Plato Had It Right

Fly Me to the Moon
copyright 2021, Molly Larson Cook
Mixed media, tissue, ink and acrylic on illustration board
10″ x 8″

And so it begins.

Plato is rumored to have said (who knows who really said what back in the day?) that “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” Whether he said this or not, I have long believed it.

It’s the first stroke on the canvas, the first words in a piece of writing, the first notes of a new composition, the first steps of a dance. The first move across a bare stage in a play. The first turn of the wrench, the first nail in the bookcase, the first step that can carry you on a journey of a thousand miles.

It’s the beginning.

Wise old Bayles & Orland, Art & Fear, offer this advice for artists as a help when thinking about our work, our viewers and the rest of the world:

“(The viewers’) job is whatever it is: to be moved by art, to be entertained by it, to make a killing off it, whatever. Your job is to learn to work on your work.”

This week I’m trying to relearn some old tricks and it’s the same story. The beginning really is the most important part of the work. You think that once you’ve learned how to do something, you’ll never have to learn it again.

This may be true when it comes to riding bicycles, although I’m not sure I’d still be able to ride my first bicycle (a second hand girl’s bike my dad brilliantly painted a beautiful lettuce green), and I realized today that it was definitely true about returning to collages after a few years of painting.

I started with a 16″ x 20″ piece of illustration board. Then I went to the used book store to find magazines and old books with possible pictures. Then I wasn’t sure if I needed to gesso the illustration board or not. Memory failed me. So I looked that up. Then I cut images from one of the old books and gave it a try. It did not turn out well.

Collage is an interesting art form. In some circles it’s more a craft than an art. Grade school kids do it. Adults in some situations are encouraged to do it with magazines and Elmer’s paste. “Create a dream board” or something like that. But for professional artists, collage requires attention to the same principles as painting and other two-dimensional art forms.

The collage above is the first in a new series (as yet untitled) and it’s acrylic paint, ink and tissue on the ungessoed illustration board. There’s one other item that I use in most/many of my collages. It’s my secret sauce, but you might figure it out. This one turned out much better than the one with the I tried with pictures of roses.

And therein lies if not a tale, at least an epiphany. I have moved fully into the abstract world and find a great deal more satisfaction without the recognizable images. This is not to say I’ll never use them, but it’s the color that interests me, the color and shape – from paint on canvas to paint, tissue, ink on illustration board.

I’m working now toward a new collection, still tied to jazz, but going new places. If you are so inclined, grab your journey boots and come on along for the trip!

And when it comes to projects of your own, repeat after me one more time: “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”

This is also known as “taking a risk” and what is art about besides taking risks. It’s always a little scary, but more satisfying than a stack of hot blueberry pancakes from my favorite little joint on Whidbey Island. And that’s satisfying!

4 thoughts on “Plato Had It Right

  1. I know you already know how to do it…but sometimes we all need a little reminder…especially as the years go by. You witnessed my own big big risk and it’s worked out very well 🙂

  2. If we don’t take the risk, we’ll never really know what happens…Thanks for the reminder and the encouragement, Molly.

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