“Artists have a vested interest in our believing in the flash of revelation, the so-called inspiration … shining down from the heavens as a ray of grace. In reality, the imagination of the good artist or thinker produces continuously good, mediocre, or bad things, but his judgment, trained and sharpened to a fine point, rejects, selects, connects … All great artists and thinkers are great workers, indefatigable not only in inventing, but also in rejecting, sifting, transforming, ordering.”
Chuck Close encapsulated this notion in his famous quote, “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and work.” Although the source of Woody Allen’s similar remark is unclear, he reportedly said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” In The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp spends most of her extraordinary book driving home the same point. To those who were listening in the 1800s, Ralph Waldo Emerson explained the idea almost 20 years before Nietzche in The Conduct of Life. He probably got it from Montaigne, who probably lifted it from some long-dead guy who wrote in Latin.
For me, as a collage artist, the important thing to internalize from this is the necessity of regularly exerting diligent effort at the table cutting and pasting. I’m a big believer in non-thought thinking (or non-thinking thought, if one prefers to think about it that way). It may feel like a flow of intuitive, subconscious responses, but make no mistake about it— the brain is making discreet associations, evaluations, decisions —all in fractions of seconds, as it processes the material one presents to it, by the hand and through the eye. And, if one deems it so, the activity is guided more by the heart’s intent than by outer cognition. Do this often enough and more creative possibilities will emerge than can be successfully fulfilled. That is precisely when the conscious mind must step in and take the helm.
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6 x 6 inches
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