In my experience, work-in-progress doesn’t look like much of anything.
It doesn’t feel like work.
It doesn’t look like progress.
Case in point:
The very rough beginnings of paint on paper.
This is how I always begin new work.
By throwing paint down on a surface without knowing what is going to happen.
Turning magazines into sketchbooks – a blank slate for my thinking and feeling into what books or paintings or workshops will come next.
For most of my life, I’ve done all of this exploration in blank, standard-issue artist sketchbooks.
Since living in Mexico, where sketchbooks are not to be found for some mysterious reason, I’ve been making my own.
Usually out of paper that I find, and lately, out of magazines, so I don’t have to bother with binding them.
Sitting here writing about it now, certain patterns come into focus.
Like how my work is so often made out of existing, discarded materials. In The 1008 Paintings Project, for example, everything was painted on cardboard that I dragged out of dumpsters from LA to San Francisco, and back and forth to various locations in Mexico. And also in France and Spain, come to think of it.
I kept seeing cardboard as a blank canvas.
And so after a couple of years of preparing old magazines for sketchbooks, I am seeing how they, too, want to become something.
But I do not know what.
I meant to write about dwell time for this post.
Let me see if I can circle back to that for a moment.
Dwell time is this place of creation where nothing is really formed.
It seems like nothing is happening.
Certainly nothing worth writing home (or on a blog post) about.
But since I teach and write about creative practice, I thought it would be good to show you what it looks like for me.
Creative practice is, paradoxically, a place where nothing and everything is happening at the same time.
To further confuse and distort our perceptions, it’s usually impossible to tell the difference between the two pole of nothing/everything, and *good/bad, for that matter, while we are practicing.
The trick of it is to keep working, and not get to distracted by the analytical mind that craves outcome, product, progress…
In my experience, inhabiting this space is both the most thrilling and terrifying part of doing creative work.
My questions for your consideration are:
What does dwell time look and feel like to you?
How do you manage uncertainty, and the unknown, when you create?
Are you aware of cycles or patterns in your creativity? What are they?
When you experience a lull of not working or lack of focus, what forces (both internal and external) are at play?
These are the kind of questions I offer you to ask and answer in the privacy of your own journal or sketchbook.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
*Everything is “good” when it comes to practice. We’re practicing. That’s good. In practice, we don’t judge the content either way.