Saturday, November 10, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about this word recently.

Persistence is a common trait between a lot of my favorite artists, musicians, authors. And I've had the honor of hearing 2 of them speak in person this week in New York.

Chuck Close is an artist that paints 9 foot tall portraits. The amazing part is he breaks the canvas up into a grid and paints each small square individually. When viewers are in close proximity to the canvas they see only squares of patterns, but once viewers stand back, an image of a person's face appears. He said it takes about 4 months to do a black and white painting and over a year to do a color one. It was pretty darn inspirational to hear him speak in person about his technique and how he sometimes goes over and over the same square 100's of times. His art work has always impressed me in museums and he was equally impressive speaking about his art in person and hearing how involved he gets in each portrait.

I also has the pleasure of hearing Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon speak on the 100 mile diet that they started and the book named Plenty which details this local eating adventure. I've blogged about them before. They chose to eat within a 100 mile radius of their home in Vancouver, Canada for 1 year. Which sounds cool, but involves a lot of potatoes and a lot of time and effort in preparing and gathering their food. They've been touring and promoting their book across the continent and along the way they've stopped at supermarkets and noticed that the food is almost the same from store to store. You can find similar foods on the shelf at a supermarket in San Diego, California and in Toronto, Canada. They've also stopped at many Farmers' Markets along the way and they said that's where they see the big difference. The regional markets sell what grows best in that area and each market is abundant in different things. I, personally, have visited Farmer's Markets this past year in Michigan, Tennessee, and New York and they're quite right. There was a frost that killed all the apples in Tennessee, but beans were bountiful. Michigan has loads of asparagus in the spring, and New York City is often overflowing with interesting varieties of things like purple potatoes and baby sunflower greens. Another observation they made was that before starting this diet, Alisa didn't like carrots. Now she knows she doesn't like 90% of carrots, but there are actually several varieties of carrots out there that she enjoys quite a bit.

It's really impressive to hear how these successful people have decided what's important to them and they devote their time and energy to that cause. They come out with a very simple and clear message, allowing people to see something in a different way.

I can't talk about persistence without mentioning another favorite of mine which is Johnny Cash and his song One Piece at a Time. The song is about a worker on an auto assembly line who decides to make an entire car by taking pieces off the line one at a time. He takes the pieces home in his lunchbox. Over the course of 20+ years he finally has enough to build his dream car. It doesn't exactly go together as he planned, but with some modification he has a drivable car - all for free (or sort of anyway).

I think persistence is about deciding what's important to you and working for that, diving into it, no matter who you are or what you do - artist, author, songwriter, mother, father, friend, designer, garbage collector... auto worker.

1 comment: