“Art—A Fight to the Finish!”

Gunter Grass wrote the following: “Art is accusation, expression, passion. Art is a fight to the finish between black charcoal and white paper.” (Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum, 1959)

As you engage in the Act of Doing (i.e., the process of making ART) within the confines of your studio, what are your thoughts on this notion of “fight to the finish” especially during this unique moment in time stricken as we are with the Covid-19 pandemic? Are you able to fight through the challenges of this global pandemic and maintain/sustain the Act of Doing? How do you motivate yourself as artists to do battle day after day with your medium of choice?

Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

31 Comments

31 thoughts on ““Art—A Fight to the Finish!””

  1. Before entering college, I often only made art when I was in the mood or feeling creative. I never experienced the pressure or deadlines that I currently do. Now, having assignments and due dates, there is reason to push myself to finish art work by a certain day or time. I think this sometimes can make my work not as great as it could have been. I feel as time goes on I get better with working faster and at a pace that suits the reason I am making the art. To keep myself motivated I often set aside times during the day just like I would do with other homework. I make myself work on a piece for thirty minutes to an hour at a time. This is effective for me because I cant do too much damage to my original ideas if one of my sessions is me with an attitude of not wanting to do this.

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  2. I am not a person who creates art and the pandemic has oddly enough been helpful with me focusing on school work. I have been able to be home and not think so much about everything else going on. It is crazy to say but I am glad for this situation when it comes to my mental process. However, I too always wanted to know how is this pandemic influencing artists.

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  3. I think that for most of us that are staying at home due to the pandemic also start to realize how much time we all have, especially when we don’t need to travel. At the same time it restricts us since we don’t always have access to tools or materials either. But I think that’s what also helps us get creative, we start thinking of ways to make things work without using the exact tools. finding our own way to create art, improvising methods and just creating things with the resources we have. For me, staying at home lets me work more on my projects even if it’s just brainstorming. I feel as though I’m not as pressured on time constraints since I don’t have to worry about when I need to leave the house, when to get food, etc. In that way I I feel it’s both constricting and liberating to not have to actively be somewhere else to get the most of out my artwork.

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  4. The Act of Doing (aka the process of creating art) for me involves more than just physically starting a piece with whatever medium we choose and finishing it. The Act of Doing also involves reflection. Taking the time to step away from our piece and reflecting on what we can do next. I think many artists during this pandemic might have halted the physical act of doing: actually drawing, painting, sculpting, etc. And while this may seem difficult in the moment, I think this time has allowed us to explore new ideas, explore our feelings, and reflect on the of our work. This reflection period to me is just as important as the actual act of creating the art. Now, we are slowly working our way back to creating, but now with a new perspective, and this new perspective can help us push our ideas and work further.

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  5. I feel like as artists there is this balance that we find ourselves with our own expression and own artwork that is a real fight between the acceptance of what we create and the rejection of it. We’re our won biggest critic when it comes to our work and I feel like this is where a “fight to the finish” can be established. Also, when it comes down to the process of creating and pulling inspiration and motivation in creating artwork, it’s much easier to finish artwork through shorter periods of time instead of in one sitting. I feel like our artistic expression and inspiration is often depleted the longer we work in one sitting on a piece and we need the space between working on it to find new inspiration and motivation.
    For me personally when it comes to completing something, whether it be art or design, my motivation and inspiration don’t come from sitting and working with my art. It comes more from a subconscious thoughts that I have throughout the day. I try to write poetry sometimes and the inspiration for my poetry doesn’t come from sitting down and thinking about it. This is also where this whole “fight to the finish” idea can come from. For me, sometimes I can think of a million words to use in a poem and sometimes I’m just completely blank and it feels like I’m fighting with my own thoughts to finish a piece.

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  6. Gunter Grass creates an interesting contrast about the “black charcoal and white paper”. I think that artwork could be the same, it’s done or not. I made a painting for class that passed muster with a high score. However, I had made the decision in advance to paint over it. So, I do have piles of practice waiting for recycling. There was a void created from not attending shows, and drawing sessions with other artists in person. The change has definitely given me more appreciation for my family. The pandemic also has caused me to seek self-reliance, to a near apocalyptic level. My new found appreciation for taking time to unplug has further removed me from the digital world. I have been told that my work has advanced quite a bit within this last quarter. I feel that I am able to explore new ideas, and take more time to balance my priorities. It was a struggle at first, even in the uncertainty before the shutdown. There is still “a fight” as Gunter Grass had described in the quote from The Tin, Drum. My challenge has taken on new this context, and a different perspective.

