Skip to main content

Just Show Up

Yves-Olivier Mandereau
Teaching Assistant, Ceramic Artist

As an artist, it is all too easy to sit around and wait for some elusive and imaginary muse to tap you on the shoulder. If we fall into that expectation, we will never get anything done. But as Woody Allen said, “80% of life is just showing up.” That is especially difficult for us as artists, because for the most part, our studio practice is up to us. Unlike working at a cafe or an office where you have to essentially punch your time card upon arrival, studio habits have to be diligently formed to induce the creative process. Creating art is less about motivation to create something beautiful, but more about forming habits of making.

During my sophomore year at school, I got frustrated when my pottery wasn’t yielding the results I wanted. I would sit at the wheel and throw for a bit, but would quickly dislike what was in front of me. In my frustration I would go for a walk, or grab a coffee, and wait ‘till I felt inspired.’ Maybe I was waiting for the right form or shape, who knows. This went on for about a month. When I realized that I wasn’t experimenting with the material enough, I committed to 5 hours a day on the wheel. This was essentially a way to experiment all the tricks and techniques I had been compiling from online videos, and books.

What I realized was that as I was futzing around, I would get bits of inspiration and would ‘run with it.’ In the span of the week I had managed to experiment with the material, and I had enough work to fill a kiln—and I liked what I had made. None of that inspiration would have come to me had I waited on my couch for it to come. Had I not experimented to see what cooking oil would do on the wheel; or what happened when I poured lighter fluid inside a piece and lit it on fire; I would not have gotten the expansive results I had. Within all the experiments I picked my favorites, I wrote down my process for each, and crossed off experiments I had on my to-do list.

Just show up to your studio and put in the hours. At some point in between all the ugly paintings and scribbles that you’ll never show anyone, you’ll get some beautiful work.

Donate to keep Art Prof free for all!