As a professor of Arts Management, I spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about structure and strategy…all the ways that the tools of our work distort and distract the goals of our work. I learn and teach about understanding how the complexities of work life, wealth, power, and politics can be discovered, diagnosed, and redesigned through creative management. Artist Chuck Close has a thought about this…get over it and get to work.
I know so many artists for whom having the perfect space is somehow essential. They spend years designing, building, outfitting the perfect space, and then when it is just about time to get to work they’ll sell that place and build another one. It seems more often than not a way to keep from having to work. But I could paint anywhere. I made big paintings in the tiniest bedrooms, garages, you name it. You know, once I have my back to the room, I could be anywhere.
And his statement that I invoke to myself rather frequently:
Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.
Of course, the reality is both/and. The environment and energies we work in have an effect on us. But we can’t wait to get them exactly right before we do what needs doing. And in the process of taking action, we may discover that the tension and the interplay are PART of the work. That…
things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’
Ralph Waldo Emerson reflected in his journal that “We are always getting ready to live, and never living.” The danger of reflection is that it can delay our action. Some portion of the field (myself included) seems to be always getting ready to work, but never working.
Of course, the danger of action is that it can defer or deny reflection. I have to imagine there’s a mode of ‘reflective practice’ that honors and encourages both.