I think a lot about art when I am making art, and well, pretty much when I am not. I make art because I absolutely must have something to focus on. It helps me deal with anxiety, depression, and frustration. In the past few years, I have developed a never ceasing case of tinnitus. Ringing in the ears. Ringing. It sounds so pleasant. Tinnitus is not pleasant. It is relentless and loathsome, and almost always incurable. And making art is about the only thing that helps me deal with it.
And even though that aspect of my life threatens to sometimes overrun everything else, making art is most important because it simply helps me to think clearly. To think, period. And this brings me back to the concept of integrity. In order for my art-making adventures to be satisfying, there must be some element of wholeness to it. While this is fairly clear in in my thinking, it is as difficult to explain as what tinnitus sounds and feels like. Ideas for making art come from everywhere. The thing that turns an idea into art, at least for me, is the way it bounces around in my head, negating or combining with other ideas, gathering momentum as it shifts from impetus to action.
I am reminded of a video game I used to love to play. I think it was called Katamari. Basically you start out small, in a variety of scenarios, and roll about acquiring stuff, making you grow larger and larger, until the things that stick to you grow from the size of paper clips to planets. This is a good metaphor for how it feels in my mind when an idea is becoming a piece of art. Almost everything that goes into my mind is fine-tuned by whys and what ifs. And that process never stops. It is not always pleasant, but sometimes it slows down or refines itself enough to become a concept for a piece of art.
I would become quite bored without this process. For example, suppose I decide to paint a tiger. Tigers are interesting and something about a tiger might settle in my thoughts until I am compelled to render one. But what is it that really draws me to draw it? The fierceness partly. A few years ago I decided to paint a tiger. At the time I was in the habit of covering my canvases with one inch dots cut from magazines. (More about that another time...) As I painted my tiger, I became bored. So what if I can paint a tiger? Then someone may come along and like tigers and they might want to buy my tiger. So what? Lots of people can paint tigers. And if my tiger turns out to be a great likeness of a tiger, someone will likely try to copy my style and paint a tiger very similar to mine.
But what else is similar to a tiger? What else can I do to this painting that will give it integrity? One day as I was taking a break from tiger painting, I was looking through magazines for tiger colors, thinking that collaging one inch dots to the surface would make it more interesting, and I noticed that in the fashion magazines I had collected for the purpose of dot cutting, almost every advertisement, at least on the surface, objectified women in some way. It occurred to me that I could cut my tiger dots from these ads, and use them as a subtle yet fierce rebuttal by way of my art. This recap of my process is, of course, much simplified. But the point is, instead of painting a tiger, I made a statement. And the dots, which at first glance enhanced the tiger painting, contained information, contradictory opinionated information and images, which worked together with my idea to take a stance against the need to objectify women to sell products to women.
Not long after I finished the tiger painting, a client bought it for her daughter who was leaving that week to go to college. She wanted to send it with her as she made her way in the world, to make a statement about what it means to be a woman making her way in the world. And that was another piece of the puzzle, a contributor to the wholeness of my project.
These are just a few thoughts as I start my day, and I know from past experience that this topic will impact my work today. These ideas that I rolled over and collected are now part of the core that is me that rolls about collecting both large and small, all destined to be fodder for art making. I will close today with these reflections on integrity:
"Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary."--Cecil Beaton
"Character contributes to beauty. It fortifies a woman as her youth fades. A mode of conduct, a standard of courage, discipline, fortitude, and integrity can do a great deal to make a woman beautiful."--Jacqueline Bisset
"I became a loner. I became a mountain man. A lot of those things are very good qualities and they help you do your work, help you be singular and keep the artistic integrity of your work intact, but they don't make it very easy to live your life."--John Milius
"The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively."--Bob Marley