Working at Failure
It was surprising to me when I got out of school and went from one unfinished work to the next, constantly moving around, not making any progress, not being in any shows, not working on art, failure, failure, failure - for 5 years. But then I began to realize that a big part or art is working at failure.
Too much time is spent in art schools focusing on the best thing an artist ever made (which is an art historians point of view), but what an artist should spend her(is) time looking at is the unfinished works, the sketches, the beginnings of work, the tattered ends. (Who is to say what is the best work of art anyway? Maybe I like Dali's sketches better than his paintings, Warhol's films more than his pop-art, Andrew Wyeth's drawings more than his paintings.) I think most artists leave school without ever being taught by example how to work. They know how to make an assignment, or a thesis, but the daily drudge of failure and unfinished pieces goes unknown. If you leave work out of art - you become the servant to other people's ideas instead of your own.
We are not perfect - the beginnings of things are always going to be rough, you may never finish anything you start (when is anything ever finished anyway). The important part is to take those peices and do something with them. Refine them, add to them, digest them, but continue them, for years if need be. Don't always be a beginner, but be a beginner a lot. That's the only way to make new work. And an artist needs to focus on making work rather than in the end product. Period. The master work doesn't exist. The key item of intrest in an artist's life should be the shaping of the body of work over the span of years - not one single painting.
This is starting to sound like an argument for post-modernism or deconstruction. It's not. This process has a point, to create your body of work which displays your view of how things are. I suppose if you have a post-modern worldview then you can create work in this fashion, but why? It doesn't mean anything anyway? Or does it?
Making work, makes ideas happen. Ideas make other works. In the still and quiet times that art provides you have the opportunity to think. Be thankful for that - most occupations don't allow for thinking. But beware, there are people in the world who want to take over your brain and use you to make their artwork. DON'T DO IT. Be your self. Be authentic. There's too much fake it till you make it going on everywhere. You'll stick out if you are the truth.