stephen-wiltshire
[Stephen Wiltshire and his New York]

 

Abundance is the keyword here.

I’ve teetered on the fence for years about whether or not it’s a good idea to be an artist who creates AMAZING work and an artist who creates A LOT of work. That is until I realized you can make a plethora of amazing work.

I’ve also realized, you can spend years creating that perfect piece of audial amusement (music) and it can still turn out to sound as bad as garbage trucks on a Tuesday morning. (Or Thursday, whichever yours is.)

More time doesn’t always equate to better work.

Of course I’m not JUST talking about music. Since I work in a multiple of varied mediums, I have the foresight to see how my art is developing from discipline to discipline, especially in filmmaking where it’s art inside art consisting of cinematography, screenwriting, color grading, editing, scoring, motion graphics, FX and compositing, just to name a few.

When you’re working on something that you know eventually you plan to share, (I mean what’s the point of creating something that no one’s going to see… unless you’re completely anti-social and have a house full of human-skinned lampshades) you tend to overthink it. You want to put your best ideas in. You brainstorm a shitload of concepts and cherry pick the gems. Then you second-guess yourself to oblivion. Maybe blue doesn’t contrast well enough with green on that logo design for Tree-Huggers Anonymous, so you change it to orange and realize it reminds you of a Ninja Turtle named Michaelangelo so you go back to blue, which you now think of Leonardo. Shit.

Would people be okay with your choice of illustration for your first book? Should it be comical or elegant? Color photography or black-and-white? Does it enhance the content and speak to a certain social class of people? Does it even fucking matter?

What if folks don’t like it? Shit, what if they do? Then the pressure’s on to produce more of it because human nature is to consume and devour on a near minute-by minute basis. I was popular ten minutes ago but Justin Bieber just put out a new song with Pitbull! Whaaaaaaa? Now I’m old news and my attention is wavering. It conduces me to make this emoticon (:-/) with my own face, then I find myself double-clicking iTunes and downloading that song. You win Beiber…. this time. *Fist shaking violently.

There’s definitely a threshold when it comes to how much time you put on a project. Putting more time than necessary is like eating massive amounts of protein attempting to build muscle but not realizing your body will only absorb what it needs and nothing more. Which, I may add is a very expensive thing to do.

On the other side, there’s consistently creating and running the risk of churning out sub-par work. Less time pushes us to rush things. Deadlines equate itself to the apocalypse. And being contracted for work can have the effect of working on commission in the shoe department at a high-class/siddity luxury clothing store. Make the customer/client happy no matter what. What’s integrity anyway right?

Let me interject for a moment and point out that as creatives, we are hired for the work we do because WE create it. Our influences, our style, our “oomph” is embedded in that work. When trying to make someone else like your work by catering it to their specific needs we lose what makes it a “made by YOURNAME” product/manifestation/happy junk.

Now, let me point this out: it runs the RISK of churning out sub-par work. Not that it WILL.

Great art is subjective. Great art is relative. Great art is also consistent. Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Alicia Keys, Ingrid Michaelson, Yoko Kanno, DJ Yoda, Prince, Stephen King, Seth Godin, Andy Warhol, Jason Pollock, Stephen Wiltshire, and as of my interests lately David Garibaldi and Chase Jarvis, just to name a few. My list is actually in the thousands but these are the ones I can think of right off the top of my head.

[Love this video portrait of artist David Garibaldi, captures the essence of what he does nicely]

WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE?

Great work takes time, yes. But that time isn’t how LONG you work on a project. That time is spent on the SKILLS you develop during the project. Your skillset is in direct relationship to the consistency of your work. The experience you’ve acquired. The influences that lead to the decisions you make. The time cut-down because of the inherent confidence gained from doing the work over and over again. The efficiency gleaned from the long sessions of work. Notice, it’s still WORK.

Every piece you make, consider it an exercise. In my mind, art will forever be transitional. There’s always something to learn from what you’ve done before. There’s always a way to make something better. But we also must remember we still need to FINISH.

We still need to wrap it up in a bow and tell the world, “Here you go!” Show your mom the picture of the boy you drew in class that you’re going to marry. Allow a small audience to witness the transformational piece of figurative dance you choreographed to a remix of Swan Lake. Serenade the chick you’ve been crushing on for years with a sexy slowed-down acoustic piano ballad version of Fall Out Boy’s “Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner.” (That shit is mad sexy BTW)

And SO WHAT if there are a few flaws in the work? It’s called being human. It’s not life-threatening unless of course your art is in architecture, then it that case, get your math straight first. But other than that, there’s no such thing as perfect so get over it and move on.

[The prolificacy of Prince]
 

The more work you do, the better you get at it. That’s basic skill development. Prolificacy speaks passion. That’s its language. Without passion I doubt you’d continue to do the work you do for the long haul. Consistent work leads to congruency in work. That’s when it just becomes a part of you. That’s when you can make songs about Big Macs and fries without breaking a sweat and people will love it ala Prince. That guy can make a song about anything and he churned out albums like clockwork.

This is when mastery takes place. It’s so annoying when masters make things seem effortless. But it’s all good. I plan to get to that point as well.

See ya at the top of the mountain.

QUESTION: Is being prolific a good thing in your art?