A Comfortable Pace
Picasso is at the top of the list, exploring so many styles, mediums and subjects. He was born in 1881 and died 1973, 92 years. He was prolific: 1885 paintings, 1225 sculptures, 2880 ceramics and over 12,000 drawings. So at times I wonder to myself, what is a prolific life of creating.
I look around and hear of some artists who produce two or three paintings a month, some a painting every week. It makes me wonder how prolific one must be in this day in age. Don’t get me wrong I know painters who work at a much slower pace. But even a slower pace can be misleading.
It’s like photographers I have met who shoot 300, 400 images at a time, edit and post 20 or 30 images at a time. There was a time when we shot film, either 24 or 36 frames with 35mm file and 12 or 24 with 220mm film. Even if one shot three or four rolls, we were lucky to come up with three good images. The rule of thumb was to ruthlessly edit and review your proof sheet and select the one worthy image, maybe two if you had a good day. To me the idea of shooting hundreds of frames and selecting dozens is absurd. I can probably count on one hand past photographers who could get more than one image from a couple of rolls. A discussion of how digital has changed the process of photography is for another blog.
I work at a slow pace, usually ten to twelve mixed media paintings a year. Possibly ten photo montage composite images and twenty to thirty good photographs. I look around and see others who are much more prolific in the work they produce. But how many are worthy to be shown. As if they are in a race to complete and incredible amount of work to have piles of work. As if they will be seen other than on a web posting or for that matter ever sell in the kind of selling market we have in the emerging art world.
I don’t keep everything I paint. Not piece I produce is worthy of existing. Over the years I have destroyed paintings, deleted montage work, retired photographs for good.
Consider a couple of things.
First, regarding Picasso. Thinking about the amount of work he produced in his life but then putting it into is productive years of say 65 years, he produced 29 painting a year, 18 sculptures, 44 ceramics and 185 drawings. For me that starts to put things into perspective considering life in the 21st century: possibly working a part time job or teaching, taking children to school or volleyball games, or just trying to fine time to clear ones mind from all the noise. I would be please to achieve a body of GOOD work a third that size.
The second thing that comes to mind is that in my mind, I am very prolific. I will come up with an idea. I will walk through every step, I will consider size, materials and composition. I will reconsider the process and walk through the mental creation for days. Adding a sketch to my journal and writing down the process and materials. And when I think I’m done, I’ll close the journal and move on to another piece, never even starting it. I’m sure an therapist could analyze this process or just my own view that once completed in my mind, that is fine with me.
There is a story, I wish I could remember who the artist was. And if anyone knows the story and artist, please let me know. His wife walked into his studio and he was sitting in a chair just staring out the window. His wife asked why he wasn’t working. He looked up at her and said, “I am”.