Friday, September 9, 2011

Fortunate Tunnel Vision

This week I am working on a large 36 x 48 in. oil painting of a blooming desert spring scene - based on a photograph by the amazing photographer Paul Gill. This is the fourth Paul Gill image that I have painted, and all I can say is that his vision is a twin of my own - being that he looks for scenes in a landscape nearly identical to the ones I look for.

I found myself thinking about something that I was writing earlier this week - a sort of idea of artistic tunnel vision. I remember Paul Stanley of Kiss saying something to the effect that if you really want to succeed, stop listening to people! At first that comment seems counter intuitive. But when you stop and think about it, the realization comes that if you are really reaching - if you are going for something creative, bold, and original - you need the strength to cling to your own vision and see it through. You need to be able to shut out certain noises and criticisms and focus hard on what you feel you have to do.

I relate to Paul's advice quite well - because I have shared with a few artists my own loathing of the traditional settings for criticisms. I mean this mainly in regards to artists criticizing others' work. I have long preferred the harsh critiques of myself to myself - and that also of my wife, who is equally unsparing. Because it seem to me that when a group of artists sit around and take apart a painting - which is like taking apart a piece of sincere emotion - they are bringing to the table their own preferences about what art should be. And thus leveling their aim at the artwork of people who may not share their personal sensibilities - all the while trying to bend the art being critiqued to something of their own vision. In this way it seems to me that the artist-critic seems to want to take possession of a work they are looking at. Burn it with their own brand, so to speak.

And it is not to say that I think a work escapes criticism - not at all. When it hits a gallery wall or makes its way into a magazine or publication, you can damn sure be certain that it will be critiqued. I expect and welcome that. But what arrives there for the critique is nothing other than a product of my own visions - and it has been bent or altered to suit nobody but myself. In doing that, I feel nearer to my own vision of what a painting should be. Because it seems to me that when you feel that you are doing something truly different, you have to put the idea forth to the public directly, with the hopes that it will connect with sensitive individuals. This has happened for me, and for that I am very fortunate. But I am also sure that it happened because I was stubborn and persistent in not allowing my ideas to be diluted and watered down to suit other artists.

What Paul Stanley really knows about creativity is implicit in what he said about not listening to others; because if you would have told a member of the public in 1972 that in the following year a band would emerge, wearing kabuki style white face paint - with smoking guitars, spitting blood, fist pounding rock anthems, etc etc - they might well have laughed at you. But so many years and a zillion album and ticket sales later nobody laughs at the original KISS idea that Paul Stanley was a part of.

Now you might like KISS or you might not, but you can't even BEGIN to argue that they are somehow unoriginal!

That's creativity!