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  7. I think that every day is a fight to be productive especially during this pandemic. Midway of last semester was probably the most unmotivated I’ve ever felt in doing anything. I started lazing around and playing games more than focusing on school work. However, there was a course that kept me on my feet because of the projects. And so, I took a course during the summer with the same instructor to keep myself productive with design. This semester, I try my best to keep myself organized with a planner and I try to make sure to get what I want done in one day. I feel accomplished whenever I get a task done in my planner and I think it has motivated me to stay with what I need to do.

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  8. I feel that Pandemic doesn’t affect my work much. I’m a creative individual, who has multiple interests in art, art history, design, and creative industries. When I do digital art or painting I try to push myself to be productive, without finding an excuse not to do it. When I read and write, about art I try to keep a routine of getting everything done, without trying to leave it for later. Everyone is different, for some people it might be different. I’m glad that at least I have things to do in these tough times.

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  9. Honestly, even before the pandemic, I did not finish very many pieces unless there was a deadline. I just have a stack of about twenty things I’m in the middle of . If anything, the pandemic has made it easier to actually finish these works in progress, though not very many. It is a bit harder to get motivated to start doing, but once I do I can work for much longer periods of time. The only way I can be motivated is if I have enough restless energy, since the best way for me to work that off is through art. Beyond that, I’m usually either tired or busy with something else, so it’s very hard for me to actually get myself to work on something.

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  10. Admittedly, I have not been able to find the same amount of motivation to do art just for the sake of doing it during this pandemic, since I often find myself tired from school assignments, work, or a mixture of both. That said, I find extra happiness in pouring my passions into creative school assignments within my photography and graphics classes this semester, since I have been satisfied in the results thus far. I do think there is always a “fight” to finish these pieces, simply in knowing what the stopping point is, especially when refining last details on pieces you are already very invested in.

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  11. Life in general during the past 6-8 months, for me personally, has been learning to find the balance between pushing through but also knowing when to rest. The same concept stands true for my art, specifically pieces outside of school. There has been this sort of in between of making work when I want to, but also treating it like a job at times, since for that will be soon.It was like this before this year, but over the summer this concept became even more relevant. Especially during the times when you could barely even leave your house, so in one sense art was the one main thing you had. I’m curious to see how this knew way of navigating making art, and the space art currently holds online and still in person, will hold up once this thing ends. If we’ve broken into new territory regarding art creation, or if it will go back to however it was before all this.

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  12. Lizbeth Ramirez | Art 477

    The “fight to the finish” idea reminds me of the hunger games for some odd reason or just the thought of fighting to the end for survival. Personally I have not been able to fight through the challenges of the pandemic and sustain the act of doing because I’ve lost a sense of routine and motivation. Everything has become online and being online for large amounts of time can one cause me headaches and two it’s just more tiring and draining versus being able to be in person. I feel like I’m more likely to doze off and get distracted. I’ve also lost my sense of time. When I think of technology I like its main use being for entertainment but when the majority of the time I spend on it is dedicated to work and school it just becomes another bore in my life. In all honesty as an artist I haven’t even bothered to work with my medium, because I’ve become so consumed with technology and being online that it’s not an escape for me to take photos and then spend even more time online editing them or viewing them, etc. I’m hoping I’ll get over this lil funk, but for now just taking it day by day. I’ll “fight to the finish” another day.

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  13. When the pandemic hit, I lost my job and ended up taking all online classes this semester (which I hated at first) and I ended up having a lot of free time on my hands that I did not know what to do with. I thought, “What if I made some art?” but I didn’t know what to make. However, I spent a lot of time on social media to waste time and stumbled upon a new art medium where it was to create poseable animal/creature dolls in which I fell in love! To relate to Gunter Grass’ quote, my black charcoal was the motivation I had to find to create such complex projects and the paper was the knowledge I needed to know where to start and end. I really do miss creating art in class surrounded by peers and having in person critiques, but I have never had so much free time since starting college and was tired all the time where I couldn’t pick up a pencil and sketch, so it’s so surreal to be creating art again on my own time. Since I don’t see friends, peers, or go out, I spend more time focused on school and personal projects (my Act of Doing is definitely being sustained!) which seems kind of ironic since I know a lot of people’s motivation plummeted. I know I am trying to make the best of the situation and will keep fighting on during these troubling times!

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  14. I believe the notion of the “fight to the finish” should be the most motivating thing when creating any piece especially with all the time on our hands we have now. Or so for some of us. In all honesty, during this pandemic I feel my creativity drive has fallen down dramatically. There are days where I have wanted to try and draw but I end up not doing so because of the mental stress it has and just how things have been going in our world right now. My biggest issue is art block and “procrastination.” Though I am giving it my all to draw more now with the art classes I am currently taking which I feel if it’s something that is strictly needed of me to do then it is the only time I can draw right now. Without it, I would have been back to square one not doing any art. I still want to create art but I haven’t been able to from the stress of it all which is kind of contradicting in wanting to make art and “fight to the finish” no matter the struggles, but I let it get the best of me sometimes. Though I have slowly been regaining some motivation through my projects and would hope it can continue so I can go back to creating digital works of art with my tablet and rise up to the Act of Doing rather than making excuses for not creating anything. So in the end, if there’s anything that’s keeping me sane is my art classes making me go back to drawing and even painting which is new territory to me but a great experience to learn from!

