I want adventure.

When I started, art was an adventure. When I confronted a landscape, a figure, or whatever, it was an adventure of discovery. I saw it for the first time. Each time I started a painting, I had that experience. Guess what? I still do!

You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. When I start, say, a painting of a figure, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a figure. What is a figure? What is a form? I’m excited to travel the road, just like when I stared.

You might cynically say that it’s because I’ve never learned anything, like a perpetual Groundhog’s Day. The important thing is the sense of adventure. Why else start a painting? If I’m not excited, how can I make you excited?

Of course, we grow as artists as our experience grows. When we’re young, we learn that some of our exciting discoveries were discovered long ago. Some discoveries aren’t discoveries at all; just trivialities due to lack of experience.

It’s important to work hard and learn the things that we need. It’s a difficult time for young artists when they realize much of what they think is original is the commonplace of art history. It’s easy to get discouraged and many give up or become knowing and cynical–the death of art. The art world is awash with the knowing and the cynical. “It’s all been done before,” they say. Little do they know that nothing is known and everything is ready for discovery. The future belongs to those who are excited about it.

When I was young, I liked math. During my Freshman year, my math teacher suggested that I should consider going into math as a profession. (Yes, the same Freshman year during which my art teach told me I should give up art because I had no talent.) Unfortunately, during my Sophomore year, we moved several times and my math education was interrupted. Then I ran away and lived on a commune–a story for another time. My math education stopped.

One night a couple of years later, I had a vivid dream. I saw a bug walking along a clock hand as the hand moved. In the morning I tried to determine the path the bug took. I realized it was a spiral. What if you dropped the clock as the bug was moving? What would the path be then? This was an exciting problem. I went to the library to work on my “discovery,” and guess what I learned? I hadn’t discovered anything. Calculus, which I knew little about, was created to address problems just like this.

We need to learn the things commonly available and spend no more time on them than necessary. And continue the game of discovery.

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