Showing up to Work & Finding Failure

Rabbit linocut

There's a famous Chuck Close quote which I use as a guided meditation of sorts.

"Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief 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].' And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don't have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you'll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you [did] today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere."

rabbit process drawings

What resonates with me in these words is exactly what I missed developing for much of the first three-quarters of my life so far. Despite art school, perhaps because of art school, despite drawing my entire life and being told I had talent, despite learning to confidently run offset presses and getting up and going to a job every day in which I ran a print shop without the qualifications to do so but rising to the occasion and becoming the best damn press operator I could be through days of repetition, despite learning about The 10,000 Hour Rule, practice has not been ingrained in me. Until recently. Until looking back and understanding that the last 10 years of my life have been spent in dedicated practice. That although this practice may have seemed to me fragmented and uncertain, it's been practice nonetheless.

I picked up drawing and linocut printmaking again after a long stretch of only dabbling just a few years ago. I re-dedicated myself to these mediums when, after a period of soul-searching, I realized that drawing and printmaking were my first loves. That much of what came after was a distraction, pulling me away from the only path I've ever felt comfortable on.

Which is not to say that the path is easy. Often it's not - it's challenging and thorny, rocky and steep, and it forces me to break muscle. Which is exactly as it should be.

Anyway, these are just thoughts. Self-reflection that's been foremost in my mind recently.

Bunny Linocut ready to be carved

In fact, a living demonstration of this practice made tangible came in the form of a print I'd worked very hard on, showed up every day to follow through with after diligently working iteration after iteration, and ultimately decided was never going to be a finished product, only a step along the way in my practice. It was actually a huge relief to set the work aside and say, "I did good work. This process was good. I'm so tremendously proud of the hours I put in, but I hate this final result. I'm looking forward to returning to this work and making it better. The best I do."