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A Process of Becoming
Inspired by the artwork of Alice and Martin Provensen.
This is the ninth installment in my series, The Art of Wisdom, a study of art from the world’s wisdom traditions.
Over the years art has been many things to me. It started out as a childhood pastime, evolving into a hobby, a passion, and ultimately, my career as an illustrator and writer. But through those transitions, it has also developed into something more: for me, art is a way of being in the world.
Being an artist (and by artist, I mean anyone who has an art practice, whether professional or not) requires a certain mindset, a particular way of seeing and interacting with the world.
I thought, for a long while, that the purpose of cultivating this artist-way-of-being was to create more art. Cultivate more of this so I can make more of that. But I’m beginning to wonder if the piece of art is actually just a by-product—a secondary product made in the making of a primary product.
And that the primary product—the point of making art—is that cultivation of the artist-way-of-being. That embracing and growing this artistic way of thinking and seeing the world is not just the catalyst of the physical artwork, it’s the whole point.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been so intrigued by process. In my classes, I teach the mindset of process over product, and I love sharing my artmaking process and seeing other artists’ process. I keep constant screenshots of digital work so I can track my progress, and for years, I’ve kept the sheets of paper where I make test marks of pens, markers, and paints while creating.
I have the pages taped up on my studio wall like little artworks themselves, and alongside my sketchbooks, they are some of my most prized possessions. When I look at them I can remember where I was when I drew those marks, when it was, and who I was. Through all those random marks of process, I see a journey of becoming.
But then, what is it that we, as artists, are becoming? And why?
I have lots more thoughts on this, but it’s Friday and I’m running out of time. So for today, I’ll leave you with this quote:
“… lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and … stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to “walk about” into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?”
― Wassily Kandinsky, painter
On This Week’s Original Artwork
The artwork I was attracted to (or was attracted to me?) this week was this piece above by Alice and Martin Provensen. It’s an illustration from The Golden Bible New Testament, illustrated by the Provensens in 1953. Alice and Martin Provensen were very influential illustrators who have inspired generations of artists, including me.
In an odd coincidence (or not?) when I found this artwork I thought, Whoa… Alice and Martin Provensen illustrated a children’s bible?! and searched for the book on Amazon. There was one used copy of the book listed for $15 (all other copies were $75 or more). I bought it immediately.
Lastly, here is an angled shot of my drawing to try to better capture the shine of metallic Posca pens. I love that the gold and silver paint looks so much better in person and am pondering if maybe that is trying to tell me something…
Thanks for reading, y’all!