Monday, June 4, 2012

Decisions, Decisions



24x24" oil on panel © 2012 Janice Mason Steeves

I'm in the process of making a lot of decisions.  I am making reservations to go to Cill Rialaig, my artist's residency in Ireland in October.  Afterwards,  I'll travel on to Scotland to visit my relatives who live near Aberdeen.  Then I'll go to the island of Iona for Quiet Week,  a program which will involve meditation, sharing and contemplative prayer.  I have many, many small decisions to make about flights, places to stay, where to leave my big suitcase full of art supplies so I don't have to lug it around Scotland. Those sorts of things.  I am thinking today about the process of decision-making in life and in art.

This reminds me of a story my daughter once told me.  She was working at a camp in western Canada. She and her friend had gone into town for groceries.  As she was nearing the checkout, she was hesitating to decide which checkout had the shortest line....back and forth she went, intent on finding the shortest line.  Her friend saw her doing this, and from across the grocery store he shouted out, "Pick a line and stand in it!".  This wisdom has become our mantra.  Whenever we have problems making a decision, we remember what Murphy said that day in the grocery store:  "Pick a line and stand in it."

I watched the film, Gerhard Richter Painting at my local independent cinema last week.  It was fascinating to watch Richter in the process of painting, with all of the  decisions he had to make. He felt intimidated by the camera and at one point, said that this was not going to work (his painting while the camera was rolling).  Painting is a secret process he said, meaning-as  I understood it-that it is done alone, not in public, and the decisions are made privately.  The product at the end is seen by the public, but the process is private. However, he persisted. The camera kept rolling.  He allowed us to see him working and to observe the mistakes and the happy accidents. He let us witness this vulnerability.

I met a friend, Lila Lewis Irving yesterday at the opening of an art show in Aurora, ON where we were both exhibiting our work. The exhibition was called The Ontario Society of Artists, Celebrates 140 Years.  Lila is an Abstract Expressionist painter who is known for her large exuberant acrylics.
A stunningly beautiful book of her work was published for her recent exhibition at the Art Gallery of Mississauga.  She said to me, "I have never been afraid to make mistakes."

In getting back into the studio after a long hiatus, I am encouraged by these painters who pick a line and stand in it.


“I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.” 
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

"Sir, What is the secret of your success?" a reporter asked a bank president.
"Two words."
"And sir, what are they?"
"Good decisions."
"And how do you make good decisions?"
"One word."
"Experience."
"And how do you get Experience?"
"Two words."
"And sir, what are they?"
"Bad decisions."                   

Unknown Author




10 comments:

  1. many good words to live by, Janice! I think the hardest thing to do is live in the present and dont doubt your decisions... thanks for the reminder.

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  2. HI Christopher. Don't doubt your decisions!! That's the best advice of all.

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  3. great post--tying ideas together from art and the rest of life is always interesting. There is so little separation really and we learn much from our art practice. "Pick a line and stand in it"--I can feel that one lodging in my brain now!

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    1. Well, it has stuck in our minds for sure! You will find yourself saying this to yourself whenever you have a tough decision from now on!

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  4. Hi Janice! I really like the subdued colors of your piece. Have you been to Quiet Week before? It sounds really interesting to me. I would love to hear more. Hope I can see the Gerhard Richter movie. Lila Lewis Irving is new to me, fabulous work. See ya standing in line!

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    1. HI Chris,

      Thanks for your comments. No I haven't been to Quiet Week before. It sounds wonderful although the trip there is a bit daunting: I have to catch the early morning train out of Glagow, catch the ferry to Mull, take the bus across Mull and another ferry to Iona. All in late November with the North Sea whipping up. What am I doing?

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    2. You'll need some quiet after all that ;p I look forward to reading of your experience!

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  5. Glad to hear that you saw the Gerhard Richter movie. I knew you would love it!

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  6. HI Jane,

    Thanks for mentioning the film to me in the class. You are so right, I just loved it!

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