I recently discovered the podcast app on my phone and I am close to obsessed. I listen to podcasts while washing dishes, painting and even gyming. It’s like a whole world of knowledge and information I never even knew existed, has just fallen at my feet. I had no idea so many discussions on so many topics were taking place right at my fingertips. It is a beautiful thing. If you have never listened to a podcast, I suggest you try it. All you need is a phone, an app and a pair of ears. I’ll do a post on my top podcasts for those of you who are interested.
But now why have I spoken so poetically about podcasts? No, I am not starting my own podcast (yet), but I was having a listen to one of my favourite podcast’s latest episodes and they brought up something I feel I could add my 2 cents to.
The podcast is The Minimalists by – you guessed it – The Minimalists. It was through their documentary – Minimalism: A documentary about the important things – that I myself became a minimalist. The episode I am specifically referring to is episode 123 Hobbies.
In this episode they answer the following listener question – “How do I reconcile my minimalist values and beliefs with all of the items that are necessary for my hobby?” and “How can I be sure that my work space only contains those tools that are absolutely essential?”.
I make my living as an artist, and with that comes a lot of ‘stuff’. They went on to discus various examples and aspects of this question. I believe that these are very important questions to ask especially as an artist who works with fine art mediums, rather than digital media. I also feel that there is a stereotype that artists are messy, that they run on chaos and that eclectic cluttered environments are just a part of the package. I have to disagree. I was the perfect picture of chaos and eclectic clutter but over the years I have cleared my space and found that I am more inspired, motivated and focused in an open and organised space.
The space within which an artist expresses and creates is a very sacred space, and each artist’s version of this space and it’s beauty will differ, but what stays the same for all is that this space needs to function and inspire. While my work space is no ‘pinterest worthy’ curation (yet), I have tried to ensure that it stays clear of clutter with plenty of room to move around and express. I have made sure that everything in my studio adds value to the space and my work. I will not keep something simply because it could be useful in some imagined future, I keep only that which is relevant to my medium, style and practice.
It is also important to remember that a paintbrush does not an artist make. The brands you buy, as long as they work, have very little to do with the value of the art you produce, we as the artists add the value, not the media we use.
This being said, having the right tools is highly important. However, Something mentioned in the podcast really resonated with me – “Constraints breed creativity”. This is so true especially in terms of art. Some of the most beautiful artworks have come about through a vale of constraint and limitation, some self inflicted and others circumstantial. I will not buy anything for my studio that I can do without, without compromising on my standard of work.
Sometimes I do need an extra brush here and there. For example, just today I was trying to paint the portrait of a young boy, but I had been using a brush that was far too stubby for the detail I was trying to convey, but its the smallest brush I own. In my frustration I took a swab of flesh tone and painted over the boys face, noting to myself that I needed a finer brush. So do I now continue to struggle with the brush I have? No of course not, I’m going to the closest Forum and buying myself the tiniest brush I can find because it’s what I need to get the job done at the standard it needs to be done. Thus another point they made comes into play “Essential is perspectival”. Yesterday before I had begun painting the boy’s face, a new brush was not essential, but today it is.
I hear so many aspiring artists (myself included) complain that they don’t have a studio or the right brush, the right colours, easel or canvas and that that is why they can’t create the way they want. So they’ll idle away their talent (me included) based on the idea that they’ll start when they have the studio, the easel or the whatever (me included). Then when given the chance they blow their living on the fanciest drawing table, highest quality paints and latest adjustable easels despite the fact that the last time they sketched something they were writing their matric finals. Now they have the stuff (me included) but do they have the time, no sorry, do they MAKE the time.
Last point I have to add is this – “Creativity is portable” , it does not live in our tools, our mediums or even in the artworks. We should not add more value to the tools or creations with which we associate ourselves than is necessary. Our act of creation is an art in itself. We carry that power of expression wherever we go and we can use it whenever we want, but it’s important that use it even when we don’t think we have all the right tools, if pushed we could find that we have everything we need.
The brush does not the artist make.