to find my voice, my expression and my passion. Taking a true look at ones self, ones work and how you truly fit in is a hard task. As a creative person it is my belief that this is the one all important task that will make or break you. To move forward is to face fear, to give up control, and stop trying to impose your will in what you do.

 

The creative process is an in the moment affair that takes place right in front of your eyes, between your hands with the outside world a distant affair. Letting go of your fears of failure, the intellectualizing of the process and opening up to the possibilities takes courage.

 

I find as I age that this process has become an exploration of greater depth, deeper meaning and more personally sensitive revelations. Even though the expression of these discoveries becomes harder the results also become more rewarding. The energy required is greater and the results are not always proportional. On the one hand putting work out that truly expresses my thoughts opens me up to more hurtful critique but on the other hand I care less about what people have to say. The expression becomes more of a personal need, more of a personal therapy.

 

I will say that my mortality and sense of relevance in this ever changing world has placed an urgency upon things. I have realized that there are explorations that I will not have time or energy to pursue. My carving time is finite. It is because of this that the task of facing those fears, letting the work take me where it will and the sincere effort to let go of control has become a quest unto itself.

 

I want the work I do now to count for something, to be more than an exercise and to be a reflection of what I have sacrificed to get here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Clive:

 

My name is Debbie Kirkpatrick and I've read a lot of your postings on this forum, so I feel as if we are acquainted. I, like you, have struggled with many health issues over the last 10 years, some have resulted in inability to walk, much less work.

 

My husband was a practicing Buddhist for a while, and I remember a quote he once told me; "Meditate like your hair is on fire." I am 53 and feel my life winding down and realize that if I don't do "it" (whatever that is) now, I may not be able to do it ever.

 

Are we ever able to see our work objectively? I don't believe it's possible. We always bring so much emotional baggage to the piece (this is the pretty one, this is the ugly one, this is the smart one, etc.) we don't see them the way others do. And others see them differently from one another. I went to London some 17 years ago, and was standing in the National Gallery looking at one of the amazing Van Gogh Sunflower paintings, one of the multiples he churned out in a hurry. To me, it was an astounding painting, the background looked like hammered gold and the whole painting vibrated. Next to me stood a woman and her daughter. She said "I don't see what the big deal is, I could paint that well". I could only laugh at her derisively, unable to think of any adequate response.

 

I have been an artist in denial for most of my life. I was sent to a museum school at the age of five because I was gifted. I was in a painting program in college. I didn't want to do what others wanted me to do, so I wasted a lot of time. I also reached a point where I believed I had nothing to say. This was not actually the case; I had nothing to say that I wanted others to hear. I did and still do react poorly to "ART" and all of its connotations. But I finally faced the fact that I am compelled to make things, and if I'm going to make them, I want to do the best job possible.

 

Some of my pieces are deeply personal and make me feel as if I am standing naked in a public place, some are what I call "throw down" pieces, ones made in a hurry with no real thought given to them, some are "homage" pieces and some are concept pieces. I have found that I have absolutely no ability to predict what other people will think of them or why. They always bring their own experiences, prejudices, likes and dislikes to the table. I have found that, on the whole, the "throw down" pieces are ones that are most liked, the ones that I couldn't control where they were going and had no idea where they would end up. They seem to have their own voice, not mine. I don't believe my soul is at issue here, it seems they have one of their own.

 

I know everyone works differently, this is only my experience and I know everyone else's is probably not the same. I used to be concerned about making a "masterpiece" but that concept changes with every new piece. I look back on the work 5 years ago and see what could have been better, and I don't really believe that this will ever change. I honestly believe the most important thing is to keep working, and be a human doing rather than being. I know my approach isn't very thoughtful or deep, but it works for me. I just try to do better with every piece.

 

I hope you are feeling well enough to do the work that you want to do. I agree with Leon, play is important. It's interesting to see where things go without a plan. The best of luck to you.

 

Debbie K

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many thanks for your reply and best wishes Debbie.. There were a number of points you raise that stuck a cord with me.

 

... and all the very best to you too.

