Celebrating Process Thanks to Georges Seurat
For the last two weeks we've been exploring Chicago with our family who visited us from Guatemala. Two years ago, when we went to Guatemala, my kids got to meet my cousin's kids and they had a blast hanging out. They played Uno and Rock, Paper, Scissors, Splits and laughed and laughed and laughed. Now they had the chance to visit us and the kids had just as much fun.
We got to take them to one of my favorite Chicago museums, The Art Institute of Chicago. I was a little nervous because we were taking seven kids all under eleven into a place where you have to be quiet, you have to control your body, and you cannot touch things.
The kids were actually really good and we made it to many of the well-known pieces. My cousin and her husband bought the City Pass which included the audio guide tour at the Art Institute. While he was listening to the description of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, I looked at some of the other paintings nearby.
Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
An iconic piece famous for the pointillist technique
Across the room, I noticed this small painting that resembled the larger painting I know so well. But it wasn't exactly the same. I leaned in and read the description.
It reads, "This small oil on a thin wood panel is one of 24 painted studies Georges Seurat made while conceiving the large, celebrated painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (also on view in this gallery)." It goes on to outline the differences between this sample and the final piece.
I've spent a lot of time since this summer thinking about how to revise my novel. I've read books on craft, I've sought out mentor texts, I've redone my story arc, I've done a lot of character work, I've processed feedback from agents. I've done all this as a way to mentally prepare for revision. There have been lots of feelings...it's not easy to dive into revisions again. Revision is hard work. I find a lot of solace in the idea of revision. Knowing that I have the opportunity to take my crummy first draft to a better is encouraging. But that doesn't mean revision is easy or that I like it.
Collecting stories of process and sharing the process is so important. I love learning about others and their process but it also helps me to share my own process because it allows me to reflect. Austin Kleon's Show Your Work is one of my favorite books that celebrates process.
Seeing this panel was a reminder that even artists who have their pieces hanging in art museums and are recognized around the world still had to go through a process. The art didn't just magically flow from their brush to the canvas. Sometimes it's easy to see the product and forget the process that got them there.