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  15. In my personal opinion, I think the “fight to finish” does not mean a fight that artist has in pressure to finish their work at a specific time or deadline, but instead, a fight an artist must have against the artist himself. As a graphic design student, I still struggle with the “fight to finish” although I cannot deny that I have more time to work on my art projects because of covid. I believe this is not because the difficulty of assignments arises nor the expectations become high from the professors over the semester. I believe it is indeed from my personal inner conflict that makes me struggle to say my art is finished. I have always submitted the finalized version of my work but can never say I have submitted the “finished” artwork. If I were to call my art is completely finished, even if I have met deadlines, I would have to be satisfied with how my work had turned out. Also, I believe that all art is open for revisions to make the art better. I do not mean better in a way that I put more forms or colors, but I mean by adding more of my thoughts into the piece to express more of my intention through art. My motivation has always been to think that there is always a chance to make anything better, even if I am just placing a simple dot on a piece of paper.

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  16. Through this pandemic, I have gone through different “phases” of making art in ways that have motivated me as well as challenged my creative process. When working remotely started, I was taking design classes that were more hands-on with drawing and painting. That time was actually really helpful for me because I was in an environment that allowed me to focus on the Act of Doing and be in my inner thoughts more so than before. Now that I am taking classes related more to graphic design and digital art, I am definitely challenged in my creative and artistic abilities, and learning from home how to use design tools on software has been really difficult. What I have realized is that the act of doing and making art can be a continuous process. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same all the time and remind myself that through every challenge and motivation, I am continuously refining my vision and moving towards a new understanding of myself and the world around us. Even if the role of art isn’t in the center of my mind, I am trying my best and “fight to the finish” to keep my connection with art, the people around me, and the world.

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  17. If you are fighting to finish your work then you aren’t making art. Art is about the process, not the product. Sadly this is often seen as cliche and over-said, but the statement holds a lot of truth to it. This is why grading art and creating assignments for such a passion can be difficult. As an artist you should be able to gauge your work and what you are most connected to. If you are creating work you don’t enjoy, change it. The process of creating work is for the artist. While the end result may be enjoyed by many or be intended for the public, the process is a reward to the artist. All artists struggle with that moment from time to time where they may not enjoy their work or want to finish it. The important thing is to remember why you are creating and why you are doing what you are doing. One can never wait for the feeling of motivation because feelings are temporary. To create art, you must act and the rest will follow.

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  18. During this pandemic I find myself with more time to create work, but with less of a drive or inspiration to do so. A lot of factors inspire me to work on my art, but I realized once we were quarantined that one of them was from being in a environment committed to work and learning. I think it’s the same reason why almost every professional artist works primarily in a studio instead of at home. Something about the environment drives me to produce more work, and a quicker span of time, than when I’m along in my house. In a way, to fight to the finish is made harder when I am left to my own devices, rather than being put into a more committed environment where my sole purpose is to learn and do work.

    As for the quote above, it reminds me of something I heard before on how a certain artist draws. They said that instead of thinking of making a 2-D drawing they would instead think of carving a 3-D object within the 2d paper they were drawing on.

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  19. I find this notion of “fight to the finish” to continuously reflect myself as an artist because I have made it a priority to continuously draw and improve in the direction I want to go in life. If there is anything that I have learned from my time in college as an art major, it is that if anybody is going to make me a better artist in the field of my choosing; it would definitely be me. Many other factors help, but I believe the constant pursuit to draw and improve is a journey that I will continue to hold. In regards to the current pandemic, while negative in essence, I was actually able to better improve myself with all the spare time I ended up having at home. I realized that there are many people in the world that draw everyday and improve everyday as they craft their skill. My desire to improve and maybe someday make a living off of what I do has helped me raise my self-worth allowed me to continue working despite the obstacles that may come my way. I have also come to meet many friends that have a similar direction in life as myself which has also improved my desire to keep going.

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  20. I have had an interesting relationship with the pandemic and my desire/act of participating in my medium. The pandemic and necessity to stay home has brought me a lot of new hobbies, but I do not think it has changed how much I illustrate on a normal basis. I am one who loves to draw once I start, but actually starting is my issue. Since being quarantined, school has actually helped me get back into drawing when previously I was making clay pins/crocheting/etc. I guess I’m in the middle, I’m less inspired by everyday life now, but have much more time and am learning new skills I couldn’t before.

