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Archive for July 13th, 2010

Search-Find


Accuracy is easy. Put in your time and it will come.  Expression is another thing. A couple of days ago I had a conversation at an opening with a woman who said she can’t make art because she could never draw the figure accurately and she believes you have to draw accurately what’s there first before you can move on to make art.   This was at a student show (Evanston Art Center) and luckily one of my students was there with me.  She simply said, “It’s not a linear process.”  That’s a mantra in my classes.  If you work only on technique, you’ll become a technician. If you approach the work process from different angles, amazing things happen. Back in my studio that afternoon I opened Theories of Modern Art at random and there was Picasso.  Here’s the famous quote from Picasso: “I can hardly understand the importance given to the word research in connection with modern painting.  In my opinion to search means nothing in painting.  To find, is the thing.  Nobody is interested in following a man who, with his eyes fixed on the ground, spends his life looking for the pocketbook that fortune should put in his path.  The one who finds something no matter what it might be, even if his intention were not to search for it, at least arouses our curiosity, if not our admiration.”  He’s often quoted as saying simply, “I don’t search, I find.”  That sounds facile and arrogant.  But he thought deeply about art.  What he meant, I think, by the search-find statement is that art making is not a linear process.  Amazing things happen and you have to be alert enough to recognize them as—amazing.  That recognition is what he calls finding.  You work in your studio day after day, you try this, you try that, something works, something doesn’t, you hit despair, you go back anyway and you keep trying things.  If you had a specific goal in mind you could set out to achieve that goal by devising the necessary techniques to get you to that goal.  But that’s not how the process works.  It’s not linear.  One day you’re in your studio and something happens that you couldn’t have anticipated or planned for.  If you’re locked into a searching mode, you will not recognize this newness that has happened.  But if you’re alert, it will look like something that just fell out of the sky in front of you—and here you are, you find it.

(Above,  Ingres’s drawing of Mme d’Haussonville,  Photo of Picasso by Arnold Newman, and Picasso’s Self-Portrait with Palette, 1906, age 25.)

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