What ideas do you hold on to?

Ira Gardner holds a test print from a still life photo of a birds nest his wife found in their backyard.
Ira Gardner holds a test print from a still life photo of a birds nest.

Lately I have been thinking about the question of “what ideas do you hold on to?”  Being an artist means that I am holding on to an idea long enough to fully develop it into works of art.

Committing to an idea

Yesterday as I sat in an artist workshop where a panel was discussing their successes and failures as an artist one of them was describing the use of the term resolution.  He was saying that now as an art professor he finds himself working with students and telling them that their work isn’t fully resolved enough.  I know much of my own work would fit in this category and after nearly 30 years I find myself thinking about what the ideas I am holding on to long enough to fully resolve and what a commitment it takes.


Shedding the clutter

For the past two years I have been redesigning my art practice by establishing a studio space in downtown Spokane.  It has taken more than a year to feel like I am closed to getting it configured the way I want it.  The reason for the delay has been the fact that I have been holding on to too many things that were cluttering my studio, cluttering my mind, and ultimately making a cluttered mess out of my artwork.  Through the process of shedding all the things that I am not using regularly I have narrowed and refined my art practice and have been increasingly editing my work down to a couple of main ideas that have proven to remain solid after 30 years of pondering.

Much of my art career has been full of experimentation that never went anywhere.  I had lots of fun trying different mediums and techniques but in the end I would move on to something new.  For me it has been a process similar to going to a department store and trying on lots of clothes and only coming home with a single sweater or a pair of shoes.  All of those other art ideas just didn’t fit me quite right or as I now now, didn’t fulfill my spirit in a way the current work does.  After all of this time of trying different ideas I have finally landed on to an idea that resonates with my entire self.

The investment costs of an idea

I won’t go into those artistic projects in this post but rather I am wanting to examine the concept of holding on to an idea long enough to fully resolve it and the level of commitment it takes to move beyond the experimental stage and into the art making practice.

The results of committing to these ideas has led me to produce two bodies of work that have caused me to have to invest in over $5000 in the past year just to manifest the work into a physical object.  It has caused me to seek out gallery exhibitions, write artist statements, develop an e-commerce website for selling the work online, and alas it has caused me to invest the storage space necessary for housing 30″x 40″ canvases as well as 48″x24″ canvases.

Art is a total commitment

The emergence of an idea into a fully resolved process has taken a complete commitment in time, money, and resources.  It has taken on a life of its own and I think that is where I have discovered what it truly means to be an artist.  It is a complete commitment of myself into investing into my ideas and realizing that I want and more importantly feel a sense of urgency to share with the world.  In one sense the idea that becomes art becomes a personal virtue that one must live by.

Today, on a winter Sunday in a dilapidated old hotel building where 8 artists share space I am seeing this space in a new and wonderful light.  It is a place where ideas become art and the artist become virtuosic through their unwavering commitment to invest in what they believe in.


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