And other questions I ask myself
"... you painted something and it really resembles the thing you set out to paint in a way that you did not think yourself capable of. These technical breakthroughs are no less thrilling to me, the artist, but sometimes I get so caught up in the achievement of the thing that I lose track of the fact that I’m making art."
YES! I think about this all the time, I am constantly caught in the turmoil of wanting to paint something, being unsure, and being surprised by the outcome. I always wondered if this was a personal confidence issue or something other artists experienced. It also always make me think about what the thing was even "supposed" to look like in the first place, if I made it, isn't it just the way it should be? Such a thought provoking insight into your project (:
This resonates so much as a metaphor for living. I’m not an artist but it sounds a lot like how I move through life? Thank you
"Here’s something I think about a lot: How do you know if the art you make is meaningful to anyone other than you, the artist, and is it ever good art if it’s not?"
I'm not an artist, but I think about this a lot, too, as a writer. Can I fully convey the thrill (or the monotony, or the <insert emotion here>) of a particular moment in my life through my words? *I* can see it and experience it, but can anyone else?
I love this stairwell and the story behind it. I feel like I have similar snapshots of moments like this one. They don't have to be the same for me to feel like they're meaningful, also. Thank you!
I love everything about this post. (And both versions of the stairwell painting.) Thanks for sharing. ❤️
I love reading about your creative process. So fascinating! I love the way you captured that nexus of pipes too. I chuckled at the Pert Plus reference because I totally forgot that I also used to use that shampoo as a young person and I can't ever imagine myself doing so now 😆
I'm a nostalgic person myself, and very sensitive to my surroundings - I relate a lot to what you write about the stairwell as a special place in and of itself. What came to mind as I was reading was the god Janus - do you know them? Janus is the Roman God (with no Greek equivalent) of transitions, passages, doorways, beginnings & ends. Perhaps your travel in the stairwell was a place of Janus' presence. I wouldn't call myself a pagan necessarily, but I like the idea of a divine sort of energy accompanying us on our in-betweens, from the seemingly mundane to the distinctly significant.
I haven't been so glued to a text as I was reading this for quite some time. Thanks for sharing. I hope you keep enjoying the process of illustrating your journal.
I *love* art that is personal. I think of Joe Brainerd's "I remember..." and how it catalyzed so many remembrances in me. Thank you for sharing these insights into your process!
Thank you for sharing your progress on your book. This painting reminds me of the drawing you did of the power lines in Kyoto. All these lines and connections that look random but are really serving a particular purpose. Making a connection that is important to someone somewhere. You ask an interesting question about art. What makes art good? Does it need to be meaningful to anyone? I think it needs to make someone *feel* something. But even that is not predictable because everyone brings their own life experience when viewing it so will feel different things or nothing. So I guess I don’t have a real answer either. I like thinking about it though.
Thanks for this, Carson. I find that the best kind of creativity is personal.....both for the artist and the one appreciating the art. I really connected with your question: "how do you know if the art you are making is meaningful to anyone other than you, the artist, and is it ever good art if it’s not?" I do believe that all art is meaningful, in that it was created.....but it is, speaking from experience, qualitatively different when it is appreciated by others.
Speaking of which, your question made me think about my experience with your book "Du Is Tak?" For the past 15+ years (the last 10 in Beijing), I have worked as an international elementary school teacher. I am also an avid collector of picture books, both for my own personal pleasure, as well as to share with my students. I am a specialist whose focus is on supporting students whose first language is not English (English as an Additional Language or EAL for short). So when "Du Iz Tak?" came out, I immediately saw a way to use it in the classroom.
For many EAL students, they can be quite self conscious when initially learning English, despite the fact that many of them speak 2 or more languages fluently). I had my G1 - G3 students, some of whom were new to English, look through your book, as we worked together to suss out what we thought the characters were saying based on our inference skills (important skills for new language learners). Without exception, the students where highly motivated by the sheer love of your art and your messaging. So, in this case......yes, meaningful to many children from all over the world.
I always look forward to your work, so can't wait for your book.
Hey Carson, your work is incredibly meaningful to me. When I opened up ‘The Longest Day’ on Christmas a couple of years ago (a book I asked for and stalked out blog articles and podcasts about) I got actual goose bumps opening it up. The thrill of feeling in touch with our festive ancestors and rites communicated through your images was that elusive, immersive picture book feeling I chase, but rarely experience. This picture book is everything I had hoped for. You might shrug at this and discount it because you made that book a long time ago (maybe it’s just me that does that curious thing of feeling disconnected from/to older pieces and sometimes then, sceptical of their value).
I guess the meaningfulitude happens three times in an art piece: one being the outward communication - the artists quiet grapple with a (maybe) intangible urge/notion that is realised partly through a painting/creative act and partly again in the next creative act and the next and so on.
And then there’s the message being received: by the artist first- as the piece germinates before them and shows them what they were really trying to articulate (or shows them a piece of that puzzle).
Then there’s all the other eyes and hands and hearts that will land upon the offering after it leaves the studio to make its own way in the world. Sometimes art pieces are never seen by anyone but the artist, but those first two conversational steps still happen and contribute to the whole, because I guess all the art we ever make is the sum of all the art we have ever made, one big (meaningful) continuum.
Thank you so much for sharing. Loved reading this post. Looking forward to this new book pf yours. Your writings and art means a lot to me. Thank you.
Hey Carson, I lived in an old warehouse in London at exactly the same time as you, with my now husband. We built our rooms out of chip-board and studwork with three other people! All our “rooms” had no ceilings, and we had zero privacy. But the rent was oh so cheap!! I know that feeling so well of that thrill you feel when you are painting something and you feel absorbed and excited by it. It feels almost like love, adoration! Does it matter what other people think, when you have a moment like that? I’m thinking of all the unknown artists that got lost in time and history. But the fact they were artist’s can’t be lost. All those thrills they experienced. But it’s interesting, because it IS a good feeling when your work resonates with people, even if you know it should feel enough for it to personally resonate. Thanks for this, so interesting, and I look forward to the book! Ella xx
I love the stairwell with Carson in it because it raises so many questions. What is this woman in a stairwell with a towel wrapped around her? I REALLY love the version with the shadows. But best of all, I love the story that you took a photo of the painting and then changed it. I often long for the Photoshop history palette when I'm working with traditional media, and you have created your own history palette. X
I love this post for so many reasons. One is stairwells. Why are they so affecting? I can think of so many moments in stairwells - usually a quiet thing before another thing - feelings of calm (I am alone, yay), loneliness (I am alone , meh), anticipation (woo, this is gonna be fun), anxiety, boredom , testing the echo , the sounds, the smells. The thoughts. Also back doors and alleys while taking out the trash at many a food service job, those alleyways feel like stairwells. And your memories, they are yours and not mine - but can transport me to those days of youth where I was drifting along, it’s so powerful, like a key to a Time Machine. Thank you for sharing your art and memories and thoughts about those memories.
Thank you for sharing a moment of your life with us Carson. One of the things I absolutely love about being a nurse, is the time I am allowed to spend with so many people from different walks of life. I have the privilege of hearing a part of their story. I am always fascinated by the accomplishments and amazing lives lived by my patients and their families. Sometimes the day to day mundane activities are actually filled with so much meaning and substance. Such was the case with your story.
I loved both paintings, especially the shadows. Again, you created something beautiful from something that could be so routine.
So many questions came to mind as I spent time reflecting on your self portrait. Was the woman in the painting going to or from the shower? Why were her eyes closed? She seemed so contemplative. How did you see yourself when you were painting the portrait?
Thank you for sharing your process!