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The SOMETHING From Which Ideas Spring: Part 2

Last year I was talking with one of my mentees about idea times as opposed to production times. As aforementioned in Part 1, some artists are inventing and discovering mostly as they produce. While others–like myself–are largely doing that work before they produce. Often my strong visual imprints arrive when I'm not in production mode. I'll be sitting with a blank journal, staring into space. I'll get a vague composition in my mind's eye (the something in action). At that point I'll draw a loose sketch or series of thumbnails based on the composition–and if I'm lucky–the unique sensation of the piece will be transferred to my paper. This sensation is a magnetic pole I orient every part of my being to. But it's often challenging to remain steadfast to the early ephemeral-imprint. Because these ideas come from the something, they're mysterious to me—and largely without direct narrative, statement, or explicit meaning.

The Blasted Why

Over the years I've become more adept at dipping into my daydreams and retrieving an imprint. But I have to remain extremely vigilant afterwards; I can't be shaken by the infernal why. In this case the why is eerily destructive.

In the pursuit of critical thinking, we're taught to attach a lot of importance to the why of things. There's a popular perspective in contemporary art that even requires artwork to have a clearly defined concept in order to establish its validity. This concept is not just an aesthetic point of view, it's often supposed to be a critical observation or statement the artwork is performing. That school of thought would like to convince you that the why is possibly more important than the how or even the what of a piece. Due to my open antagonism towards the value of why, I can be perceived as not caring a fig about it. I would argue, though, that I care deeply about it—but less as a validating pursuit, and more as something to be feared. Why's awesome and terrible power only seems to enflame my insecurities.

If I let the pursuit of why meddle in my creative process, I'll quickly lose the very delicate structure of my imprint. An important part of my strategy is letting go of the why, and trusting myself to make art—without the ability to defend it.

After all, I can always decide to privately archive a piece later on if I don't want to expose it to the criticisms of others. I never have to stop myself en route while making it.

This can be particularly tricky in a climate where sharing-as-you-go feels natural. A broad audience could consume your work instantaneously through live streams, process videos, and instagram posts. Cultivating enough privacy to feel safe while taking bigger risks is something I personally struggle with.

Holding Little Dreams

So, the next trick is to hold on to the imprint gently. While remaining sensitive enough to find and greet new invitations to collaborate with the materials. After all, I'm not creating art in some magical void where I express ultimate control over every element. I get to have a much more interesting adventure that's full of discovery. A more fulfilling (and practical) approach is one that leaves space for some improvisation.

—I am reminded again of dreaming. If I become too focused on telling a dream, then I run a risk that the story I tell might somehow leave a stronger memory than the original. But if I don't relive my dream in some way, then I risk losing the delicate memory completely.

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