Andy Goldsworthy is an artist who creates mostly large scale sculptures from natural materials found out on location. The medium may be boulders or snowballs. The art may last centuries or hours. Most of his work requires physical exertion. The stressful kind, like ditch digging and stone stacking. He doesn’t arrive at his vision with just a good eye and some well placed brush strokes. This is why my friend’s son worked as an assistant to Andy. He collected rocks, picked up sticks, and raked leaves. All so that Mr. Goldsworthy could carefully select what he needed as he created his sculptures.
What would you create if you had an art assistant? Would your work improve? Could you accomplish more? What would change?
In Steven Pressfield’s inspirational book, “The War of Art”, he makes a strong case for doing the work yourself. He says it’s all about committing yourself to your art and working at it every single day. The well known contemporary painter, Chuck Close says his unique style is the direct result of many, many months and years working hard at his art. Mr. Close says, “Dreaming and waiting for inspiration is for amateurs. Pros get to work.”
So if I had an assistant… I suppose my website would be more sales focused. I’d have a ready supply of mats and frames on hand in my studio. I’d be more organized. Perhaps I wouldn’t have to shop for art supplies any more. However, I would have missed a recent conversation with my framer about the merits of wide and narrow wooden frames. His endorsement of a new art supply would have gone unheard. The only benefit I can think of in terms of improved art is an assistant could allow me more time to focus on creating my art. But so could watching less TV. So could getting up an hour earlier all summer long. So could saying no to another volunteer request. If I had an assistant, the flagstones I kept tripping on outside the studio would have likely been moved out of the way. Instead, I stepped over them each day until one day I thought, what would Andy Goldsworthy create with a few square flagstones? I didn’t sketch. I didn’t dream. There was no plan. I just started moving stones around. First the big ones, then the small ones. Then a handful of pebbles… let’s say fifty. What could I create?
I bet my imaginary assistant would have kept me in the studio working that day. That’s what the pros tell us we need. But artists also need to remember to just be… Be creative. Be original. Be simple. Be a maker of things. Even if it vanishes in the wind or melts in the spring. My flagstones are now a patio. But for just a few days they had the title, “Flagstones”.