Monday, March 18, 2013

You're Always Getting Better

Louise Bourgeois
To see a nice photo series on Bourgeois visit:

You may be familiar with an old advertisement slogan which said something to the effect that:  You're not getting older baby you're getting better.  I'm not sure that was a true statement in regards to the product they were promoting but I believe it is true when it is applied to creativity.

Just think of all the fabulous sage artists over the centuries.  They just kept working and work just kept materializing.  This ability to keep working is a very attractive feature of being an artist.  

I've been aware of this "gift" for many years but this weekend I read something that added an interesting element to the mix.  I have been slowly reading Forrest Kinney's book:  Creativity Beyond Compare.  I say slowly not because it is hard to read, it isn't, but because there is so much wisdom and richness it requires me to stop and savor what he is offering.  

Chapter 7 is titled Resisting and it explores the way we feel when we work, becoming aware of those feelings, how different teaching styles impact students and the longterm effects of our practice styles.  Toward the end of the chapter he talks about "finishing" work (he has an interesting view on this) and then he says, "Why rush the end?  It will come all too soon anyway." " The childhood of an artistic practice or of a project is the time to wander, gather many seeds, and get our feet muddy.  Middle age is the time to organize, harvest, and do the laundry.  Old age is the time to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, but we can't do this if we didn't gather up a lots of strange-shaped pieces in our youth."

I love that statement.  It honors the lives of people, all people who have a lifetime of experiences and if you have a creative practice you can now use all of that information to make the best work of your life.
I also love it as the description can be applied to the process of making of any single work.  

A creator begins a new project.  They try a few new things. They wander, gather and get their feet muddy.  They begin to have good feelings about part of the work but everything isn't going to make it to the end.  Now the hard decisions must be made.  You may have to remove something you love because it doesn't work with the piece as a whole or the piece is working but you are just treading the same path.  This is the time to organize, harvest and do the laundry.  The old age is when you really hit your stride and begin to see the work as a whole and it all comes together....and that strange-shaped piece is the center of the composition.

During the past few years as I have taught around the country with groups composed mainly of mature women, the thing I have been most impressed by is how smart they are but often how hampered they  can be when not willing to try something different or step beyond the accepted norm for their group or the norm they have established for themselves.   To me this means not drawing on their life experience.   It's also about fear and not trusting their personal vision.  This goes back to the title of Chapter 7 - Resisting.

So to anyone who has made it this far with me I say - Step into your power.  Be fearless.  Do your best work.  Try something crazy and don't stop working.  Remember - You're not getting older, you're getting better.


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  1. Thought provoking post - I enjoyed it. Gives me some idea to ponder today.

    1. Thank you Jan. This post was one I had to write as the entire idea of continued creativity is close to my heart.

  2. I often wonder (as I teach and learn) how much of our resistance is an artifact of our formal schooling which relies so much on there being only one right answer for the test. Whereas in art, and in life, there are many, many right answers and so much that depends on context.

    This is a wonderfully provocative post, Terry. Thanks.

    1. Thank you Melanie. You make a very good point and one that Kinney discusses in his book. He uses the practice of piano to make his point but of course it applies to all areas of learning. I have often made a comparison between art and math in regards to "right" answers , but in truth, math can be Very creative.

  3. Its funny - I kinda have two circles - I have my circle of friends that for the most part are 10 yrs younger than me and I have my quilter friends that are always 20 yrs old. Age, and the advancement of it, is brought up time and time again with my 30 somethings. They are so scared of it. I always laugh. I know at least a dozen women who as octogenarians are amazing artists - creative, funny, full of life. In my day job, I have call after call from 90 yr olds who are buying full spring wardrobes. They need the new clothes because they have places to go and things to do. So no I'm not scared of age - I can see my work get better every year. Besides Noah built an ark and Abraham fathered a nation and both were 100. Great post Terry!!

    1. Thank you Nina Marie for sharing your experience. I can see you one day being one of those pluky octogenarians out and about. It's a good thing. I choose the specific picture of Louise with her great coat and smile as just such an example.

  4. Hurrah! Wonderful post. Now back to work!

    1. Thank you Judy! We just have to keep picking up pieces and know they will find a place.