What do you do whilst thinking about how to finish a picture? This question is usually answered by going and doing something else for a period of time while the imagination, now freed from staring at the problem, finds a solution in its own time. In this instance though, the answer was to promptly do another picture. It’s smaller and was done a bit more quickly. When I’d finished it I was quite happy with it, the red jacket experiment worked well. The following day however, with fresh eyes. I didn’t like it at all. Something wasn’t right, and while I wondered what was suddenly wrong with it, I got to thinking about what it was inside me that would not allow the picture to enjoy any approval. This episode brought to mind a quote from a recent book about creativity by Seth Godin, “The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly”, which was shown to me by my partner a couple of weeks back. To me this quote goes some way to explain why we self appraise our work, not just that we do, and illustrates the relationship between the two agents of this internal process, ambition and taste. here it goes:
On Good Taste.
Ira Glass understands how you feel.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get passed this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have…… And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work, …… It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions”.
What I also found interesting about the above was that it explained to me something that has bugged me for ages. Have you ever allowed a friend or family member to see a piece of work? Has that viewing resulted in a spout of gushing praise that made you feel uneasy? After graciously accepting the praise, have you then struggled to explain why to you, in spite of their protestations, the piece is not very good at all and you should do better? I’m sure it’s not just me. The introduction of the ideas of taste and ambition really help to frame the argument you want to make, your only real challenge is to find the right words to use. Let’s face it, people get very upset if you tell them you’ve got better taste than they have! It’s surely about the education of that taste, and we are all responsible for our own in that regard. I must read this book.
Here’s to closing the gap.