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  21. I will be fully honest, I am absolutely struggling through trying to create art through the global pandemic. I have had to dedicate my time entirely to school and work (both Graphic Design-related) so my creative energies have all been used to be able to get through work, leaving me with little fight or want to create. I’m trying to work hard, but I don’t want to force myself to do art. Art was never meant to be a place where I “force” myself, and for the year that I did try to do that, it burned me out to the point where I would have breakdowns thinking about how much I hated my art. I’ve gotten a lot better at drawing and Doing when I want to, and making things I’m much happier about, but at the cost of it being produced at a less rapid rate than I did a year or two ago.

    I hope to be more motivated when deadlines are less of a concern for me, and I can create things that make me happy.

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  22. Finding motivation to do my work has been hard since the start of quarantine. While I am getting my work done I do find that I procrastinate more then what I usually do. It’s ironic because even though I am at home more than usual I find it hard to do my work at home. I do have a couple classes in person and my job which help me get out of my room and socialize a little which really help because I think if I just stayed in my room all day I would never get any work done.

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  23. I think that a lot of my work that feels like a “fight to the finish” tend to be more hurried and rushed. Before, creating art was more so something where I had an idea of and wanted to be able to physically see what I pictured in my head in front of me. It would be enough motivation to get me started and to be able to finish until I got down my thoughts and concepts, but now though, it feels more like I need to force myself to produce something rather than having it come to me naturally. I thought that the pandemic would help me set up my life and help me manage my time better than it was pre-pandemic, but in the end the opposite has happened. Time doesn’t feel like it is moving sometimes, and the deadlines for assignments are constantly encroaching upon me. I’m somehow constantly sleepier than I was before, and it is a surprisingly long process to fix. Some assignments feel like they have no emotion or real purpose other than towards getting a degree. I would like to thank my professors though because they are really understanding and some assignments they give out and the way they teach has been brightening up my bleak semester these past couple months. The way I currently motivate myself is by surrounding myself in a group setting in a call with friends, so I don’t feel as alone and unmotivated whenever I’m working.

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  24. At the moment, I am not really stressing about finishing art works. I am taking this time to go out of my comfort zone and try to improve my technique and experiment with new mediums as well. Taking art courses during this semester has forced and motivated me to try ideas I have always wanted to do, but never had the initiative to go through with it until now due to having more free time. This is the first time in a while I am not rushing my work, and taking the time to create and learn, rather than finish.

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  25. I am one of those people who fight to the finish no matter what challenge comes my way. Whether it is artwork or a pandemic I can fight through anything for the greater good. There is always a way to turns things around and hope for the best.

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  26. Humans existentially go somewhere, advances, but we may not always have much control over where to go. We can say that this pandemic process is the best example of this moment when we lost our domination. At times like these, I see art as a “stop,” a resting point. Although the reality of art and life’s facts are slightly different from each other, I choose to feed my art from everyday experience. Like the pandemic we are going through, turning this massive crisis into an advantage in this way motivates me. As someone who does better under pressure, I believe I’m more productive in a limited time. However, my creativity is questionable in this context.

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  27. I motivate myself mostly from challenges. I get competitive and productive when I run in to difficult task. I am facing more challenges in the pandemic era, sometimes they push me, while sometimes they are stressing me out. I am trying to maintain the Act of Doing in my art, and hopefully I will improve my consistency in practice art in a daily basis. In the end, I need to fight through the challenges.

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  28. It has been difficult to do things with this pandemic going on, many days seem to melt together and some days feel like they last forever. Many times I feel like I and floating in a sea of boredom, to which I many times turn to art. I will often look at art on Pinterest or Instagram to find motivation for what I may want to create. I like drawing characters and will often look at some of my favorite television shows and fixate on a certain character, sketching them, and specific aspects that make the character unique. When I do this, I just get lost in my own little world and everything just seems at peace.

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  29. One of my best trait is nothing, if not resilient. I think I have a really high tolerance in keep pushing and keep going till I meet my goal while remaining calm and patient. If I don’t finish something today, I try again tomorrow. As we have been doing the same things day in and day out repeatedly to survive, we hold onto hope that one day, this is going to be over and we will cherish lives as normal again, for a period of time until we take it for granted again. During quarantine, I think a lot of us have time to work on our crafts. I’m picking up painting and recently started to use gouache for the first time. I’m still not good at it, but I know one day, I will be. I look my friend’s paintings and remind myself that she didn’t start off this good. We all learn and get better one day at time. Art will always change, but one thing for sure in life is practice doesn’t get perfect, but you get a lot better.

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