Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Competition or Collaboration: The Saga Continues

collaborate:  to work jointly with others 
competition:  1)  rivalry; 2) a contest between rivals

Last week, I wrote about a desire to see perspective return to the OVERALL practice of journaling, be it art/visual or written in form.  In closing that post, I espoused my personal belief that 'fundamentally, ideally, there is no place for competition between art genres.'  That remains my story, and I stick to it; however, I received several juicy comments in response, and they've inspired me to quantify, flesh out, my statement.

But first, Sam asked, 'I'm just wondering what happened to inspire this [last week's] piece.'    One year of increasingly backlogged frustration with the growing cult-esque fascination with art journaling, and in particular, art journaling to the exclusion of THE WORDS!  THE WRITTEN JOURNALING!  That, and a hideous, green-monster-driven rant upon seeing an artist published, an artist who 'began' at the same time I did, an artist who is perpetuating all the art journal trends by which I'm saturated and with which I'm beyond impatient.  I had a bonafide conniption fit.  I still haven't worked my way through it all, though I've calmed enough to feel a large degree of shame at my arrogance, my wholesale condemnation & my major trench-mouthed tirade sprayed not only in this artist's direction but also at the publishers for being (in my esteemed opinion) so damned predictable, so commercial, and so safe.


Let's move right along, please, to Beth's comments, like a balm, ' ... and competition ... blech ... I hated high school because of competition and wish that word would just explode and go away.'  Yes, and yes, and it may be this was also the birthplace of my repugnance for the word.  I associate "competition" with locker room posturing, jock itch, toe jam, an entire MINE IS BIGGER THAN YOURS mentality.  Whatever our gifts or ability levels, isn't it possible to invoke the best -- in ourselves?  in others? -- minus snide asides, bully tactics and that chorus of 'Neener!  Neener!'?  Another's piece, poem, or presence can be full-throttle instruction on its own, without any smearing of it in my face, without any elevating of it over my own efforts.  When it comes to 'better', all artists have An Eye that assesses, distinguishes, and absorbs in growing awareness as applicable to their own endeavors.   Creatively speaking, I personally have no 'rivals', or at least I fervently aspire to none.  I'm proud of that even though I enact it so imperfectly. 

Marilyn, strong and confident as she is, writes:  'Each to their own.  I couldn't exist without competition and I'm happy to be my own if need be!'  I imagine Marilyn has connotations very different from my own relative to the word 'competition'.  Groovy!  I can learn from that, too.  It seems to me, still, that she and I are on the same page.  The objective, ultimately, is SELF-improvement, right?  Through exposure to other work, ideas, techniques, experience, we individually can draw incrementally closer to effecting our personal vision.  I do, most definitely, "compete" with myself, but it's more honest to name it collaboration -- unless I'm dueling with my own critic, pushy beastie that it is.  Call it competition or call it collaboration, but the compelling difference between 'you suck' and 'hey, you really caught that aspect well' is night and day.  One diminishes, one nourishes -- be it from within or without.  Constructive criticism, suggestion, enlightenment?  Bring it.  But condescend to me and I'll deliver a resounding, "Bite me!"  Fangs and pirate vocabulary free of charge, true story.

Astute & fearless Vivian queries:  ' I don't  know what is meant by "no place for competition among art genres.''  There is certainly room for discussion, criticism, evaluation:  is that competition?'  That's what I'm talking about!  (Semantics -- bother!)  Competition?  OK - in that form.  Collaboration?  Sure.  I want it, like that.  But I think motive as a variable isn't an unreasonable measuring quantifier here.  WHY am I discussing?  Criticizing?  Evaluating?  To help someone improve?  Or to flex what I may see as my own superiority?  I mean, eesh, blimey, and unlimited shite:  do I want to embody someone's (or my own) inner critic?  NOT!   Some degree of introspection, a search for possible ulterior motive, is a necessary act before I open my yap.  As I earlier described, I'm not so evolved or peaced-out that I'm incapable of the dark side -- I give GOOD hissy fits!  Point is:  they go undelivered!  In truth, I've generally found a more mindful, productive practice in waiting to be asked my opinion.  Eliminates the potential for any toxins to slip by me; propagates equilibrium and creative generosity all around.

