While artists are known for following whims and dodging routine, the Irish painter Guggi insists that hard-work, structure, and a refusal to put down even the most frustrating piece, are the keys to developing one’s talent.
Guggi: How often do you give up on a painting?
Guggi: I've never given up on a painting half way through. Sometimes in order not to give up on it, you've got to put it away for a couple of weeks and work on something else and then go back to it. And I've had paintings where I did that and I've gone back to it and then another couple of weeks, another couple of months still can't get it, still can't get it. But you know, it's a strange thing and I'm in -- it's probably cliche, but it's very true. It's the only thing that I can compare it to and it is like children. If you've got a difficult child, that's a pain in the ass, you don't give up on them. You just got to keep working. You just got to keep trying to get that right and it's the only comparison that I make -- can make. I won't lose a painting because I know I'm not going to start a painting unless I had an idea for it. I'm not going to start a painting unless I wanted to achieve something with this piece of work. And if it doesn't come easy, I can't leave it. So I don't -- sometimes a painting will wipe the floor with me. I'll be a bundle of nerves half way through, but I won't lose a painting. So none is the answer, in one word.
Question: Is talent innate or the result of hard work?
Guggi: Well I think my mother-in-law is a very wise woman and she said to make a mark or to make your mark or to try and do something great. Of course, the all important thing is that you must be talented. But that's only the first ten percent and what I have seen, that is so true. People that work harder than anybody else, achieve more than anybody else. Not necessarily because they're a better song writer, not necessarily because they're a better painter, but because they're giving it so much more and they refuse to fail or they refuse to settle for less. So, of course, the talent has got to be there but hard work is a massive part of developing that gift, that talent.
Question: How do you stay disciplined?
Guggi: Yeah, I mean, discipline for me was a difficult thing. I parted company with the Virgin Prunes in 1984 to paint full time but I had painted right through my years with the band and before the band started, right through my childhood. Discipline was going to be always a problem for me because by nature I'm lazy. But I worked hard on discipline and became disciplined and to the point now that I just want to be in the studio, you know. I get up at about half 10:00 or 11:00, I do my sit-ups, a few press-ups, I go for a fast walk, have a bit of breakfast, go out to the studio at about 12:00 noon, and I generally knock off between 12:00 and 1:00, 12:00 midnight and 1:00. I stop for meals in between. And when I am out of that routine I really miss it; for instance, if I'm away for more than a few days, I start missing that and I start wanting that. I love being in the studio. So I think it has worked out good for me, but it was a real problem at first, yeah. [00:19:13.27]
Question: Is there such thing as creativity block?
Guggi: You know, I think people go through this maybe I think people exaggerate it a lot more than it should be exaggerated. I believe if you go into the studio, there is no doubt about the fact that painting is not always about the great stroke, the great stroke that brings it all together, that now makes sense of all of the work and all of the efforts. It's also about priming canvas. It's about sweeping the floor. It's about mixing paint. It's about so many things. And you know what? People can call it luck, they can call it whatever they want, but the more time I spend in the studio the luckier I get and I don't entertain people that sit around for a year waiting to be inspired. That's bullshit.
Recorded on October 7, 2009