I received (as usual) a number of art books as gifts from my family over the holiday. They included exhibition catalogs, writings on the process of art, surveys of contemporary work and interviews with artists about their space and process. I have also had the chance to watch (or watch again) several episodes of the PBS series Art21, which looks at the work of various contemporary artists. All very interesting.
I got to thinking tonight about why this helps me. Or, perhaps more accurately, what is going on as I study this kind of material.
I find that I am constantly holding my work up to the work of others. These are the ways in which the work is alike. These are the ways in which they are different. If I like the work, why? Same question if I do not care for it.
Similarly, I am constantly holding myself and my artistic philosophy and my work habits up to compare them with these other artists. I agree with this, I disagree with that. I don’t work like that. I can (or cannot) identify with that emotion.
In this sense, I guess, I am takeing a carefully considered approach to my work. It represents, at some level, an examination of the world and of myself. It reflects, at some level, who I am, the work I have done in the past, and the work of others that I have been exposed to.
As a printmaker, I spend a lot of time developing my control over the various processes that I use. But I never want the process to take the forefront. Rather, I want to use those processes to express my growing understanding of the imagery that I work with. And I want to push myself to understand more about why I am an artist. And what I have to say.