Thursday, June 14, 2007

the war of art

Here are the ten drawings I've been working on over the past few weeks to accompany seven of my fish paintings (bottom of this page) for artstream gallery's summer show. Caroline suggested to me that this series (Oceans Ten) must be 'prequel art.'


I've been absent. Sometimes life gets overwhelming and I find myself cratering under the (mostly self-imposed) pressure and though I'm as addicted to the interwebs (got that one from my boys) as any other blogger, I do find that a break helps me align my ducks a bit better. I could write about it, and that could be cathartic and useful, but like Joyce wrote here, I've recently become bogged down by questions of transparency. (And if it gets any more opaque than that I'll have to quit! :)

Yesterday, while questioning every decision I've ever made (and a few of the ones I haven't made yet), I wrote an email to Angela. After finishing, I was heading upstairs and noticed that the mail had come. There was a small box from Amazon on the floor and it was addressed to me. Did I order something and then forget what? Turns out it was a book that the very same Angela (an angel in not a very convincing disguise) thought I'd find useful, written by Steven Pressfield of historical fiction fame, cleverly titled The War of Art. It was one of those serendipitous moments that often appear when I'm struggling with something and I definitely took it as a sign. This little book is not a self-help book in any traditional sense; it's more like a handbook of inspiration and validation (read: kick in the butt). I could bore you endlessly with great quotes, but I'll choose just one for now:

Someone asked the Spartan king Leonidas to identify the supreme warrior virtue from which all others flowed. He replied: "Contempt for death." For us artists, read "failure". Contempt for failure is our cardinal virtue. By confining our attention territorially to our own thoughts and actions -- in other words, to the work and its demands -- we cut the earth from beneath the blue-painted, shield-banging, spear-brandishing foe.


Blogger Ian Lidster said...

Your words of inspiration from your serendipitous book were just what I needed right now, so I guess it's a bit of serendipity for me, too. I have been dealing with tiny inklings of lack of self-worth in my own creativity of late, and these always leave me feeling immensely isolated and wondering, what in the hell is the point in what I do?
I have come to the tail-end of a manuscript I've been working on for nearly a year and the time has come to get it out there and see if somebody bites. I'm balking at the prospect, I guess. Fear of failure I equally guess.
So, thank you, my friend. And I love the 'Oceans' series. I couldn't choose a particular favorite because they're all splendid.

14/6/07 1:29 p.m.  
Blogger jafabrit said...

Isn't it a terrible thing we do to ourselves, even with the voice of support and joys taken in our work, we doubt. I like the quote about the Spartan King.

The Oceans series is really wonderful. I like how you break up the space, the design elements and the fish.

14/6/07 1:38 p.m.  
Blogger kj said...

andrea, i looked at each of your ten paintings and kept thinking, "these have to be in a show...they have to be". i was delighted to read on and learn that's what is happening. these pieces are really wonderful.

regarding this quote, i certainly identify with it. and yet, i've been stumbling on the zen messages lately about not being attached to the result. i think acceptance in whatever form is also mportant in art and in life.

thanks as always for a shot in the arm. i'm writing, andrea, and i just love it all...

every success awaits you...

14/6/07 5:23 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Ian: I suggest you seek the book out. I saw it at Chapters today. It's really written by a writer for writers, but he uses the word 'artist' because it applies across a wide range of creative and passionate disciplines. I've had to retrench right now and have discovered that the work really is its own reward, which I always knew but sort of forgot for awhile. I really hope you get a nibble on your book. Your writing deserves a wider audience.

Jafabrit: Spoken like someone who's been there! I see a lot of joy in your work so I suspect that the work itself is the best part of it for you.

KJ: Thanks for your speedy feedback, especially considering my recent apathy! The result is less important to me than many artists, so I understand the zen message. When I'm done with a painting I no longer have any interest in it, and never feel any loss if it sells. The process, however, is endlessly fascinating, and I'm completely posessive of that! :)

14/6/07 5:40 p.m.  
Blogger Joyce said...


14/6/07 8:59 p.m.  
Blogger homo escapeons said...

