I have received this question many times over the years. A student or another artist will email me introducing themselves and describing how they want to make work and they would like to use my methods. Inevitably, the question asked is, “how do you make your work?”
And always my answer is, I let the ideas guide the work. Formulate what you want to make art about and why. I am flattered that other artists would bother to reach out, much less want to emulate what I do. The truth is there is no hidden trick or method being used. I don’t use chemicals or treatments. And I don’t have assistants making the work for me. I like to keep my hands “dirty”. For me, art making is a collaboration between the senses and touch is an integral component. It is also the only way to figure out how to make the piece. By making it.
The real way I “make my work” is to let the ideas guide the process, not the materials or the methods. These are secondary to what I am trying to convey. My “technique” is to tune into the message of the piece and the ideas behind it. (See more on this in a future post.) Then I choose materials and experiment with ways of making that enable me to create an artwork that is the physical embodiment of an idea I want to explore.
The truth is there are many, many experiments that go wrong and are utter failures. However, I am a patient person (when it comes to working in the studio - not so much in real life). I will keep working, trying new things, setting them aside, working on them some more until something sticks. I have spent months working on a sculpture or painting only to scrap it and start again. Yes, this can be frustrating. But I have learned the value of hanging in there. And I trust the process.
By keeping at it daily, without outside constraints, something wonderful usually happens. But you have to push through to get there. And that is probably the hardest part of being an artist. The never being quite sure how things are going to turn out, no matter how hard you work or plan.
So, how do I make my work? With tenacity and patience, trust and a sense of understanding of the process. These are the primary “techniques” I have up my sleeve. I have a good friend who often says that it takes twenty years and hundreds of other paintings to make that one painting. I quite agree. Part of the artist’s job is to keep at it every single day, no matter what.
What are you passionate about that you obsess over every day? I would love to know how other people deal with their work, no matter what it is! Leave a comment and share your thoughts!