 

Kindest Regards

Clive

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find as I age that this process has become an exploration of greater depth, deeper meaning and more personally sensitive revelations. Even though the expression of these discoveries becomes harder the results also become more rewarding. The energy required is greater and the results are not always proportional. On the one hand putting work out that truly expresses my thoughts opens me up to more hurtful critique but on the other hand I care less about what people have to say. The expression becomes more of a personal need, more of a personal therapy.

 

I will say that my mortality and sense of relevance in this ever changing world has placed an urgency upon things. I have realized that there are explorations that I will not have time or energy to pursue. My carving time is finite. It is because of this that the task of facing those fears, letting the work take me where it will and the sincere effort to let go of control has become a quest unto itself.

 

I want the work I do now to count for something, to be more than an exercise and to be a reflection of what I have sacrificed to get here.

 

I was really moved by this post Mark. My tale is more of finally finding opportunity to express and realizing that years have been lost. I doubt I will ever be a master carver or artist for that matter in any medium. My ADD nature ensures that I will flit amongst the flowers staying long enough admire and drink and then move on. I would like to fool myself that this is accomplished with poise or grace but it seldom is. What I have left is the title autodidact, whether it suits or not will be for others to judge. Even that will pass in time and I will eventually be forgotten. Me and the rest of humanity long one.

 

I lost a son several years ago. It is amazing how little memory of him remains both personally and collectively. I went to the art gallery of NSW to an exhibition of Zen paintings and the work of Master Tessu blazed off the wall.

 

Apologies for the rambling nature of this post, thanks for opening this up Clive. I think it was Seneca who said "the unexamined life is not worth living" This is critical to our evolution.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Arts and Crafts"--What are they? How do we distinguish between them?

 

Crafts take a good deal of skill; but one can produce good, or even great craft with little or no originality.

 

We might stipulate that there are probably Mediums that are incapable of rising above the level of "Craft"--though I will back down to anyone who has a determination to elevate some "Mere" Craft into Fine Art. Who am I to discourage him?

 

I once asked an Art Instructor if any Serious Artists used Crayon.

 

"Yes."

 

"What about Finger Paint?"

 

After a long thoughtful pause, "Not that I know of."

 

But if you want to be the first--why couldn't one do Fine Art with Finger Paint?

 

Then there are a host of Human Endevours that are generally Craft; but become True Art in the hands of Certain Masters.

 

Art requires a certain degree of Craft, before one can do much. Sometimes the Craft aspect is difficult enough; and accomplished Craftsmen so few and far between; that many Mere Craftsmen are mistaken as Artists--perhaps even to themselves.

 

Art requires Originality. Art Requires Deliberation. Art should convey some Meaning--though it may not be expressible in words.

 

Deliberation: A purely Random Process that generates pretty artifacts can't rightly be called "Art" regardless of how decorative they turn out to be...

 

Once again--I won't argue. Suffice it to say, some apparently Random processes may not be all that random in the hands of a Master...

 

Sometimes, through sheer dogged determination, we may find that something that we struggled with hopelessly; turned out to be a "Work of Art" nonetheless...

 

But generally, Art requires Inspiration--whatever in Hell that is. Maybe on the days; or weeks; or months that we're uninspired--the best that we can turn out is Workmanlike Pieces of Craft. There is no shame in turning out "Pot Boilers"; "Works of Craft".

 

Even "Mere" Craftsmen are extraordinarily rare and precious nowadays. Perfect your Craft, so that your works of Craft are nothing to be ashamed of. Turn out pleasant Crafts (When that's the best that you can do) Both for their own sake--and as invaluable preparation for the day that the Muse moves in with you; and keeps you creating day and night.

 

Ain't one in 10 000 can tell a piece of Craft from a Work of Art; when they're by the same Artist...

 

And as the years unfold, you may find that at least occasionally, you were too harsh a critic of yourself...

 

.....RVM45

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I once asked an Art Instructor if any Serious Artists used Crayon.

 

"Yes."

 

"What about Finger Paint?"

 

After a long thoughtful pause, "Not that I know of."

 

One of the greatest Artists of the last 100 years.. Paul Klee used both.. interestingly relavent to this thread was how he adapted his tecnique and subject matter towards the end of his life as he suffered from the debilitating wasting disease which eventually killed him.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...