Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Marathon Training

Yesterday morning, I went for a run. I ran for 28 minutes, which isn’t very long. But for me, these days, it is something worth mentioning. I used to run marathons (26.2 miles) but due to a number of boring physical issues, when this old body is willing to give me two and a half miles of running, I feel deeply grateful and euphoric.

While I was running, my mother was home watching a series about Masterpiece Artists on DVDs. This is one of her specialties. In college, I used to call home after a particularly inspiring art history lecture. I’d mention an artist and a few days later, my mom would have read every possible book and article on that person. It was like having an art internet via Mom.

Today, she told me about Picasso. Apparently, the DVD covered his famous painting that changed the course of the history of art: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. According to my mom and her DVD, Picasso made 700 drawings in preparation for that painting. 700 drawings. (I just had to say it again.) He poured over his drawings, studying, pondering each composition, analyzing the hundreds of different figures he had rendered. Then, he had a flash of genius and cropped the image down to the now famous and remarkable five women.

I love this story. For my mother, the moment of pure genius is when Picasso knew what to include and what to edit: How to see the perfect image out of 700 sketches. But to me, I think he’s a genius not because of his ah-ha moment, but because he made 700 drawings in the first place.

That’s the equivalent of nearly TWO YEARS of pinch pots every day. But knowing Picasso, he probably did it all in a few months time. (Such a show off, that Picasso.)

If I were ever a college professor of art, I would make all of my students train for a marathon. When you train for a marathon, you start with a simple little run: maybe four miles, maybe three times that first week or so. Then you move up to six miles, ten miles and so on. To get ready for a marathon, I usually ran about four 20-mile runs in the weeks leading up to the race. As someone who gets excited about a three-mile jaunt these days, this sounds outrageous. But it wasn’t. It took time, but it wasn’t impossible because of all the four-mile runs leading up to it.

Running marathons taught me how to break things down into manageable chunks. It taught me how to make a commitment to a goal. It took the magic and mystic out of accomplishing something. You just put on a pair of shoes and ran out the door. No talent required. Just determination and focus. This is what I would most like to teach my college students if I were a professor: It’s not about inspiration. It’s about repetition. Showing up. Putting in the mileage via sketchpad.

As for my pinch pots, I can’t say that I’m making masterpieces here. But I know something strange and potentially wonderful is happening. I am gleaning something from a pinch pot every day. I can feel it in my dreams, in my fingertips. I’m just not sure what it is yet.

1 comment:

  1. as you point out, it only makes sense that someone who is making 365 pinch pots would envy someone creating 700 sketches:) i do love hearing your voice in your writing and visiting virginia through your blog.