This post is all about the image. What do you think might have contributed to forming this particular arrangement? Consulting with husband, it was not intentional, three items on their way from one location to another, temporarily congregating together like boarders on different flights might mingle briefly at a magazine stand.
We were doing a bit of winter decluttering. This location had formerly been taken up with a wooden shelf warehousing dried legumes, still uneaten since early pandemic hoarding. Next to it was another filled with empty boxes, across from one holding all our CDS. Is it relevant to point out we don’t have a CD player? There is also a room divider hiding things I don’t even want to know about. The entire hallway had been reduced from a two-person thoroughfare to a one way only path. What is the point of that? Would you take the narrowest part of your home, the one most traveled, and constrict the flow? We’re constantly colliding into and inching around each other. A great way to increase irritation in case you’re needing more of that.
So, fixing this stupidity was the first thing that happened. Suddenly there was space again. The food shelf moved to the kitchen and kicked this cool 60’s relic out into the hallway, probably on its way to the garage. The darkroom timer was playing the role of ready-made sculpture on top of another cramped shelf in the dining room/office and it and everything else got cleared off in a minimalism frenzy. It’s also on its way to the garage.
The peanut butter is the real problem. Can it go to the garage? I can’t throw it away; I don’t want to eat it. It’s basically here in case of the apocalypse. It got placed on the lower tier while we decide where it’s going to live. Please don’t let it get behind the hallway room divider and start having promiscuous, unprotected sex with the harem of unused frames hiding there. Thank goodness inanimate objects can’t breed or we would be overrun with sticky rectangles.
In my late 20’s I worked as a product photographer, shooting doodads for catalogs with medium format cameras. It was heaven. Across the hall from our photography studio was an art studio. It had a cryptic phrase on the door, What we do is secret. I liked that. It appealed to me. I did a lot of secret stuff. Maybe this was my club. Over time I got to know the artist and started taking a painting class there. Scratch the sentence above, this was the real heaven.
There are two things I remember from the class and they’re related. You must look at your work. Closely and often. The teacher had us tape the work to the walls, step back and really stare at it. Over and over. Many times throughout the process of making it. The second was to evaluate the composition. Was it balanced? Did it feel good. You would only know that by doing the first thing, looking at it.
It takes patience, focus and concentration to really look at something. Imagine you had to write an essay on the thing you were looking at. Could you? Can you retain the color palette when you look away, can you describe what is happening in the upper left corner? It’s hard enough to focus on something good, what about looking at something in development, something that is clearly not good. It takes patience, perseverance and something special to identify what is not working and figure out how to fix it. That special thing is what art is all about and it takes a lot of practice.
I quit my photography job and rented a space in the art studio. It was a pleasing and scary surprise to go from employed and stressed to the max, to unemployed and making art every day. From a warm industrial loft to a cold industrial loft, from charming clients with chitchat to listening to Bjork’s Vespertine on repeat. As a very frugal person, this turn of events felt like a fairy tale. My husband (whom I have to thank for financing this interlude) and I joined the San Francisco Modern Art Museum. I went there often and stared at art. Sometimes I would look at a single painting for 15 minutes. I was making the composition conscious in my mind, I was guessing how the artist made the work, what mark came first, what came last. I got really good at looking deeply at art. It was a wonderful time. I think about it as the best time.
I honed my sense of observation like a runner increases endurance. I was regularly doing marathon observations. One thing that happens while observing is ideas bubble up. Let’s say the act of observing is turning the stove on high and ideas are the air pockets surfacing in the boiling water. As you become conscious of what you are looking at, you become conscious of possibilities, of things you can try in your own art.
The next step is to act on one of these ideas, any idea. See what happens and repeat. Repeat the ones that are most interesting and the ones you naturally feel like repeating. No point trying to make yourself do something you aren’t interested in because nothing will come of it. But where there is interest there is the will to experiment. If you keep looking, you will keep having ideas and if you keep acting on those ideas and looking at the outcome you will generate more ideas and more action. This is repetition. It’s a big fruitful circle. Intuition is the final fruit. The noticing, the idea and the desire to take action merge. It’s the whole process in a single flash of insight.
As I mentioned in my post of December 12th, What Value Matters Most, Shoutout LA interviewed me about observation. You can read my response here and see a portrait of me with the doggies! That interview sparked me to sort out my thoughts on the topic of intuition, observation and repetition and this essay today was my attempt to speak about it with more nuance. I cut multiple paragraphs about intuition while editing this to keep it focused on the equation set in the title. But as I still have more to say about these ideas, I’m going to use that material in another post and try and define what exactly intuition is. Are you on the edge of your seat?!