Mastering the Ordinary

Talk and writings about mountaintop experiences are quite common in the online world. Quotes of inspiration and dissertations about being our best or doing what seems to be impossible in the face of all obstacles flood our senses and brains. I have had those moments but to be honest most of my days were about showing up and just pushing through all of the distractions and resistance to do my job. You heard right, ‘do my job’. Do you mean that making art at times is just a job? Reality is that on most days it is that. Trudging into the studio; doing menial tasks and just getting the job done for the day.

So do you mean it is ok to not always feel I am going to set the world on fire with my art at least for today? Yup, exactly what I am saying. I know we are all bombarded with quotes of being extraordinary and stories of overcoming tremendous odds but in general actual artists live in the trenches most of the time with the ‘occasional’ mountaintop experience. Let’s strip away all of the romantic notions of what being an artist is and what we see is that the nitty gritty of making things is unglamorous, unromantic and in the end a discipline of repetition, skill development, and idea flow that typically evolves out of solitude and introspection.

The studio is a messy place where we get real about the work we do, the problems to be resolved and our place in the hierarchy of both the art world as well as life. Whenever I thought a bit too highly of myself, because I was in a period of conquering everything I put my attention on, I would be reminded internally that if I don’t make art for a week or two nobody would really care much. But if the garbage man didn’t pick up the garbage for two weeks everyone would be in an uproar. Always gave me a dose of reality when I got real about it all.

Ironically some of my best work came out of mundane periods. I actually came to like the quiet periods in my life where I could focus on what I wanted to and to a degree block out the childish stuff like adulation, needing approval from the status quo and on and on. There is plenty of distraction and ego centric bullshit that you can buy into if vulnerable to it all. After all isn’t that what Facebook is all about? It is a virtual gallery where artists are seeking approval and adulation and the continuous stroking of our egos. But the downside is that it strips us of our core energy of focus and independence. After years of finding my way through all of the things I thought were important to an art career and life itself I came to one glaring and consistent conclusion. Whether it is what I have done or what I see when I am out there engaged in encountering other people’s work it is this; there is nothing more satisfying, gratifying, fulfilling or however you want to characterize it than seeing a ‘great’ work in the midst of all the mediocrity and cheesy stuff that tends to dominate a lot of venues.

I always know and appreciate that these special pieces came from a lot of unglamorous, unromantic days when the last thing being considered was how great I am but rather how great it is that I have been a part of the creation of this piece and for me there is no greater outcome from my choice to be an artist.

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2 comments

  1. Bravo Tony! Very few people however, including artists, critics and powerful people in the art and educational establishments really “know” an exceptional piece when they see it! Case in point late Philip Guston.

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    1. in the world of ‘image is everything’ I might tend to agree with you on a macrolevel…but individually as makers and viewers,we definitely know it when we see it and that is the payoff for me and if I see it there will always be others who do too regardless of how few that might be.

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