There is a movie where a teacher suddenly climbs to stand on top of his desk during a lecture to his students. When asked why he did it, (I may be paraphrasing here) he told his students he wanted to see them from a different angle. I love the idea behind this.
In life, it is all too easy get stagnated ideas about people, about your job, about politics… well, about everything really. Often we sum people up within minutes of meeting them, and then stubbornly hold on to our misconceptions, no matter how often we are proven wrong.
For some reason, having an open mind can scare people to death. Instead of looking to the world around them for answers and understanding, some people only look for things that will back up their own preconceived notions. It’s like with the Bible: most folks don’t read the Bible to find out what to believe – they search for out of context tidbits that they can twist around to back up beliefs – and sometimes prejudices – that they already have. And that can cause them to miss the whole point.
For an artist, trying to look at the world around you in a fresh way every day is the only way to do good work. Stagnation is the death of art. This is not to say that you can’t have a consistent style or consistent ideas, but you need to make sure you are constantly trying to grow. As you go through life, if the world around you, or your idea of God, or your understanding of people, seems to get smaller and more narrowly drawn, then I think you are doing something wrong.
I believe trying to make good art is very similar to trying to make a good life. And keeping a fresh perspective is a huge part of both those things. That’s why even though I have such a demand for my landscape art, I try to work in other genres on a regular basis. Painting abstracts and nudes, making pottery, even writing this blog, helps make all my work better.
So read a book that is about someone completely different than you. Watch a documentary film about a subject of which you know nothing. Be friends with people of all ages. Try to really understand people with whom you violently disagree – don’t just call them idiots. You don’t want to wake up one day and realize that it was you who was the idiot all along.