“Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Chuck Close
Those words drew me into a book review published on brainpickings.org and eventually to purchase “Inside the Painter’s Studio” by Joe Fig.
The book is for a very specific audience. Fig interviews 24 New York artists and asks them a series of questions about their studio life. He asks them about their studio set up, painting tables, kind of paints they used, where they sat to contemplate and what their daily schedule looks like.
I ate it up. I loved hearing about their quirky little rituals (I have to bring tea with me to paint, I’m convinced it helps me resolve problems). I learned that contemplation is not the same as procrastination. It was a relief to know that established artists have just as much difficulty titling their work as I do. He asked whether or not they listened to music (most did – I believe painting and music are sisters, muses for each other). I also enjoyed the plethora of stories around the “professional artist” label.
The magical bits came at the end of each interview, when Fig asked them if they have a personal motto about art and what advice they would give to new artists.
I’ll share the collection that I plan to post on my studio wall (or tattoo on the inside of my forearm):
“I believe very much in the power of artwork… it provides another kind of tonic in opposition to the kind of brutality and violence that we have around us.” Gregory Amenoff
“Life is short. Life goes fast. And what I really want to do in my life is to bring something new, something beautiful, and something filled with light into the world.” Ross Bleckner
“….the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will – through work – bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great “art idea.” And a belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel everyday.” Chuck Close
“…I want my work to have a little bit of a living spirit in each one…” Inka Essenhigh
“…the making is more important than the object for me.” Barnaby Furnas
“…great art should be vulnerable to interpretation.” April Gornik
“…you have to let the paintings lead you. You really have to let them have a life of their own.” Bill Jensen
“You are the best guide for your work and its path.” Julie Mehretu
“I think it is very very important for an artist to be truthful to themselves. I think the worst thing for an artist to do – ever – is to paint what they think other people want them to paint or what the market wants them to paint.” Steve Mumford
“You should do two things at once: what you do and what you don’t do. I think what you do instinctually proceeds from your heart. And what you don’t do is what you need to learn with your head. So you need to do both.” Amy Sillman
Lastly, Fig asks for advice to new artists. The overriding theme from the answers was about community. The artists recommend that you find your people, a group of like-minded artists that you can grow with and support. They believe that a peer group is essential to navigating your way.
I feel so fortunate to have the support of so many artists on the Sunshine Coast. Reading this reminds me of just how precious our community is. When you attend art shows, look around, the artists are there too, supporting each other.
I’ve been showing this past year or so in Vancouver and developing a community there too. Recently, I met 5 other artists at our opening at Unison. It is a delight to meet artists in the city, regardless of our medium, we connect quickly, perhaps because the quotes above are our shared and unspoken creed.
Thank you for supporting art in the community you call home.
Note: The book is worth a review because of Joe Fig’s art itself. On first glance it seems that he has interspersed the book with a series of photos of the inside working of the studios often with a wide shot including the artist in the scene. On further inspection, you realize that Fig has constructed models, tiny models of each studio. They are overwhelmingly intricate and life-like, incredible pieces of his own art form. I’d be happy to lend out the book. He has published a second book, “Inside the Artist’s Studio.”