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Blog

You Can’t Fake a Picture Like That

Ross Gale

A Portrait of James Lord by Giacometti. In A Giacometti Portrait, James Lord portrays Giacometti’s struggle as his art. It’s a daily wrestling that requires a commitment to begin again. Giacometti’s constant exasperation at his own work colors the story, but adds the interesting layer of uncertainty and attainment that ebbs and flows by the hour, and sometimes the minute, as he paints a portrait of Lord. When Lord suggests Giacometti fill in the background, Giacometti replies by saying, “You can’t fake a picture like that. Everything must come of itself and in its own time. Otherwise, it becomes superficial.”

I sometimes act like Lord, saying to myself, just fill-in the story. And while it’s easy to fill-in, it doesn’t create a compelling narrative. In order to make sure something does come of itself and in its own time, as Giacometti says it should, then one must continually work. This work might often be “fill-in,” but allows for something more to be made, something that can begin to become itself. This also takes time. Time to develop, time to form, time to reveal, and time to transform.

I've found there's a process to finding a things own thing. For me, it's a struggle. Nothing is clear. I have to work through the haze, through the mental frustration, fatigue, my own doubts and fears, and gently excavate the brittle bones and structures of a story.

In other words, everything must be earned. Which is why work with potential can turn out as superficial. The pace is rushed. Scenes and characters are posted like flannel pieces instead of developed over time. Instead of formidable and conflicted characters I write silhouettes producing cheesy dialogue everyone has heard before.

We need time to let our fill-in become something more and that requires a daily wrestling and a commitment to begin again and again. Show up. Take the time. Don’t fake it.