Sunday, October 19, 2008

a vital discipline

Way back in 1996, I lived in a factory building loft space in Providence, RI. By day I was working as a research assistant at the University of Rhode Island, and at night I was attending graduate classes in scientific illustration at RI School of Design – I felt overwhelmingly compelled to make art about the great mysteries of science – but I was feeling a little like an impostor in both worlds. My coworkers thought of me as an artist who happened to have a day gig at the lab, and at RISD I felt like the other students could tell that I was really a scientist. In the end, it was, of course, all in my (bi-hemispherical) head.

At some point during the summer of 1996, the information that was to become “Evolution of an Artist” began to emerge. It began with “A Vital Discipline”, an insight I’d had regarding the creative process, letterpress printed onto a cocktail napkin. I later came to realize that “A Vital Discipline” was really just a paraphrase of something I’d heard Allen Ginsberg say at a reading years earlier: “When the Muse calls, answer”.

The other parts of “How to Become a Successful Artist” (later titled “Evolution of an Artist”) formed all at once over the course of a few weeks while I was peering for hours a day through a microscope. Of course I knew next to nothing about becoming a successful artist. The information just seemed to arrive, and it was my job to turn it into some sort of booklet. I was just following Mr. Ginsberg’s advice, answering the Muse when it called.

I decided to write Mr. Ginsberg a letter of thanks for his inspiration. I sent him a copy of the first incarnation of the completed booklet, including a live lottery ticket with another chapter, “ODDS”, rubber stamped on the back. I’d purchased two Powerball tickets with the same number, figuring that if the number came up, we’d have to split the prize. This in itself would get me a little closer to becoming a successful artist...

Copies of “Evolution of an Artist” in its current incarnation are available thru supermarket.

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