Showing Up

Chuck Close at WorkWhen you’re creating things, you can’t rely on inspiration alone, only painting, writing, sculpting, whatever, when the mood strikes. You have to show up on a regular basis, day in and day out. Creative efforts require a lot of commitment and professionalism. When you do this, you will be “favored by the Muse(s),” if you follow a more mystical viewpoint a la Stephen Pressfield or Julia Cameron. I like how Chuck Close puts it:

“I always say that inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

In an interview with NPR, Chuck Close talks about how his modular marks (I think of them as hot dogs) wind up becoming massive nine-foot self-portraits just through hard work and dedication.

Put this practice into action by setting specific times to work, then stick to it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be 8:00 am to 5:00 PM, but it does need to be consistent and regular. (I know one artist who goes to bed at 8 or 9 PM and gets up at 3 AM to paint, and he does some pretty amazing stuff.) Personally, I try to set aside Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons to paint, since that’s what works best with my schedule.

Morning Pages are another form of showing up. (In fact, I think Julia Cameron uses the phrase “showing up at the page” in her book The Artist’s Way.) You show up and you write, dumping out everything that’s in your mind and on your chest, stream-of-conscious style. Showing up like this also gives you the benefit of figuring out what you really need to be doing.

So if you really want to bust creative block and “turn professional,” you have to show up on a regular basis.


3 Comments. Add your own below.

  1. […] It’s a lot like what Chuck Close said: […]


  2. […] I suppose the lesson is to paint what I love, but be mindful of the market at the same time. In other words, painting shouldn’t be a chore, and I need to find the people who want to buy my art. They’re out there. Painting should never be a chore. (That said, a true professional shows up even when he doesn’t feel like it.) […]


  3. […] What I love most about Chuck Close is his work ethic: […]


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