Sunday, May 21, 2006

Only Abandoned

This is going to be really short, because I'm really tired. I must sleep tonight!

I've always admired the Leonardo Da Vinci quote, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” But I was watching a show about him tonight on the History Channel (gee, why do you suppose they aired that this week?) that puts a different spin on it, one I never quite realized before. As great as he was, he had a problem with finishing things. Sometimes it was because nobody would hire him to actually build the tank or the diving suit or the flying machine, or because war and politics ended his relationship with a patron. But at least some of the time, it's because Leonardo lost interest in a project as it neared completion.

He got bored.

Or, alternatively, he kept tinkering with something, because he was still interested, and the piece was not yet perfect. For example, he kept messing around with the Mona Lisa until he died.

OCD or ADHD? Possibly.

Why should I care? That was a long time ago, and nobody today would accuse the gretest polymath inventor-artist of all time of being a slacker. Well, maybe I would, but it's not exactly fair, is it?

I'm no polymath, and I'm no genius inventor. I'm definitely never going to be the subject of a novel by Dan Brown. But that quote as always resonated with me. It still does. I thought Leonardo essentially meant that at some point you have to call the work good enough, and let it go. That's an important principle, especially for someone who worked intermittently on the same novel for over thirty years.

an unfinished scene in Mages of Mâvarin
Now I've got this other novel that I much not abandon. The other meaning of the Leonardo quote hangs over Mages, just as surely as the more obvious meaning told me to finish Heirs and move on. If Leonardo could not be bothered to finish the Adoration of the Magi, what does that say about little old me and my "magnificent mess?" Does it say anything at all?

I'm not sure, but I think I should take it a warning. Maybe art must be abandoned at a certain point, when everyone but the artist agrees that it's done. But it shouldn't be abandoned before it reaches that stage of completion. Maybe you can and should set it aside for years, until conditions are right for continuing the work, but eventually, you should return to it.

On the other hand, does it really matter that Leonardo never built a working flying machine? Isn't it enough that someone else came along later, and made the idea take off?

Well, I'm not waiting for some latter-day, literary Wright Brothers to finish my novel for me.

I suppose I'd best get on with it! I am getting on with it. I'm halfway through Chapter One at the moment.

Oh, and by the way, I posted Part Five of The Jace Letters tonight, a day late. Does anyone care?


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Carly said...

Hey :)

Well, it seems to me, that for those of us who love the arts as much as we do, when we are working on something that a muse has inspired us to create, we will treat the piece as if it were our child. Ever molding, ever shaping. A lot of tears and a lot of joy are always a part of it.

Sometimes, like with children, we must let go show that it can go and make an impression on the world. We will remain protective, becuase no one will ever fully understand how much of ourselves goes with the art we create. Letting go is a gift sometimes. To ourselves and others.

Shrug...just my spin. :)

DesLily said...

what is it Sean Connery says in Finding Forester? Just sit down and type!.. it doesn't matter what.. just type and something will come to you ..

hmmm, it worked for Connery lol..

btw.. i've read your jade letters.. just fyi so ya know.

Bea said...

Karen, thanks for sharing this profound thought. I understand what you mean. I've abandoned some art projects myself, some even abandoned as they sit in the hangar of my imagination. Some get as far as the pencil sketch, the finished pencil drawing, or even the watercolor stage... but very few made it to the finished acrylic/oil/encaustic painting of my intent. After reading this entry, I don't feel like such a procrastinator after all. I do have lots of ideas, I do attempt them, whether drawing or writing, but so many things intervene in the living of this event called "my life"... I found encouragement in your words, that one should return to it someday, even if after years have passed. Not really abandoned after all, but perhaps, delayed by distractions. For me, anyway! Bea