Progress Report

As of this morning – before I’ve done any work – the Andy Project stands at 21,671 words. The goal is +/- 50K, so this is a short novel…about the size of Of Mice and Men, though that’s where any correlation between the two starts and stops.

Some nights, I sit down and blow through the entire word goal in an hour and a half without pause. Other nights, pulling those words out is torturous. One day last week, I wrote a little in the morning before work, a little in the evening after work, and then polished off the rest after dinner. This significantly reduced the pain of the process, and I may have to embrace this fully now that Top Chef is starting up again…and now that Work of Art is off to an interesting and appealing start.

Damn Bravo and their addictive programming!

I was skeptical about the Project Runway formula working in Work of Art, but it does. The personalities are there, for one thing. The time constraints do feel somewhat artificial, in that (in my opinion) the artistic process is iterative, and forcing someone to complete something that quickly all but guarantees a suboptimal result. Which is not to say that the artists were displaying crap, by any means – but I’m sure we’d see much different results if the artists were given the chance to execute at the level they’d envisioned (ie, how much more pleased would Miles have been with his screenprint had he had time to replace that bulb?). And it probably says a lot that the requisite self-taught artist finished first, and was napping instead of casting a critical eye on his own project. It’ll be interesting to see if he has the capacity to grow, or if he continues to meltdown in the face of the (I thought pretty gentle) critics.

The critical conversation I’ve observed online mostly revolves around discomfort over the way that the show is organized around the idea of art as commerce vs. art for art’s sake. The mentor and judges are gallery owners and critics, not artists, for example. This doesn’t bother me. It’s hard for me to pinpoint why exactly – perhaps working in marketing makes me feel more comfortable with the commoditization of creative work in general. Art is essentially a communications mechanism, and what value is there in an artist speaking through a medium – painting, sculpture, writing – and then declining to offer it to the world? And there shouldn’t be shame in actually making a living through one’s creative work.

I read a great interview with John Hawkes this week on the AV Club. He sums it up nicely: “They say an artist is part angel and part prostitute.”

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