Art is Hard

It’s harder than I thought to make art WITHOUT a deadline. Previously, I thought it was hard to make art ON a deadline. Apparently, making art is hard.

Knitting doesn’t count. Baking cookies, no matter how beautifully decorated, doesn’t count. Among other things that don’t count are house cleaning, gardening, reading murder mysteries, going to the movies, grocery shopping, and MY DAY JOB! These are all wonderful things to do, or to have done, but they are not making art.

I was inspired recently when I attended a lecture at Lyme Academy by Professor Emeritus David Dewey, with whom I studied watercolor several years ago. His paintings are glorious, and his book on watercolor technique is a classic, but what really struck me when he spoke was how much preparation work he does for each painting.

David Dewey Marshall Point: Bridge to Light With Compositional Drawing, 2013

David Dewey
Marshall Point: Bridge to Light With Compositional Drawing, 2013

Sometimes he does ten or more color studies. Sometimes it takes weeks to prepare and weeks to paint the final picture. Sometimes he works on something for weeks and then doesn’t like it.

David Dewey Marshall Point: Full Moon, 2014

David Dewey
Marshall Point: Full Moon, 2014

For those of us (me!) who still worry about basic competence and have performance anxiety, David Dewey’s example is wonderful. He doesn’t wait for inspiration to strike, he strikes first. Making art is hard work – emphasis on the “work”.

David Dewey Path to Main, Rockland, 2000

David Dewey
Path to Main, Rockland, 2000

Make sketches, make color studies. Draw with your other hand. Draw with both hands. But keep your hand in so that you don’t let the fear overcome you. (And by you, I mean me.)

David Dewey, Painting

David Dewey, Painting

Because how can you believe you CAN’T when you ARE?

3 thoughts on “Art is Hard

  1. Good to read you again, Liz, you are an inspired writer. And I would argue that all of life is Art… knitting, cookies, and maybe even your day job. Hope you are well.

  2. Thanks for posting again, Liz, I’ve missed reading you.

    Talented and creative people make what they do look easy. I guess that’s because most of us only see the performance or read the novel, we don’t see the hours, weeks, years of practice or the hundreds of drafts that didn’t make it to the publisher. Whether one is a mathematician, woodworker, architect or software engineer, there are no epiphanies, just iteration, hard work and starting over until you get it right. The work of David Dewey, in both the sense of oeuvre and in the effort involved to create it, is marvelous. So is that of Elizabeth Cook.

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