The Importance of Boredom
My girlfriend gets anxious when her son appears bored. I haven’t come out and said, “Good!” but in my mind, I can’t think of a better gift for a child. As a society we are becoming increasingly fearful of boredom. We look at it as wasted time instead of seeing it as creative time. For an artist, boredom is time well spent. The best ideas tend to come during times of boredom, not moments of joyful entertainment.
Being entertained can lead to inspiration but most of the time we have to accept that its derivative of whatever we are experiencing. A tangent to what is already happening around us. Boredom sparks a different level of creativity. It forces us to let the mind wander and the thoughts take off into strange and different directions. Boredom leads to creativity that is more unique and personal.
One of my first obsessions was drawing mazes. I started off using graph paper and developed intricate labyrinths for my friends to go through. At some point I ran out of graph paper and started free drawing but the mazes became something different. They started to loop and curl, the paths going under one another. It became more like a meditative art form than a exercise in puzzle solving. I stopped asking friends to solve the maze cause I was far more interested in just drawing the looping lines to fill a page.
The most important artistic development of my life came to me in a moment of boredom. I was in art school and my teachers were constantly drilling the concept of process into us. I feel the biggest difference between artists and hobbyists is the concept of process.
For a hobbyist every drawing or painting is separate unto itself. For an artist, each piece is an execution of a process. When you embrace process you riff off ideas, you explore techniques so when a painting is finished you execute the new ideas on your next painting and the process begins again.
I wanted so bad to be a process painter but I had not experienced process in my own work. Its that whole, lead a horse to water problem. My teachers had explained the idea but I was just too focused on making work that I thought was edgy or cool or thoughtful.
While I was home visiting my parents for Winter Break I was bored. I didn’t know what my next painting was going to be… I was frustrated with myself and bored. Bored out of my damn mind and so I started to scribble in a notebook. I had attempted several character sketches and I hated every one of them. So I just scribbled. And the strokes began to take on a strange life to me.
So I scribbled some more and suddenly I started to see a face. And I kept scribbling and more things started to show up. But these weren’t my carefully rendered faces, they were raw and rich and textural. I was in freaking love. In that moment of boredom I created an entirely new style for myself. I kept scribbling in that notebook page after page adjusting how I looped my lines, how heavily I pressed the pen to paper and I began to discover process.
Suddenly how I made my paintings was more important than what I was making. It was this moment where my art began to develop rapidly from flat unconfident drawings into rich detailed madness that defined my early art career. It was in that boredom that I found a voice for myself, a style, a technique that felt like mine. A technique that allowed me to develop other techniques and ideas. That same scribble technique over years eventually developed into the word portraits that have defined my recent career.
And it was in a moment of boredom that I began to imagine my portraits in color, looking through the skin into a universe inside my subjects. I still haven’t figured that one out, but I’m working the process and getting closer to my vision.