Calm and contemplative Janet offers:  'I have a quote (I forgot to write down the author): "In a world of individuals, comparison makes no sense at all."'  For me, comparison is the most insidious negative connotation I have to competition.  Here I am, dammit:  not you, not her, not that bloke over yonder.  Took me decades to learn the truth of my individuality, the truth of me, and to accept/embrace that, whether I make crap art or not.  The unique qualities of you, or her, or that bloke over yonder colorize me like a fresh rain or a pure wash of gleaming light.  My "self" absorbs what is presently needed, like vitamins, an injection of creative smack, an answered prayer perfectly timed and delivered.  No matter what, though, the influence of others flows through my filters, utilized by me to express ME.  That eventuality is a given -- I can't sustain the "wearing" of any other, the costume of comparison and trying to measure up.  That price is just way too high - I'm not willing to fork it over anymore.

The tides and currents to be found intermingling with other artists and artistic genres are my inspiration forward (as Marilyn suggests), my momentum for improvement, my fuel for the journey toward perfection.  But doing my best as I take each step, alone and alongside others, is how I experience perfection in the now.  So you say competition (to-MAY-toe) and I say collaboration (to-mah-toe) ... so long as we're still talking and not calling the whole thing off!


  1. juicy indeed...
    just thought it might be fun to toss
    "It (wabi-sabi) nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."
    into the stew...
    more here:

    delicious tomatoes indeed
    however you call them...

    xox - eb.

  2. I don't normally jump into the the fray but I'm going to this time. I love that you are so passionate about words, Toni, as I am too. Even though I'm a published writer I have never kept a journal, never kept a diary. Blogging has given me a way to meet myself halfway on that as it's the most regular journaling I've down. I'm emotionally honest there so it's just like pouring it into a journal for me. Years ago I did "morning pages" for a few months and loved the experience until the person in my life at that time wrote in my pages and devastated me. But that's another story.

    I have never played with art before but this past year I felt a pull toward art and I followed it to collage and to art journals. I'm still not doing an art journal on a regular basis but I am experimenting. And they will never be a place for me, as much as I love the written word, to pour out pages and pages of words. They are my art playground and I'm fine with that.

    Does the fact that I will never pour hundreds of words into an art journal to rival a written journal detract or devalue something? I guess I just don't get it. Some of us are brand new to art and yes, we're going to play with the same toys some of the rest of you played with months ago. We're going to create Victorian child angels and goofy people with hats and crowns and we're going to mimic all that is posted. And if some people get tired of looking at it, well look away. I am too busy celebrating the fact that I am creating my version of art to worry about it bugging someone else. I have stopped reading certain blogs because I don't want to be criticized for creating something that I have seen in a magazine. My art heart is too precious and new. It is easily crushed and broken.

    If I have a child who will not read I don't force feed him Elizabethan sonnets or literary masterpieces that long-time readers struggle to understand. I am thrilled when they pick up a comic book or a graphic novel or even a beloved picture book from childhood. Perhaps one day they will love words enough to tackle a tougher book. Perhaps not. But for now they are reading something and that is more than they did before.

    Each act of creation, whether it be with words or pictures, is an act of bravery in confronting a blank page. I celebrate them all.

  3. The best competition--and the only non-destructive one in the creative arena--is the competition we have with ourselves to become better each time...and that doesn't always work.

    When we reach toward something new, or do something we haven't done before, the first results can feel like a step backward. But if we keep on, those first steps in a new direction can become wondrous strides.

    When my eight-year-old refused to read anything more complex than picture books, do you think I complained when she picked up my copy of Interview with a Vampire and refused to put it down? Certainly NOT! When she discovered that there were more interesting books than the chapter books she had been offered, she was unstoppable.

    Everyone starts somewhere, with something that inspires her. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of it. Tastes change as we grow...for all of us.


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