This afternoon I found myself in a critique and discussion with an intern, Rebecca, at the studio and over a drawing she was creating as an educational challenge and sample in her portfolio. We were addressing the issues of compositional design in the work and I was pointing out various possible solutions, from expanding the horizontal structure, to adding elements, implementing patterns, and potentially unifying shapes within the background. All of these present plausible and successful outcomes in the resolution of her image. Yet which one to choose?
I found myself recalling a wonderful quote by Yogi Berra, which I turn to more and more these days as a teacher, instructor, and artist:
“When you come to a fork in the road…take it.”
It does not matter which direction you choose, only that you make a choice and commit to that decision. The key word here is commit. Far too often I see artists stumble through the process of artistic choices in the development of an image because the world of endless possibilities presents itself to them. In general, endless possibilities is what is the BEST thing about art – there are no boundries, no limit to infusions in your art. But at some point, there is a need to cut, reduce, and select specific content and elements to bring about resolution and focus to an idea. Thus the best solution becomes the one that you commit to, follow through with, and complete to its finish. Do not look back over your shoulder at what you ‘could’ have done, nor gaze across the fence at the greener grass. Infuse the work you have now, in front of you, with your love and passion. That will guarantee its success, and your success, as an artist.
After striding through many of the worlds greatest museums and galleries, the one fact unifying all of the art I have seen is that it was created/finished/committed to in its execution. From the massive canvases by Jacques Louis David in the Louvre to the Pieta by Michelangelo to the intimate Persistence of Memory by Dali, these incredible works of art exist and provide us with inspiration and pleasure because artists decided to stay the course and finish the art. Through all the turmoils, all the mistakes, accidents, all the forks, they stayed committed to the idea that this art needed to be brought forth in a completed manner.
As I approach the Illustration Master Class this coming week and my workshop at TLC Studios in Seattle, I will be raising Berra’s advice and pushing all the artist’s I speak with to make a choice, commit, and then complete their concept from the beginning, through the rough parts, and into the finish within the limited time we have to work upon them. It is stressful and challenging, but part of growing as an artist. To spend too much energy second guessing decisions, will leave very little fulfillment in the success you will feel once the art is finished. And once the art is finished, you can cast aside any reservations and begin fresh on that next, new, and inspired idea!
Yes there ‘could’ have been a different path to tread, and yes that art may have been ‘better’ if that was taken. But the journey is not always about conquering problems, making the right choice. More importantly, it is about how each artist will have learned something in taking the journey they did, and thus at the next Fork they come to, they will be prepared to make a more confident choice. The better choice.
Thank you. All the choices can be so overwhelming. Your words are a good reminder not to regret having made a decision.
Solid thoughts, thanks, Donato. There's a wonderful quote attributed* to Goethe:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
*The quote may be a bit of an amalgam of his writing (http://www.goethesociety.org/pages/quotescom.html).
But it's worth writing down and pinning on the studio wall. Might be a bit too long for a tattoo.
wow, thank you, this text is inspiring! I was struggling to finish a piece I've started because some mistakes in anatomy, but I will finish it and I will continue to study more. But I learnt a lot with this piece, and that was great.
absolutely a great point, Donato , i find to many people feeling that their art is “precious” and that every decision is the “last” one, and that every painting is the final marker of your success as an artist. stunting our growth with indecision , stunting our well being with it. Golem , had it wrong , the “My precious” paradigm , is a prison that we create for ourselves . thank you for your thoughts.
Really great point and I suspect a much needed reminder for many of us.
I actually recently read an article on decision making that quoted C. S. Lewis for saying: If you are 70% content with a choice, stop wasting more time on considering the cons and pros and just commit to it. I thought it was a good way to make decision making easier.
Fantastic post Donato. Something I don't doubt every one of us deals with on a daily basis. The first step down a particular path is always the hardest.
This is a topic really valid for me recently. I've been struggling with a painting, and as I'd have gone further into concepting it I found more and more ways to do it. As I was doodling out another compositions I'd think that a new one would be even better. This got to such a point that I put the painting aside. Now I think that I'll come back to it and finish it.
Thank you for the additional quote Jim. It is advice which can govern much of our lives…See you in a few days at the Illustration Master Class!
I too have been imprisoned by the precious paradigm! Wanting to make that foray into a new medium or approach a special work of art. Sometimes I need another artist reminding me that the journey is as important as the destination.
The energy to propel a body into motion is usually more than needed to keep it in motion! Basic physics rules the artistic lifestyle 🙂
Yes finish it, or it will continuously haunt you for months in the future! Take that energy and ideas which you were playing with and channel it into a new work of art…Best of Luck!
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When the canvas is blank, limitless possibilities exist and we are tempted by the grand vision of what will become. Then we make a choice to begin and every stroke, every line and every color choice reduces the possibilities until only one possible outcome exists. Every choice you make leads to the final result. If you don't like it, it's your own fault because you chose to take your piece there. If you want your art to turn out differently (or better) you have to make different choices. I have learned over the years that most of these bad choices are not related to what I actually put down on the canvas, but things I chose to not put into the effort. Such as, not making that extra exploratory sketch, not reshooting that reference when I knew I didn't have the right information, not correcting bad drawing, not doing a color study, etc. Failure to Prepare= Preparing to Fail. When I commit to do the extra work, my pieces turn out much better.