“When you start working, everybody is in your studio- the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your own ideas- all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then if you’re lucky, even you leave.”
The above quote, by perhaps my favorite painter of all-time – Philip Guston – is one I come back to often in my work. This is regardless of my work being painting, drawing, coloring, writing or even just getting things done around the house. There is a Zen sensibility to the quote, and that has always resonated with me as an ideal working state for anyone in the midst of creating. It is a state I imagine as sprinting. Pushing yourself ahead of all those thoughts and ideas that are rushing up from around you. Distractions from the work, and where you are.
As we head to the end of the year, my wife and I are both pushing hard to finish numerous deadlines, commissions, projects and jobs. We have all kinds of commitments everywhere, and on top of that we have a new old house that demands our attention, and a lovely young daughter who deserves it . We are at the precipice of a number of great transitions and we are doing little now but committing to a pattern of work, fuel, work, sleep, work, and repeat. Now is about the work at hand, and we only allow ourselves only moments to relax as we dream of the last week of the year, the great end of the year holiday season as our next moment to fully catch our breath.
At times I think we have let ourselves feel overwhelmed by our schedules. But this year things are different. We are rising towards future goals, and we are doing work we love. All of our efforts are centered around art-making, writing and crafting. We are sprinting towards the future.
And at least for the moment, we sprinters need not think.
This is an ideal state for creators and one we are embracing. Of course a time will come when we will change our hats to editors, critics, accountants and career counselors. We will face the demons of downtime and the doubt filled chasms between sustaining projects. But that moment is not now.
At this moment, we know what the work is and we know what needs to be done.
We are sprinting. And we need not think. We must only burst forward, push all of ourselves into the work, strain muscles and heart while willing forward. Focused and calculated, but staying ahead of the slow verbal states of word and ideas. In creating I think you have to achieve a kind of physical state of seeing, reacting and acting – when the course is set there is no need to doubt or critique.
Don’t stop to give names to things or criticize your fingers. The voices in your head that want to call an all-stop and look to see what’s wrong – this is not their time. They want to evaluate the direction, remind you of the thousand other tasks. They know at some point bills must be paid, and as much as they are right, they can’t be welcome now.
We are sprinting, and we have to give the moment to the muscles we have spent so many hours training.
Eventually, their moment will come, we will slow and jog into a comfortable pace. Let our heartbeats rest, and our other eyes, our critical and rational eyes will open. From that point we can evaluate, reformulate, allow ourselves to correct course and catch our breath for the next direction and push forward.
Right now though, we sprint.