Having just finished a run of workshops recently, I observed a common trait amongst those who participated which I also have experienced along the way. It is this internal dialogue that declares, ‘I need to be more than I am and the work that I do needs to feel difficult or it will not be viewed both by ME and the viewing public as having value. It is an interesting irony that over the years of reviewing artist’s work, that the work that comes easiest for them tends to be minimized and what is labored focused upon.
As a viewer I am continually drawn to the work that feels at ease and masterfully done. I am emotionally turned away from the labored and challenged. There is a blatant sense that one is not enough and the difficult thing their life’s challenge it seems. Almost, ‘if I don’t master this then I will not be worth much’, so the battle rages on while right in front of them is this other thing that breeds ease, accomplishment and simplicity.
What comes natural and that ‘means’ something to us from a deep place has the ability to convey things from insight, freedom and proficiency. This expression comes from knowing yourself and not trying to be somebody else. I have observed that those who are in the mature phase of their career or avocation automatically become at ease with what they do, how they do it, and what they are interested in. It almost comes without observation. In my view this is why artists and other forms of expression become better as we age, as we become seamless with our likes and dislikes. The struggle vanishes and we live into being comfortable with ourselves and how we express that.
The extraneous drops off and our focus becomes heightened as we understand choices need to be made as to where we invest our time and effort and where we put aside things that might be valid but doesn’t ‘mean’ as much to us. We each take into each work of art our life’s circumstances, our training, our particular point of view and our intimate world of emotions. We share ourselves with the world in some form when we are at our best or put another way when we feel we are enough. When we actually arrive at feeling we are enough then our work can only express the very same thing which is the expression of the totality of who we each are. Andy Goldsworthy finds interest in the simplicity of nature. For him that is enough and authentic. Chuck Close finds interest in the portrait and for him that is enough. I can go down a very long list of accomplished people both artists and others and we will see the same thing, an acceptance of their complete makeup.
So the question must be for all of us; ‘when will the struggle subside and that thing that I am just be and express?’ I have always loved the Japanese tradition of one potter making one cup for their whole lifetime. They inherently knew that focus, simplicity and repetition was good enough for a whole lifetime of pursuit and many more if we ever had the chance.