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The cerebral vs. the practical

January 25, 2012

Oil pastel sketchbook by the artist about finding directionI think I am more cerebrally inclined that I am practically inclined—practical being a reference to hands-on in the studio. I’m afraid I like thinking about my “stuck” problem with making art more than resolving it. This is a disappointing revelation. And I do mean to change that, but recognizing the dilemma highlights the size of the obstacle. Thinking is very satisfying, and it feels like I am piecing together a puzzle, but unfortunately my artmaking mileage marker hasn’t moved very far.

I did find another handy little resource for pep talks about facing obstacles: a free book called The Flinch, written by Julien Smith. If you are imagining that “flinch” refers to a primal reaction in the face of something extremely uncomfortable, you would be right. Applying it to being stuck in the studio, means that you run into a barrier that makes you cringe, baulk, and quail…and do laundry instead of working in your studio. Here are some words from Smith:

“The flinch is the moment when every doubt you’ve ever had comes back and hits you, hard. It’s when your whole body feels tense. It’s an instinct that tells you to run. It’s a moment of tension that happens in the body and the brain, and it stops everything cold.

When coming across something they know will make them flinch, most people have been trained to refuse the challenge and turn back. It’s a reaction that brings up old memories and haunts you with them. It tightens your chest and makes you want to run. It does whatever it must do to prevent you from moving forward. If the flinch works, you can’t do the work that matters because the fear it creates is too strong.”

This sounds like big fear, but I think this is useful because it raises the question of fear as a reason for being stuck. Definitely something to think about—different from boredom, being out of ideas, inadequate materials, inadequate skills, or whatever else fills in as a justifiable reason for avoiding the studio.

Flinching aside, I did finish my submission to The Sketchbook Project at the Boston Art Library this past week—9 folded pages (2-sided) of collaged text and images that I bound together in a little 5.25×7.25 inch book. Very fun and light.

Picture of the artist's sketchbook for The Sketchbook ProjectPicture of artist's sketchbook, displaying one opened page

I’m going to look closer at flinching to see if I can use Smith’s suggestions (he’s got a whole plan figured out). I did have a notion that my response to “flinch” might be described as “lurch”—a better explanation of my own uneven process.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 26, 2012 5:32 pm

    Brooklyn Art Library


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