July 6, 2005

The Inspiration of Art


A few weeks ago I stopped by the studio of one of my painter friends, Sam Sartorius, to check out her new body of work. It was a day filled with small insights that have stuck with me.

I love that artists define themselves by different bodies of work, ones often reflecting very specific times in their life or particular influences that inspired them. It has left me thinking about how the rest of us define ourselves and what my next "body of work" will be.

The insight that left me temporarily awestruck was the artistic willingness to destroy something nearly completed if you believe a better work is yet to be discovered. Sam had a nearly completed painting, but felt like something wasn't quite right in the way it was resolving itself. She asked me for my take on it. I began to describe the reaction I was having to it. Before I knew it, I found myself with a paintbrush in my hand. I was painting over parts of a work that just a few minutes before I thought was near completion. While I nearly shook with each stroke of paint I added to the canvas, Sam stood by me casually as if this was a completely normal way to produce a stellar work of art.

And you know what? It actually is how anything of great value often ends up being created. How many times have you found yourself finishing something that had lost some of its appeal from when you originally started it? Just as many of us were taught to clean our plate, we often feel the need to complete something if only because we initiated it.

Too often we make it out to be unbelievably courageous to just say no, to interrupt one seeming pattern of success or satisfaction, and to search for a deeper purpose or meaning that you have a hunch is waiting to be discovered. The author Jim Collins has remarked that many people never discover what they are truly predisposed to do in their lives because the world starts paying them too well for something they find acceptable.

I am blessed to have many friends as artists, individuals whose sheer passion and daily existence teaches me more lessons than they can imagine. I try to spend as much time with them as possible because in a sense every individual is an artist of sorts, creating the path for his or her own personal and professional success.

I've had this gnawing feeling for some time that I am somehow letting my current success get in the way of the contributions I really am supposed to be making. The phone keeps ringing, the opportunities to consult and facilitate keep coming, and by all indications things are great. But my time in Sam's studio has taught me I may need to paint over the career canvas that seems so close to complete.

Postscript

I visited Sam again today to pick up some paintings I had purchased. As I scanned her works-in-progress, I tried not to be too obvious in my search for the canvas she had let me work on. When I finally spotted it, I was flabbergasted. Now more than 50% of what had once been complete was clearly being rethought from scratch. The character previously present was nowhere to be found and new shapes and forms were appearing in a very tentative state.

I commented on this transformation to Sam and her reply was priceless. "I'm waiting for it to tell me what it wants to be."

What is your life telling you it wants to be?

You can view Sam's previous body of work at her web site.

Nothing would please me more than for someone reading this blog to find inspiration in her art much as I do (I now own a half dozen of her works). To contact her about obtaining a piece for your own home or office, email her. Tell her the Tall Guy sent you.

1 comment:

Sue Pelletier said...

I am blessed in that my work, like Sam's, calls for constant reworking, tearing up, and starting over (I'm a writer/editor/Web geek/artist). Just the other day I shredded a completed 3,500-word article and rebuilt it in a whole new form that was infinitely better than the first go-round. Reinvention is a big part of what keeps me engaged and excited about what I do.

Life reinvention is a little trickier, but I've had many incarnations already, and fully expect to go through some more. Life is a dynamic thing, and my experience has been that the more things change, the more I don't stay the same. It can be hard to crawl out of a rut, because those ruts are familiar and comfortable--and ultimately boring. When I start getting bored, I know it's time to take stock and figure out what brush-strokes will be needed to make a stronger, more powerful life.

It doesn't make for an easy life, but it does keep things interesting!