Avec knee tattoo.

Sadness. The day caught up to me all at once and I am finally turning to the blog, at exactly the time I had intended to go to bed, since I have resolved of late to get to work earlier. Will it happen tomorrow? I am not holding my breath, though I did achieve my goal on Tuesday.

(Oh Tuesday, how far away you seem.)

Meantime, I’ve been wanting to formulate some thoughts on formal artistic education v. muddling through on one’s own. The former in many cases is exactly like the latter, but with the benefit of being around other people with the same goal, and under the leadership/direction of some sort of seasoned mentor(s).

This topic has been floating through my head since watching a short film on The Sartorialist, which he posted oh, I don’t know, two weeks ago? Even last week I was struck with the sense that it was already too late to link to it in any way; that in internet terms, it was ancient news. (This week I saw a link to a video on someone else’s blog. I linked to the video over the summer and it’s way older than that…I had much scorn for this video’s showing up like overripe fruit on this blog. Irrational, I know.)

Anyhoo. Scott Schuman is self-taught as a photographer:

My lack of knowledge in the beginning really helped and really helped me refine what little I knew to make it work. And I think if you ask any other person that does a creative thing, they probably go to school and learn all these different things and as they get better it just narrows and narrows.

I finished Reality Hunger not long ago and this resonated, a further development on the thought above, I think:

Listen carefully to first criticisms of your work. Note carefully just what it is about your work that the critics don’t like – then cultivate it. That’s the part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping.

IE, refine what little you know. (BTW, that’s David Shields quoting Jean Cocteau.)

Then, not so much related but necessary for the coming transition:

When I was seventeen, I wanted a life consecrated to art. I imagined a wholly committed art-life: every gesture would be an aesthetic expression or response. That got old fast, because unfortunately, life is filled with allergies, credit-card bills, tedious commutes, etc.

Shields of course is fully credentialed, academically. Bastard studied with Milch. Milch!

I also read Just Kids recently, and in a similar vein, Patti Smith talks about her own artistic development and that of Robert Mapplethorpe (who did have some formal education in art, but perhaps not much). She cites the Tosca aria up front – Vissi d’arte – and that’s I think a great descriptor for their early vie bohemé (to mix operatic metaphors…for me it call comes back to Puccini anyway…see blog name) together in New York, after Smith was booted from college after she got pregnant. No MFA required.

Now we’ve come to the place where I am supposed to wrap it all up with a tidy conclusion, or perhaps with elegant ambiguity. But it’s late, dammit. I want to go to bed. The only thing that’s occurring to me is a sort of platitude, the idea that both approaches are valid (which of course they are) and highly individual. Personally, the formal education has been a huge benefit to me, and god only knows what kind of pap I would still be generating left to my own devices. Mind, there’s still plenty of pap. It’s just slightly more palatable pap.

And with that, I will draw this entry to its inevitable and painful close. To hell with Wednesdays, and their overscheduled ways.


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