The Boring Practice of Artistry

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anecdote credit: Scott Berkun via World Domination Summit

In 1956, Henri Georges Clouzot had the fantastic idea of filming Pablo Picasso paint.  Giving regular people the opportunity to watch a master work was sure to be a hit.  His movie, The Mystery of Picasso, was anything but.  It was a huge failure at the box office.  Turns out, people aren’t very interested in watching practice.  It’s only the final product that they’re willing to pay to see.

There’s an emotion tied to competitions and productions.  Drama is built in to winning or being won over.  Everyone has something to prove.

And yet all the great artists and all the great athletes were born out of play.  They liked to practice.  They liked the movements and the brush strokes.  They liked putting things together to see what happens.  Their work was experimenting and finding things out.  They simply wanted to see what they could do.

An artist in their own studio is completely content.  A kid shooting baskets is blissfully happy and imaginative.  Then comparisons come.  He can make a shot you can’t.  Your flower drawing doesn’t look like hers.  A hierarchy forms from the differences.  Hard as you try, you can’t make that shot.  You can’t replicate the petals.  You see what you can’t do.  

The practice that was once easy and fun becomes difficult and unfulfilling.  It becomes less about you and more about them.  There are timelines and pressures.  There is competition.  All the good is replaced with the nagging reminder that you aren’t good enough.  You stop practicing because it stopped being play.

Training movement can be a return to that exploratory play.  It’s a figuring out of what works for you and what doesn’t.  The challenge is to learn and create.  The objective is to keep feeling better.  The dare is to achieve mastery.  When you’re in it for yourself, the work is never boring.  Enjoying practice is what keeps you playing.

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