“Today you know what you’ll do” Chuck Close

At 5:30am on the front verandah I sat and watched brooding clouds move around the top of the mountain. You could have called the morning ‘close’. The humidity was like a medium-weight blanket, and the building clouds are teasing us with the prospect of rain.

109_AWHow did pre-photography artists capture that light, those morning skies that move so bloody fast? I guess they were just seriously good which is why we can see them in our bookshelves.

At one point I saw some formations happening and despite all the sketching gear laying around the office at present I raced and picked up the nearest pad and a biro so I could scribble what I was seeing. After a few days of banging away at something that’s still not working, it’s easy to erode one’s own direction. I know I’ve got better at ignoring those voices with their little archeological hammers and brushes that chip, chip, chip away at my defence shield. But turning to art play, scribbling with a biro, just getting on and doing more work, is like a laser gun to those voices.

Dave’s last post about visiting Chuck Close’s show in NY reminded me of his motto in Inside the Painters Studio: “Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will—through work—bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea’. And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you’ll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you did today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.”

Chuck also says he often has tv on while he paints, but mine is still in the cupboard though I did watch this great YouTube video, you need an hour so make a cuppa and settle in, it’s really good: ‘A portrait in progress’.

10 minute gouache scribble. Need to do another and forget the land mass for a while, the little voices say this needs working up…


20 thoughts on ““Today you know what you’ll do” Chuck Close

  1. I agree….work IS the thing and ya gotta BE there to do it and not wait for ‘inspiration.’ And I love Chuck Close and his work. A master, he is. And I love this ‘sketch,’ too, ms. Adrienne. I’m horrid at sketches….must just get into the paint. But, look…you just got into the gouache, didn’t you? All looks to be fine on the Australian front.

  2. Yes Adrienne..I would love to see you do a series of gouache sketches…I have always admired the gouache works you have produced. Put your favourite music on and enjoy yourself…enjoy the paint.

    Hey the ‘Hard Pressed’ gang could take time out on their technological endeavours to knock out some small 10 minute sketches. It would be good fun. We could have someone set up ‘their’ still life each week. That would make us do something different each week.I might set up come old teapots, cups and saucers next we meet? Perhaps we could limber up on those?
    I really enjoy reading your posts…Cx

  3. The Close quote is reminiscent of Anthony Trollop’s work habits:

    “Also calculated to displease was Trollope’s attitude toward the whole notion of artistic “inspiration,” which he regarded with undisguised scorn. “To me,” he wrote, “it would not be more absurd if the shoemaker were to wait for inspiration.” What mattered to Trollope was application. His discipline was legendary. According to the famous story recounted in the Autobiography, he paid his groom £5 a year extra to wake him at 5:00 A.M. so that he could be at his desk by 5:30. “I do not know that I ought not to feel that I owe more to him than to any one else for the success I have had,” Trollope reflected. “By beginning at that hour, I could complete my literary labor before I dressed for breakfast.”
    Nor did Trollope dawdle and “sit nibbling the pen.” He spent half an hour reading over and correcting what he had written the day before. Then, with a clock in front of him, he managed 250 words every quarter hour, covering ten pages and producing on average 2,500 words before he set off for a full day’s work on Post Office business.”

    From: A novelist who hunted the fox: Anthony Trollope today
    by Roger Kimball

    Close’s work seems fully conceived (inspired?) before it is Masterfully and methodically executed. CC

  4. Is inspiration a valid concept? As artists working with the same hand, mind on two or more works at a session, why might you feel one piece “works” and another does not? If you produce essentially the same work everyday that nevertheless changes over time, do you have the same intent as a craftsman? Why are some endeavors widely considered “Craft” and others “Art” or “Fine” Art vs. Illustration? Are these false distinctions? Is the work of a master tile maker as valid as a carefully gridded and methodically executed Close painting? Is it even Close (sorry N.) I know that Close’s “hand” is in a lot of his paintings. So is the tile maker’s hand in their glazes. CC

  5. CC: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know, but I do know the Native Americans see NO difference in art/craft. I don’t know. Good pun. I’d say yes to that last one.

  6. Same with the Scots-Irish English Norwegian Americans too for that matter.

  7. Speaking strictly as a representative of a proud if monolithic people. . .
    Also an unfortunately sarcastic bunch and it IS unbecoming. Still, it’s as ingrained as the puns. Or is that inCraned? CC

  8. Overreacting to an innocuous remark. Got the spirit. Am sorry. CC

  9. Gee, Carey, I didn’t mean any wrath. I just don’t know. Honest. And too many questions for me to deal with all at once. I saw Eduardo today and finalized everything in his pea brain. You’re in the BIG room, I’m in the smaller one. ha. We’re on.

