I had never really been one for museums. I’ve visited a few, but have always gotten bored after ~20 minutes.
Last weekend, I took a trip up to the de Young Museum in San Francisco to see the David Hockney exhibit and something great happened. I had an awesome time!
What made the difference?
Museums usually cover vast areas of art, time, styles, etc. As I walk through, I appreciate that the art is good, but you get a few pieces per artist and then you move on to the next artist. And then the next time period. Something about this approach to art just doesn’t excite me.
This exhibit was different. We spent all of the time on a single artist in one single, large, multi-room exhibit. It wasn’t just a few rooms; it was many. The exhibition was called ‘David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition‘, and damn did it live up to its name (as far as I can tell, but I’m no museum buff).
The exhibit showed David Hockney’s work throughout a good chunk of his career, and it was mesmerizing. It showed many of his sketches. It showed his oil paintings he is well known for. It showed the work from his two years experimenting with watercolor painting. It showed is large works of art, using several canvases to create a single piece (such as the image at the beginning of this article). It showed art that he created on the iPhone and the iPad. It covered everything, and it was amazing.
Most importantly, you could feel David Hockney’s passion. You would see an oil painting of a random person sitting in a chair. And then another with a different random person. And another with someone else. You see a painting of a landscape. And then the same landscape in a different season. Or under different lighting. Or in an abstract art style. Towards the end of the exhibit, I noticed the exact dates on his iPhone and iPad drawings. David Hockney is 76 years old now, and is drawing every day!
I realized that museums don’t excite me. But, artists do.
This was a story of a man who loves his craft. It wasn’t about a few pieces. It was about creating.. every.. single.. day. It was about repeating scenes, and making sure to appreciate the difference in lighting or seasons. It was about exploring a single medium (oil painting), and then another (watercolor), and even the more modern mediums (iPhone).
I left the de Young museum incredibly inspired.
David Hockney has painted for 50+ years. Over the years, he has created an amazing amount of great art. And he is still at it.
It has made me think a whole lot about how I approach work and career. If I chose something I was passionate about, and then worked at it everyday for 50+ years, what could I learn? What could I accomplish?
Maybe that is the trick to mastering a craft. It isn’t complicated. It just requires passion, and continued effort over time.
(For those in SF Bay Area, this weekend turns out to be the last weekend of this exhibit. If you have the chance to see it, I would highly recommend it.)