September 22, 2006

Career Perspective

1988, Pampas Series, No. 18, w/c, 18x22

From Comments on Choices:This from Lisa Call: "I've been thinking about your choices post off and on for a few days. As someone still at the emerging stage of the art career your thoughts from the other side give me pause to think. I'm not sure what I'm thinking but I appreciate you sharing your thoughts."

Thanks, Lisa... and all the others who make the effort to balance this form of communication.

Compared to "How To Be An Artist" books and articles, there are precious few resources on what happens at the other end of the stick. How do we wind this career thing down? Not that we admit to wanting to (depends on the day of the week) but the reality is that there is a lot of accumulation to be dealt with, both physical and mental, and shutting the door on it... making more of it, even, is wildly irresponsible without some sign of control. We're taught to clean up our mess when we've finished a project... doesn't that include the lifetime career project? (Ummm...define 'finished.') How are we even supposed to know when it's time? And, would that be a positive or negative attitude?

I have long lived genes from way back, good health and no reason to not continue to produce for quite some time yet... no, I ain't 'finished' but I do have a need to tidy up. Blogging an art career from my perspective (we all know how skewed perspective can be) seems to help sort it out, and might give (or invite) a few clues to/from others.

Now, if I was an artist of note (you know the kind I mean) I'd have aides and assistants (not the kind from certified health care centers!) to handle the grunge work and I'd more or less direct what I wanted them to do... they'd be revving up demand for my work, documenting, writing articles and books about me and handling the myriad details... not to mention stretching, gessoing and framing! There would even be one designated note taker to remember which technique worked best for each of the various applications... in fact, if I could only have one helper, that would be the guy!

The grass painting above reminds me that there are still a number of people around the country who think of me as 'the painter of grass.' (And that was way before 'the painter of light'.) That series, and variations with other elongated leaf subjects, carried me for a good ten years... very good years, better than the quality of this image shows... still haven't had all those slides scanned... still waiting for the assistants to show up and get some of this documenting stuff done!


Shan said...

I, too, have found my mind on your Choices post the past few days. Art, and the desire to create it, can be rather obsessive. When the ideas are coming in full force I sometimes think, "Oh, life's not long enough to get all these projects done..."

I've never thought about it from the perspective of winding down ones career. I suppose at some point it's forced on us--I remember reading once how Agnes Martin painted on 6' x 6' canvases until she couldn't carry them herself anymore and I know my 34 year old body can't pull all-nighters the way my 24 year old body could.

But still, artists adapt, Chuck Close being a good example.

Does this come down to the question of art as traditional career vs. art as some kind of higher calling? An interesting discussion on "who is an artist" came up on Ed Winkleman's blog several weeks ago and, if I remember correctly, he used the work "transcendent" when referring to true artist's work. Without saying I agree with his defintion (because it's a bit to stringent for me) I think it cuts to the heart of artist vs. art career. Maybe you can retire from one but not the other.

KJ said...

Such "transcendent" thoughts, Shan ;-) I think you nailed it with the last sentence. But really, it's such a personal thing and so many niggly, personal details that each of us deal with individually... no one solution for all. In fact, most wouldn't even consider it a puzzle needing to be solved. It will take care of itself, no matter what we do to interfere. Maybe I'm a control freak... Yikes! Me???

Anonymous said...

Yeah but, yeah but. . .
how did you do the grass? Did it take lots of planning?, projecting?, liquid frisket? or did you draw it out and work carefully across the page, like a human printer? That is some serious craft there Grass-lady. I dig it. I could actually make an artsy-fartsy connection to what your Bokusho's but I don't want to bore those comment readers that might think of you as the painter of grass. I see a connection. But what I am most excited about is this blog thingy that allows our paintings to sit in a bigger context = our past. And yet the very nature of the blog is in the present. We can post daily about our ideas for the future as well as reflect upon the past. It is just astounding. Blogging an art career. Let's start a union. Lord knows I could use a journymen assistant. Or some work-study assistants. Or a daughter who might find joy in priming a canvas.

KJ said...

Shucks! I thought you'd never ask! Stay tuned for more grass info, rots o' ruck with the union thing... and for the kid training idea as well. I've been playing with that one through six g-kids and they all have caught on to my plan. Rats!

KJ said...

Rereading Shan's comment... lots of fodder for future posts and discussions. I'll get back ;-)

Martha Marshall said...

Thanks for opening up this discussion, Karen. It's fun to hear others' take on the subject.

The awareness of the passage of time makes me consider more seriously the quality and quantity of work I will someday leave behind. I am now less hesitant to throw out or paint over.

CMC said...

Nice thoughtful comments here. As a person/artist having had a rude awakening to age coming along no matter how I try to ignore it, I think I will just let what comes, come and deal with it as it arrives. Not that I'm not a planner by choice, I just know sometimes you don't have one. As long as the health and mental inclination is there, art can be made whatever small adjustments are necessary.
As with my work, I figure any "over-planning" I do will ruin it.

Lisa Call said...

Thanks for addressing this more. I have been thinking alot about what you said in the first post. Not just the winding things down but how you didn't really direct your art career but were ready when opportunities came your way.

I think about this and I wonder if a bit more directed effort on my part might lead to better results in the long run. Or maybe not, maybe part of art is the serendipitous nature of the career and I should stop worrying so much about trying to control it.

Good things seem to come my way without much effort on my part (which really isn't true but I do the work and I don't know how that work will manifest itself as opportunities). But I'm just at the beginning of this journey and I'm not sure what to expect.

Your post was wonderful because it gave me a glimpse at what it might be. And has set me on a course to more serioulsy consider where I might want to go and how I might want to get there.