  10. “I yi yi!” You guys are rollin’. Throw a quote and a coupl’a scribbles up on the interweb and yer off! YES Christine, 10 minute sketch warm-ups sound perfect. YES Nolan, been back on the gouache sketching about 5 years after a long break from it. I now use it in a different way to the ol’ illustrator days… and on that CC, Illustrators always work to a brief, whether it be from their own text, someone else’s text/sotry, or some art directors advertising fantasy. Very different to our relationship with starting an artwork. Totally agree that Close’s stuff must be fully conceived, designed and that in itself is masterful hey. If I did that it would look like, well, an illustration :-]

  11. Sigh. I’ve been in the museum business for over thirty years around anthropologists and archeologist and curators that get really twitchy when you say “I know Native Americans _____.”
    “I know African Americans ________.” It can get really complicated and contentious. Nolan meant no ill will. Anyway, I got the point yet went somewhere else. I think that we have been here before. I believe that I said the same lack of distinction between art/craft can be made of early european settlers’ material culture as depicted by the All-Definative : ) John Sloan’s Americana. But I am an arm chair anthropologist at best and one with self diagnosed ADD at that. CC

  12. CC: I’m not an anthropologist at all, but I got my info from Winkler who used to curate a show of NA’s work in CA. See? Now I’m afraid to type Native Americans…haha. Anyway, that’s what they told him and I repeated. No will will. Personally, I know nada. I do know that when I do illustration, it IS, as Adrienne said, to someone else’s will and when I paint, it’s all mine. That’s why I suggest to people who want to commission me to do a painting….to wait till they see something I’ve done that they like….as I do believe most commission work is secondary ’cause ya can’t help but be thinking of what the client wants….see? a combo of illustration and fine art. I understand your response to my previous post. Sorry to have set you off, but hey…I KNOW very little.

  13. Thanks Nolan. My limited experiences with commissions have not been good ones. Best bet is when I start with a schema-shape stuck in my head and go all free-form when it starts talking back. Me and Chuck, right? CC

  14. PS I’ve been asked to do a commission! Bwahahahahahahha
    And, I’ve accepted. Agree with all the shortcomings mentioned with commissions, and it’s been, hmmm, maybe 6 years since I’ve accepted one. And the few I’ve done have gone good, but with all the head and heart stuff attached. What can I say? I’m really interested in this one, the reasons it’s been requested. I don’t know the commissioner, but we meet next week at the spotted gums on their property. Watch this space… perhaps maturity about my relationship with the painting can come into play and teach me something new about the process.

  15. An artwork or craft item, or whatever is created, could prove inspirational, if it manages to make us feel differently, or see something as we have never seen it before… so that our mind is permanently remapped by what we have seen, heard or read…. What we do in response to that inspirational experience is the big question. I think though, it is not possible to translate someone else’s enlightened moment. I’m back to the work and play ideas.

  16. Beautiful said Chris. Totally agree, There won’t be any ‘art direction’ on this commission, they’ll get to ‘choose’ from the latest paintings of spotties. Otherwise it’s death by direction, the slippery slope :-]

  17. I did enjoy the years of work that I spent making dioramas, building environments, sculpting reproductions, mold-making . . . very much. I didn’t think of it as commission work though it was very built to specifications and under deadlines. In painting I don’t mind a general outside suggestion to get me going (seeing things?) such as “. . . try darker” from N or “I’d like to see another more calligraphic one” from H. Otherwise it is most satisfying to simply get going and to follow the internal logic of the painting. If it doesn’t work out it is not awkward. No one will be disappointed but me and I’m not very disappointed. I’m out some time and materials, but time painting is not time wasted. Seems more like a ripple in a continuum rather than a single wasted effort. If I do use a previous painting as a starting point the new one’ll go rogue or loose the fizz.

    I was recently reading about a portrait commission that Matisse conditionally accepted. The condition was Matisse’s: that he would paint as he pleased and the client did not have to accept the results. A fair likeness was not M’s objective and in the painting [Portrait of Mlle Yvonne Landsberg] the face grew more mask-like and arching forms radiated away from the figure. The finished work was declined. Continues to interest me that Matisse could be the most disciplined and methodical of painters. He was so reserved in public that he was called the Professor. But look at the body of work. CC

  18. ha, Winkler has a ‘commission’ and he told the fellow….I’m just going to finish what I’ve begun and IF you like it you can purchase it. Winkler, my Matisse, sigh. Me? I can usually not afford to say ‘no’ to a commission, but do try to warn them. Have never had a bad outcome….at least not for the client. For me? Secondary work, but I’d never say that to them. =]

  19. Freezing in car outside Starbucks so can get internet (mum’s a Luddite). But wanted to congratulate you Adrienne on your work and the commission. Cool to have toured that same land with you. I’m sure it will be fabulous.

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