Rule 2 – See rule 1.
I don’t do manifestos. Much as I believe in limiting options in order to combat the tyranny of choice, I think that art led by manifesto is a self-defeating conceit. And no, I am not about to repeat the trite meme that “rules are meant to be broken”, what I say is similar but subtly different. I say that some rules exist for very good reasons, but if you are going to break them, do it for very good reasons.
I have seen a lot of posts on Facebook recently from BrainPickings.org about writers’ regimes and artists’ creativity, and I am becoming a real fan of their site. However, I don’t find the writers’ working regimes helpful at all, but that is based upon experience. I think you must find your own routine, and that only comes from thousands of hours of day-in-day-out, year-in-year-out dedication to your art and craft.
My own regime has been established, intuitively, over 40 years or more. After all that time I have come to know I have a cyclic creative output. I will be highly productive in one medium or subject for a period and then it stops. Sometimes I return to the same theme or activity years later, often with nothing having happened in between. Sometimes I can pick up where I left off and sometimes I can just rule a line under it and move on.
What works in my favour is that I’m now old enough to have had this happen enough times not to worry about it. This is one of the reasons I do not enforce a schedule on myself. It just doesn’t work for me, but it does work for some people.
However, I am a great believer in self-discipline, and the simple act of regular work is both stimulating and productive, even when not necessarily directly.
One traditional discipline I believe in very strongly is drawing. Regardless of whether you are a figurative artist or not, I think the act of observation and the physical action of recording something is extremely rewarding, and there is simply no substitute for putting the hours in.
I recently watched an interview with film music composer Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, 2000, and Hannibal, 2001 amongst many others) who said you need to put in “10,000 hours to get good at something”.
FYI 10,000 hours at eight hours a day for five days a week is about five years.
Sounds about right.
I can hardly compare myself with Zimmer but I remember observing about photography, after I bought my first digital SLR camera in 2007, that after two years and 40,000 shots I had only just began to learn how to use the camera. Another three years on, I think I am starting to know what I am doing, but still only in a small number of subjects and techniques.
Another convenient soundbite I picked up is Chuck Close’s observation. “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
He also talks about some artists’ fetishisation of creating the ideal working conditions, and using this as an excuse for not getting things done. This is another reason why I like drawing so much. You only need a pencil and a piece of paper, and you can do it anywhere, although moving vehicles make it difficult.
It’s almost impossible to avoid talk of new starts and resolutions at new year, and I made a resolution many years ago not to make new year’s resolutions. However, having been in a bit of a creative doldrums for a few years, but newly motivated with the prospect of my retrospective, I am rekindling old habits and getting old skool (again).
I am confident I clocked up my 10,000 hours drawing several times over way back in the 80s and 90s, and I think my drawing is ok but I’ll never be Dürer, or Doré, or Moebius, or any of the other masters that I admire.
However, I still love drawing. So, just to contradict myself, here is my Bolamfesto.
Rule 1 – Draw every day
Rule 2 – See rule 1