I loved the scene in 300 when King Leonidas displays his contempt for tyranny and boots Xerxes'emissary into the well as he answers

So you can display your contempt for failure by screaming,

14/6/07 9:59 p.m.  
Blogger justin said...

Failure is one of my worst nightmares ... I've had lots of setbacks and criticisms over the years, but now I do the stuff I'm good at and enjoy doing, and say to myself: "This is as good as it gets".
The slide show is a lovely idea, Andrea, and your art work as fabulous.

14/6/07 11:07 p.m.  
Blogger Cream said...

So true, Andrea.
I love your Oceans Ten series.
Artists know that they live a life on the ocean.
Peaks and troughs.
Contempt for failure is the only thing they need to get out of the dips.

15/6/07 12:25 a.m.  
Blogger Alda said...

Great post; excellent quote. And stunning slide show.

Glad you're posting again.

15/6/07 7:31 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

HE: Madness? This is blogging!

Justin: There also must be a measure of satisfaction in having raised your kids well and seeing them now do well.

Cream: It's a pretty wise approach, isn't it? The peaks and troughs exist no matter what. It's all about how we deal with them I guess.

Alda: Thanks -- it's good to be back.

15/6/07 12:38 p.m.  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

Really love your Ocean Series and you might frown at this but someday you will look back and think of these struggles and smile knowing it was all worth it!

15/6/07 1:44 p.m.  
Blogger Bronwyn said...

I very much like your layered 'archaeological art'.

15/6/07 9:49 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great new series ! Well now, that name just fell into place.It is interesting how much work one can accomplish while spending time away from the computer.The internet is a great thing though and balancing everything is a good idea as well.

16/6/07 2:52 a.m.  
Blogger Ces said...

I don't understand why someone who is so bogged down could write so meaningfully and create beautiful art...ARTIST!!!

16/6/07 6:21 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Val: I can only hope!

Bronwyn: I think that's my best work, too, but it's a bit hard to pigeonhole for most people.

Sheri: Balanace? What's that????

Ces: You're sweet. In some ways I refuse to let it get the better of me I guess!

16/6/07 7:03 a.m.  
Blogger Cynthia said...

Hmmm, let's start with the easy part - your Ocean's series is wonderful and I enjoyed the slide show a great deal - wish I could go to your show.

As to your blog/internet break I was glad to see a fresh post written with the same thoughtful and provoking style that I've come to enjoy reading. I definitely understand your need to rejeuvenate. I periodically go through the same issues and am trying to separate financial success with artistic success.

In some perverted way, they're intertwined and I don't like it. I have been trying to remember to enjoy the process and to let go of the outcome - a little bit of Zen wisdom that's easier to read than practice.

16/6/07 9:38 a.m.  
Blogger Tori said...

I love the fish series. Thanks for all the thoughts that you share here.

16/6/07 2:16 p.m.  
Blogger Jana Bouc said...

The #6 slide brought back memories of scuba diving and hanging out with the fish. I enjoyed seeing all of them. The show should be spectacular. I love the idea of having contempt for failure and the fear of it, just focusing on the work. Thanks for taking the time amidst everything else for your encouraging words on my blog.

16/6/07 11:32 p.m.  
Blogger HMBT said...

Great post as usual! Love the Ocean series...I love your style.
the quote was perfect for me right now too.
Glad your back.

17/6/07 5:25 a.m.  
Blogger Toni said...

So do you think this book will help light a fire under me?

I keep making excuses for not getting art work done.

At least you are creating art. I'm still stumbling over obstacles. It will happen for you. I know it will.

17/6/07 8:50 p.m.  
Blogger tlc illustration said...

I love these fish Andrea. One of my favorites of yours I think - and the series just builds on each other. (Good work, girl!)

I hope your bloggy-break was helpful. The quote is terrific - and ever-so-applicable. I appreciate you sharing your thought processes with 'the gallery' out here.

18/6/07 1:58 a.m.  
Anonymous jamie said...

love it!!!! ><<>

18/6/07 8:02 a.m.  

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