On The Process

adreanaline     January 15, 2021 in ASL 5 Subscribers Subscribe

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English version of ASL essay:

You all know me as an artist by what I make, but I regularly think about the core essence of art. My thoughts this week turned to the process of making art.

When I was in the MFA program, one time I had a meeting with the Co-Chair of the program. She had looked at my work and encouraged me to think more about the process of making. Her explanation was that I tended to go directly from the idea to the finished product -- a direct line between Point A to Point B, so to type. It would be good, she suggested, to consider going off the path to explore the possibilities of a new Point B or even a Point C, and so on: being open to what the process might bring.

I didn't fully understand what she meant at that time, but after recently reading the book, The Practicing Mind, things unfolded for me.

Modern society in general tends to expect a finished product. They do not care so much for the process of making the product, only in where it can accomplish something to show for it. The Practicing Mind explains the importance of being present while creating one's work -- appreciating the path itself so that the finished works are secondary to one's first-hand experience. The value is in the journey, not the end-products.

A good way to illustrate this would be in the experience we ASL Deaf artists have in the educational system as children. We're often told to appreciate the process of learning, with great emphasis, even. Yet we are expected to hold good grades. We are measured in "pass" or "fail" no matter where we are in the actual process. It's no wonder the inner growth of so many young Deaf artists were stunted -- I know this to be true for myself at least!

Another memory confirms this experience for me. I struggled with my first foray in college due to undiagnosed ADHD. I had to find work when I dropped out. My first jobs were in graphic design thanks to taking a class in high school. Later those graphic design skills helped me make things such as prints and t-shirts.

Despite graphic design being an art field, the emphasis was still on a finished product. My inner growth as an artist was short-circuited -- when my products didn't sell, I took it as a judgement on my abilities. I had to start over in my process as an artist in order to gain a healthier perspective.

Now, after examining all those memories, I feel like I'm in a place where I can consciously change while moving forward in my process. But honestly, this isn't limited to artists alone -- we are all navigating our own process in our own fields. The Practicing Mind was written by a musician, but the underlying ideas are open to application. What have you noticed in your own experiences?

Feel free to share here!

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