Friday, May 13, 2011

Are you serious?

This theme of being too serious with your work has popped up on a couple of blogs that I have read this past week and it has me asking what’s wrong with being serious about your work? Whitney Smith had a good post about being too serious, too perfect, and I have gone back and re read some of Scott Cooper's posts and found one from back in March about being too serious. I don’t understand, why is this considered a bad thing? If you look at the work these two people create, it is because they are serious about what they do that their work is so exquisite. Adrian Arleo is one of my favorite artists, her work is beyond great and she is not playing. She is very serious and she works slowly and methodically and everything is exactly right, and look at the work she produces.

Over the past years, I have taken numerous classes and workshops, talked with potters I admire, worked with them, asked many questions, read everything I could find, just to learn to work with clay. I rushed through many things, sometimes knowing that I was just working something out and it probably wouldn’t survive my scrutiny anyway. I have also rushed through wheel work, just to get the muscle memory, just to practice. I have thrown away so many things, so many bags of clay, much of it recycled clay that I got for free. It was all practice, time needed to learn and to grow and to develop. I am finding now that my work is really slowing down. I pay close attention to detail, hearing the voice of my college professor telling me that this is important, even though I have been out of college for over 20 years.

When I look at the artists I admire, the one thing that links these people is that they are very serious about what they do, they approach their work in a professional manner, they have a strong work ethic and they work all the time, and usually at a relatively slower pace. They are meticulous about their work and it shows. This is what I am striving for and I am very serious about what I am doing right now, although I have no where near reached the excellence of artists like Arleo, and probably never will, she is in a league of her own. I do see my work getting better and better, I am getting into more shows, approaching galleries that I would have never thought of contacting, and my sales are growing. These shows and these galleries are not looking at mediocre work from artists that are not serious about what they do. Their reputation for quality work would not allow this. I have worked in several community studios and loaded so many kilns full of student work, all of it so similar, and this makes me push myself to get better and better, I have learned so much from all of those imperfect pots.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about wabi sabi and having fun. I leave imperfection in my work, I want to see the marks, but it takes mindfulness to know which marks speak to the work and which marks need to be tended to. I also have a lot of fun and don't work all that hard, but I want to get more disciplined.

I’m not that serious as a person, I’m pretty immature, which is possibly why I don’t look my age, I can be really silly, I laugh a lot, which can drive my family crazy and I’m pretty lazy. But when I walk through the door of my studio, I’m serious. I’m not putting work out there that embarrasses me and that takes some work. I am doing the best work I know how to make right now, it still isn’t what I want it to be, it is still growing, but I like it and I know it will only get better if I work hard to make it better.

In other news, I found out yesterday that one of my pieces was chosen for the NC Landscape show at the Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh. I was in this show last year and my piece sold. It’s a really fun show and I’m happy to have been chosen to participate once again. I also sent off some applications for fall shows this week, fingers crossed on those!

Tonight is Friday Artwalk and the reception for my show, looks like rain, of course, what else! Come on by if you are in town, would love to see you!! The bowls in the above photo may still be there, not sure if they have sold yet.....


Peter said...

Yay... Good for you!

When I was a painter (in a former life) I used to squirm and churn internally when people enthused about painting being "so relaxing", and going away on painting weekends where they all "loosened up and splashed away with bright colours".... etc, etc. I have to say that, these days, I hate going into galleries most of the time, because of the huge number of mediocre paintings that crowd the walls. Sounds judgemental of me I know, but.. I was painting for over 20 years before I diverted into pottery, and I painted the hard way from life... not photos, and tried to paint honestly and gimmicks. What I see so often in paintings is colourful fluff and bluster, just paint effects and fizz with no substance. All products of the "loosen up, hang out, and enjoy the pretty colours" way. If you applied similar logic to learning the violin as what people apply to painting, then the scraping and howling of out of tune violins would be offensive...!
So..., good for you. Art is serious, deep and often lonely. Great to see you progressing and having more success with galleries and sales too!

Tracey Broome said...

Well said Peter, thanks! I agree there is a lot of repetition in painting today, lots of "filler" no substance at all! I remember some of the drawings you posted in your blog, you really should do more of them!

cookingwithgas said...

and yet- don't ever lose that fun part of you- be serious but leave some joy in there to balance things out.
Best for your show tonight!

Tracey Broome said...

Oh, no worries there! I am 12 years old after all!

jimgottuso said...

damnit, i just typed out this really long and SERIOUS comment on you post and when i hit publish it disappeared. my point was that maybe the semantics of the word "serious" might be the problem insofar as you can be serious about your profession as a painter or potter and still remain un-serious about parts of the process of painting and potting. i like peter's analogy with musicians and it is absolutely true but when musicians become skilled through serious devotion to the skillset, they eventually get to a point where they don't have to focus on the mechanical technicalities and are allowed to improvise and maybe it's me, but when i watch a jazz band interact and improvise with the melody, tempo, even the lyrics or songs, i never feel like they're being serious. they seem to be having some serious fun though... i guess that means that i'm seriously un-serious. damn, the other comment was written better than this one.


Yes, serious, committed, devoted to the point of every day getting up, putting on those blinders of household chores and getting out to the studio. Musing while in the car, line at the Post Office, parking lot while waiting to pick up sporty teenagers. Planing, calculating, wedging, for the glorious moments of being in the cave of clay creativity, otherwise known as my studio!