How to Make a Summer Intensive More Intense

1. Come up with an idea that is too awesome to throw out

This is usually my first problem in any art class.  I start sketching, fall in love with the idea (which is often a good idea if the time-frame to complete the project was a year–in this class I have six weeks) and work it out on paper, until every pencil mark indicates about a month of work.  Professors call these ideas “ambitious.”  This can be taken as an encouragement, as in, “What a great student to come up with such an ambitious project.”  Or it can be a warning, like, “That’s a really ambitious project, maybe you should scale back.”  Usually it means both.

summer stone carving sketch
summer stone carving sketch

It’s really a simple drawing.  I tried so hard to make it simple.  Except for the tail-feathers.  Because apparently I can’t help myself, I made those complicated on purpose.  Mostly, I want to see if I can do it.  I think the curiosity and challenge of seeing if something can be done is central to crazy artistic types.  Maybe we just don’t know what to do with easy.

Technically, it could have been a fairly doable project except for size.

2. Pick out the largest block of stone

Two feet tall by a foot and a half wide and a foot and a half deep.  I don’t know how much it weighs but it can’t be moved without a fork-life.  And that’s only the base and tail-feathers.  Check.

IMG_1318
Day 2 – front

Okay, at least it’s limestone.  Limestone is softer, much faster to carve.  Which leads us to number three–

3. Feed yourself a daily diet of deceptions/hopeful half-truths

This ensures you don’t give in and come up with a new, simpler idea while there is still time to do so.  It is amazingly easy. I tell myself things like, “Limestone is faster to carve,” and, “With pneumatic tools and angle grinders at my disposal the stone will practically fall off on its own.”  When that doesn’t quite work I go with, “Even if I don’t finish it, I’ll learn so much!”   At least this one is more true.

And when a fellow student looks at your idea and your stone and says, “You can totally finish that in six weeks.  If you do nothing but carve the whole time,”  it’s better just to laugh and agree while inwardly reaffirming all previous self-deceptions.  (I would contemplate her suggestion except that my muscles wouldn’t appreciate the abuse.  And I need my job.  And food and sleep.)

The best way I’ve found to continue with my beloved, ambitious ideas is to recite a mantra every time I find a sliver of doubt:

“But it will be so cool when it’s done!”

This is the best motivation.  And some kind of driving force is a necessity in any project.  I would rather have a difficult, time-eating project that I adore than a simple, quick one I can’t possibly bring myself to care about.  For me, that kind of motivation makes it more likely I’ll manage to pull it off in the end.

 

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