This is another in a series of posts on some of the issues involved in being a professional artist.
"Greed. Greed is good. " The famous line by Gordan Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) from the movie Wall Street.
In a contrasting opposite in art it is: Doubt. Doubt is Bad. Present your art with ambivalence or be indecisive about the work you make and your art cannot have much future or exposure, I believe.
Why would I write that? Isn't some indecision part of making things? Isn't some working through various issues what we do as creative people? You can't be blind to other approaches, for sure. But what we do as artists is all about making decisions, knowing what we want and what we don't want. Think about this: lighter/darker, contrastier/flatter, this included on the edge of the frame/this not included on the edge of the frame, printed smaller/printed bigger, less saturation/more saturation, less sharp/more sharp, emphasizing this color palette, that color palette, sharp here/sharp there, and on and on: literally hundreds if not thousands of decisions to be made on a per image basis.
Let's look at a few scenarios.
-You're in class and it is time for you to present your new work. You pin the prints up. You say that you're not sure about this print or that one. You can't state with clarity what your project is about. You're not sure of the sequence or in the printing of the works, are indecisive about their size, not sure whether they should be in black and white or color.We know how this class is going to turn out.
-You've made an appointment to show the new gallery in town your work. The night before you've driven your family nuts with your problem about which prints to bring. At the presentation you talk a lot and try to explain the compromises in the making of the pictures; this telephone pole was in the way, just before this photograph was made there was this wonderful moment (which you missed), this is the best print you could make from this underexposed frame, you felt this picture needed to be in the portfolio even though it is a little out of focus, etc. We know how this interview is going to turn out.
-You're helping hang your new show. You're not sure if the sequence should run left to right or right to left. You try double stacking the framed prints but can't tell if that's a good idea or not. You've printed two versions of one image but can't decide which one to use. During the day you ask the gallery staff for their opinions (which vary widely) from the owner all the way down to the intern delivering coffee. At the opening the next week you are sure you've sequenced the prints wrong and that the mistake kills the show. We know how this show is going to turn out.
Or, while working on your new project you seek advice, opinion and response but filter these opinions with your conviction about the work's direction and execution.
You ask for help editing the work and listen hard to what your trusted colleagues say.
You know when the project is finished but are open to different interpretations.
You begin to show it around; a colleague, a gallery owner, a museum curator, an editor. Although rejected by some you carry on, sure of the rightness of the work. Their opinion matters but does not dissuade you about the efficacy of the work. In thinking of the reactions you're getting you go back through the work and make a few revisions, change the sequence by one image, and reprint a couple of prints.
At some point, quite simply, you move on as you've begun working on a new project and you are eager to acquire the pictures.
1 1/2 years later you get a call from the museum curator who wants to include the project in a three person show of work by artists working within the same idea as yours. And, oh yes, they are printing a catalogue of the show.
I believe that doubt is the self fulfilling prophecy of failure in making art. I would rather see clear and bold total wrongness in a project than a project riddled with self doubt, misgivings and apprehensions.
Look, being an artist is an egotistical thing. Making art is essentially putting yourself out there for all to see. Of course, they're going to be critical. Taking lumps comes with the position, my friends. If you can't stand being in someone's cross hairs maybe it's time to consider what your real objectives are.
The other thing that's critical here, as a foundation by which you can build up into work that embodies self confidence, is the realization that all the responses, reactions, reviews, critiques and evaluations don't mean anything, for you really need to make the work to make the work. Making work for praise is not good, for with this you are beginning to fall into a very large trap. This is radical and please know that I am looking through a prism of making art with aspiration to a high level. Those that make work to garner positive reactions, reviews, sales, etc. are sunk. I don't believe an artist should make work by calculation, by thinking through steps necessary to achieve a certain goal.
Doubt. Throw it out.
Calculation. Next up in the series.