In the early 1980s I attended a lecture given by an artist/philosopher who aimed to explain the act of art creation. From his phenomenological perspective – and strengthened by his beautiful German accent – he emphasized that the very first line, smudge, mark, or expressive movement is a mistake. This is then followed by a second expressive attempt to correct that first mistake, an act which results in an even bigger mistake, of course, and, naturally, an even more compelling invitation to mend it. See a pattern? Each subsequent, additional, inductive, and deductive effort to repair the opus merely adds to the accumulation of purposelessness and further hollows out any remaining significance! Finally, the artist discovers that nothing can fix it; no more tinkering, no more cobbling, no more troubleshooting. The piece is irreparable. The piece is finished! “It’s Kaput!”
For years I internalized this rather lopsided approach and applied it to practically every aspect of my being. Yes, it was like playing Russian roulette with my life. When it came to art, I approached the blank paper, the block of wood, the lump of clay like a Quixotic adventure. I entered it and allowed myself to get carried away. When the muse was there, we collaborated swimmingly; when it wasn’t, I’d try again later. Nowadays, I realize that there aren’t enough hours in the day and that some things really do start off as half-baked ideas, require planning, rely on infrastructural support, and so forth, long before execution.
I still love indulging in let’s just see what happens. It challenges me to go with the flow and know when to quit. Is there such an alternative as quitting while you’re ahead?