Chasing Process Rather Than Masterpieces

         Donna Zagotta, Dancer 2011  

                                                                                   Donna Zagotta, Dancer 2011

Last year I worked hard on producing paintings for my fall show. Seeing my current body of work framed and hung was at once satisfying and thrilling. Being so product driven in 2010 was great for me and just what I needed. Indeed, my primary goal in scheduling the show was to require myself to produce more paintings. But now, after a year of chasing masterpieces, I feel like I want to break out, break free, and access deeper, more meaningful, more personal imagery and ways of working. Perhaps it’s only a case of the winter blahs, but I’m experiencing what I can only describe as “growing pains”. I feel a bit out of touch with my inner self and sense that she’s grown and changed, and that we need to reconnect again. So, I’ve decided that this is the year for us to reconnect. At this point I’m not sure what that means, but I do know that I haven’t gotten to the real core of myself in my paintings yet, and that chasing process rather than masterpieces is the key.

In my last post, I asked you which aspects of picture making you love the most and which you find most difficult. For me, play, process, and experimenting are difficult. I’m more inclined to go into my studio and focus on doing what it takes to produce good results. I find it hard to give myself permission to “just play” and to enjoy the process of discovery without having to create a finished product – which of course, must also be the next great American masterpiece! And then there is my VOJ – my voice of judgment, who likes to tell me that playing and experimenting is a huge waste of time, or that it’s nothing more than an elaborate stalling tactic I’ve devised to keep myself from doing my “real” work. 

Nevertheless, I have begun! Experience has taught me that mindless, unfocused experimenting done with the hope that something magical will just show up doesn’t work, so I began by making a plan. In his book, Talent is Overrated, Geoff Colvin points out that research proves:

The poorest performers are those who don’t set goals – they just slog through the work.

The mediocre performers set goals that are general and often focused on simply achieving a good outcome (sounds suspiciously like my chasing masterpieces syndrome!). 

The best performers set goals that are about the process of reaching the outcome, rather than simply achieving a good outcome.

Knowing that I needed a structured approach to play, process, and accessing my inner self, I designed a personal practice and play program for myself for 2011. I guess you’d call it a structured approach to spontaneity, but it definitely is “all about the process, rather than simply achieving a good outcome.”  

By the way, I’ve also decided to take the year off from chasing masterpieces.

Happy Painting!