Good art happens to me when I don’t get so hung up on a vision of the end result. If I become precious about what I’m creating, I’m constantly afraid of “ruining it” and that thought cuts off creativity at its root: experimentation. But all art is an experiment! If it’s not an experiment, it’s arguable that it’s not art anymore.
My sculpture teacher taught me a good lesson about this in my second year of art school. He said that the worst thing an artist could do was get too precious about their creation – because then you stop taking risks. You worry about ruining it instead of pushing, pushing, pushing an idea as far as you can: you stop being creative, and stop allowing yourself to discover new things.
Whatever we (the students) were working on, he would tell us: don’t fall in love with it!
We had an assigned project to sculpt a larger-than-life realistic portrait bust over the course of several months – we spent HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS with the model, struggling to capture her likeness in wet clay. I sculpted mine with a long, pretty neck, and this amazing professor liked the grace of it. He would come over to check on my progress often, and critiqued me frequently, which I took as a big compliment, because he liked what I was doing enough to want to push me: to help.
I was almost done. Almost done this huge project that I had spent weeks on. And this professor comes up to me with this smirk, and he says in his fabulous British accent, “you wanna fuck wit’ it?”
He told me to hold the base of the sculpture stand. I was terrified. He kept saying, let’s just see, this could be nice, you wanna try? Let’s try it! So he put one hand on each side of her head, over her ears, and in one swift motion he yanked her whole head back and slightly up to the side.
It could have broken right off, BUT IT DIDN’T, and it made the sculpture so much better – so much more interesting and unique, more graceful, dignified looking…
I wouldn’t have had the guts to do that on my own.
The way he approaches art strikes me as wonderful and important: with simultaneous delicacy, fearlessness, and playfulness.
The moral of the story: don’t be precious.