Artistic Incubation, Art is not a Linear Process

An artist’s job differs from a regular 9 to 5 job in that it requires what I call “artistic incubation.” An artist can be disciplined and work a certain schedule, but an artist’s creative endeavor is not a linear process.

Our culture values business, whether the business is actually productive or not. Our culture does not value the internal process that must take place to create a work of art, which might look to an outsider to be laziness, but actually takes a great deal of hard work, and is vital to the creative process. The actual getting down to write, draw, paint, sculpt, dance, act cannot be adequately achieved without it.

If someone were to spend time with me they would find me wandering around my studio, sitting and staring at my paintings, pacing back and forth. All of that is part of my own “artistic incubation.”

I almost always get to a place in a painting where I don’t know what to do next. I’ve learned over time to just leave the painting alone, that great phrase, “when you don’t know what to do, do nothing” echoing in my head. And there comes a point, maybe days, weeks and even years later when I then know exactly what to do. Without that period of “artistic incubation” the painting would be overworked and ruined.

Sylvia White has written an article where she addresses this issue. In the article she has this to say:

” It wasn’t until I really understood the process of making a painting that I realized how much of the work is in just looking…thinking…imagining what it would be like to do this or that. Mental activity that to the lay person looks like relaxation. I could accept the fact that slathering paint around was work…but, sitting and staring, that was hard for me. What I came to learn was that the “looking,” is the hardest part. It was kind of like hearing about the way Mozart wrote music. He wouldn’t write anything down until he could hear it all in his head first, then he would write it out perfectly in a matter of minutes.”

Please visit Sylvia White at her website, www.artadvice.com. Sylvia White has also graciously allowed me to reprint her article on my website Mary Baker Art.

Mary Baker

Art and Doubt, How do you Know if you are an Artist?

Some dear soul found my website with the search inquire “How do you know that you are an artist?”–A poignant question. My guess is that if someone is already asking themselves that question, they are an artist.

The question I used to ask myself was “How do you know if you are a good artist? Is it just technical expertise, or is it something else?”

Almost 20 years ago I was able to answer that question.

I was given an opportunity to sit down and ruminate at length with a friend of mine about what I thought was a random group of paintings. What I discovered, after much thought and discussion, was that these were not a “random” group of paintings at all, but were actually an unconscious outer expression of a direction my life had taken. It was as if a light bulb had gone on, all of a sudden I realized that what I was painting was authentic and true. And ever since that time I’ve had a strong belief, despite a variety of circumstances, that yes indeed, I am a good artist.

Mary Baker