At first glance, it seems implausible. Why would anyone produce something they don’t like? I’ve been kicking this one around for a few days, trying to nail down why we artists feel this way. I’m not sure I have the answer, but I think it has something to do with the bar that we are (hopefully and constantly) raising.
We’ve heard the stories of artists like Remington, who burned his rejects. Personally, I just rip my paintings in half, and press on. We all understand that we produce paintings that just don’t “have the stuff”. Honest self-critique results in a necessary purging that every artist must employ if they wish to create good works. For me, it is a matter of leaving a legacy that meets my standards. One hundred years from now, I don’t want one of my “dogs” to survive, and represent my body of work.
But what of the works we accept, and still have no love for? I think back on my body of work and feel I have done maybe 10 spectacular watercolors. Not a great track record for nearly 17 years of painting. This feeling of inadequacy is what drives us.
The act of painting must therefore be stronger and more pleasing than the results. I myself hope to do one masterwork before I exit this planet, but I fear it may not be possible. And this is the reason: No artist ever sees his own work as a masterpiece. If you do, I think you are done. The eyes of history must judge your work. Hence, it’s the carrot you will never grasp.
So back to my original question – Why should we continue to produce work if we may never be satisfied? Maybe it’s something like “let’s revel in the process of attempting to produce great artwork, while acknowledging that we will always want our work to be better.” I think it comes down to this….the longer you stay on the train, the better you get. My advice: Stay on the longest, and be the best.
Content © Mark Kohler Studio.