Making Picasso’s point visible: In 2010, MoMA curators used X-ray technology to reveal the many iterations behind Henri Matisse’s painting ‘Bathers by a River,’ on which the painter worked for eight years between 1909 and 1917.
Matisse does a drawing, then he recopies it. He recopies it five times, ten times, each time with cleaner lines. He is persuaded that the last one, the most spare, is the best, the purest, the definitive one; and yet, usually it’s the first. When it comes to drawing, nothing is better than the first sketch.
Despite being both a professional admirer and a personal friend of Matisse’s, he cites the painter’s notoriously methodical creative process as a betrayal of this notion that an artist should honor his or her initial creative intuition.
“Is this magic? A miracle? No, it’s common as dirt.
It’s how creativity works. We show up. We do our best. Good things happen.
This is the intersection of Hard Work and Inspiration.
When we say “Put your ass where your heart wants to be,” this is what we mean.
This is what being a pro is all about. It’s why we practice self-discipline, self-validation, self-reinforcement…
We master all of those disciplines for one reason: so that we can be sitting there in the sweet spot when the Muse’s rocket ship passes by. That’s how the two sides work together. Hard work and inspiration.
Diligence produces inspiration because it shows respect to the goddess.
Genius and brilliance do not earn her favor. She prefers sweat. Get your butt in to the studio. Sit down at the piano. Boot up your iMac.
See yourself as the Muse sees you. You’ll know what to do.”
~ Stephen Pressfield, “You, as the Muse Sees You“
Image Credit: Patrick Wilbanks
“Do not believe those who try to persuade you that composition is only a cold exercise of the intellect. The only music capable of moving and touching us is that which flows from the depths of a composer’s soul when he is stirred by inspiration. There is no doubt that even the greatest musical geniuses have sometimes worked without inspiration. This guest does not always respond to the first invitation. We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavouring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.
A few days ago I told you I was working every day without any real inspiration. Had I given way to my disinclination, undoubtedly I should have drifted into a long period of idleness. But my patience and faith did not fail me, and to-day I felt that inexplicable glow of inspiration of which I told you; thanks to which I know beforehand that whatever I write to-day will have power to make an impression, and to touch the hearts of those who hear it. I hope you will not think I am indulging in self-laudation, if I tell you that I very seldom suffer from this disinclination to work. I believe the reason for this is that I am naturally patient. I have learnt to master myself, and I am glad I have not followed in the steps of some of my Russian colleagues, who have no self-confidence and are so impatient that at the least difficulty they are ready to throw up the sponge. This is why, in spite of great gifts, they accomplish so little, and that in an amateur way.”
Source: Brainpickings. Tchaikovsky, the legendary composer, wrote this in a letter to his benefactress, Nadezhda von Meck, dated March 17th, 1878. It can be found in the 1905 volumeThe Life & Letters of Pete Ilich Tchaikovsky.
Inspiring. Catchy thump, thump, thump rhythmic cadence. Hypnotic. Worthy 3 minute clip. A few of my favorite excerpts.
“This is an invocation for anyone who hasn’t begun to start, who is stuck between 0 and 1”
“Let me think about the people I care about the most. Like when they fail or disappoint me, I still love them, I still give them chances, and I still see the best in them. Let me extend the same generosity to myself.
“If I catch myself wearing a tutu – 2FAT, 2LATE, 2OLD, let me shake it off like…”
“Let me be not so vain to think that I am the sole author of my victories and a victim of my defeats…”
“Let me remember that the unintended meaning that people project on to what I do is neither my fault or something I can take credit for.”
“Let me not think of my work only as a stepping stone to something else. And if it is, let me be fascinated with the shape of the stone.”
“There’s no need to sharpen my pencils anymore; my pencils are sharp enough. Even the dull ones will make a mark.”
“And God let me enjoy this. Life isn’t just a sequence of waiting for things to be done.
***Note some coarse language that may be offensive to certain readers.