Surely, a single bunch of carrots painted naively, just as we personally see it, is worth all the endless banalities of the Schools, all those dreary pictures concocted out of tobacco juice according to time-honored formulas? (Paul Cezanne)
It’s hard to be your self, because in art, as in life, we all want to look good. Even if we break all the rules and make art that looks “bad”, we want to look good in our badness. There is nothing wrong with that.
It can take a lifetime to know who we are. It can take that lifetime to paint who we are.
Self-expression is all jumbled up in art with with a sort of self-indulgence. It’s not enough to erupt all our longings onto the surface while ignoring rigor and technique, just as it is not enough to hide behind a screen of tradition, peeking through every once in a while to see if someone will pay you a compliment. It probably isn’t so much expressing yourself as a state of being your self that emerges relentlessly through our best art. It’s an odd state of tension, best fed by continuous work.
Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius. (William Blake)
A painting teacher once told me that every time I got nervous in a painting, I would fritz out and scribble a calligraphic mark somewhere. True. What she didn’t note was that these belong to the theater cast of “my” marks. I was handling them badly, and perhaps I needed to give them a thousand repetitions to do them well. But they couldn’t be surgically removed from my painting.
Frankly, I am still astounded that people like my odd paintings.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares to other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly… (Martha Graham)
I’m writing this post for myself today. And you— what are the marks of your individuality in your work? The things that are uniquely yours?
I didn’t know Woody Guthrie was a visual artist. He really “kept it his.” This link is to the official website that has some of his drawings: http://woodyguthrie.org/curriculum/curart.htm. I’ve included an image below.