Now, some may argue that repetition and constancy are essential to developing one's work, and it is only thru thorough exploration that one may understand the parameters in which one's work unfolds, but I feel (and I'm strictly speaking for myself), that while iteration may further understanding, it may also hinder risk-taking.
One thing I find myself repeating to my students, and ironically it is the one thing that a student of mine recently suggested to me, is that to develop one's work one should be honest. Now, when I say it to my student's I can understand why I say it and why whatever I saw in their work prompted to state such an ambiguous suggestion. But when someone recommended such a cryptic endeavor, because lets face it, it is horribly cryptic, I was caught off guard.
In a sense, I feel comfortable when I have to design a painting. Organizing all the formal elements that make up a picture is, I believe, not that problematic. But when someone thought that my work was not being sincere... well that kind of kicked me in the nuts... What the hell does it mean that an image lacks honesty??? Quite frankly, that's a really hard question to answer. I think I understand what it means when an image feels foreign... like it's borrowing from others experiences. And I guess, that is what's key - experiences. We can only paint what we know. We may be stimulated by other images, we may savior the fact that these other images may arouse or challenge us, but we have to accept the fact that we can only do what we know.
I think excitement sometimes takes a hold of us. Excitement that makes us believe that alien experiences are our own. But I think the answer, my answer, is to go back to basics, to reflect upon the simplest things, and more importantly, to solve them in a simple manner. Because in art, at least in my eyes, as complex as a painting may be, it's essence should be simple.
Honesty is horribly humbling.
(Glenn Ligon image btw...)