Wednesday, February 27, 2013

From Inspiration to Execution

Robert Louis Stevenson describes how a work of art changes in the translation from inspiration to execution.

"A work of art is first cloudily conceived in the mind; during the period of gestation it stands more clearly forward from these swaddling mists, puts on expressive lineaments, and becomes at length that most faultless, but also, alas! that incommunicable product of the human mind, a perfected design. 

"On the approach to execution all is changed. The artist must now step down, don his working clothes, and become the artisan. He now resolutely commits his airy conception, his delicate Ariel, to the touch of matter; he must decide, almost in a breath, the scale, the style, the spirit, and the particularity of execution of his whole design."
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Painting by Rupert Bunny, (Australian, 1864-1947) "Pastorale." Here's a big file on Wikimedia Commons (Thanks, Mike Dubisch)
Robert Louis Stevenson, Essays in the Art of Writing

6 comments:

Rich said...

nice reading.

As to the "artist stepping down, donning his working clothes, deciding about execution of his whole design" ...probably among artists, the poet deciding has got some advantages thereupon, with kind of a a one-for-one rate.

Karen Robinson said...

I think that at the inspiration stage, the work of art is not so much a "perfected design" but one that has the potential to be perfect. As soon as it is brought into being, it no longer has potential - it is actual, and as nothing is perfect in this world, it is by definition - imperfect. So it doesn't matter how hard you work on the translation from inspiration to execution: as potential your painting seems perfect, as an actual painting - it never is.
Here speaks one who has just completed a painting that was so exciting and so full of potential. And the result is not what I hoped it would be. *sigh*.

Diana Moses Botkin said...

Exactly, Karen! I was struck by Stevenson's choice of words for the final product, "a perfected design". Oh, if only!

scruffy said...

Ah but the frustration is: it was so perfect... in my head! This mess is what happened when i tried to capture it.

Steve said...

This is off-topic. Just suggesting to readers of gurneyjourney that they read Stapleton Kearns's latest post on his blog.:
http://www.stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/

Jessica Deering said...

Since we're being philosophical, I have always thought that the creation of the perfect piece would mean the end of a career. After all, there's never even a FINISHED piece, we just have to decide when to stop working on it.