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.