What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The place to learn about your materials is in the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution. The best information about what you love is in your last contact with what you love. Put simply, your work is your guide: a complete, comprehensive, limitless reference book on your work. There is no other such book, and it is yours alone. It functions this way for no one else. Your fingerprints are all over your work, and you alone know how they got there. Your work tells you about your working methods, your discipline, your strengths and weaknesses, your habitual gestures, your willingness to embrace.
When the work is about to commence, there has to be some tenuous notion of what will happen, but it is usually wrapped and hidden even from the person who will be doing the creating. An artist has a delicate sense of the work to come, and how it might become the perfect thing in the imagination, but historians and critics are wrong when they assume that it can be clearly seen in advance. No painter knows what the picture will look like, and those painters who try too hard to use paint to realize an idea are typically disappointed. Like poetry or any other creative enterprise, painting is something that is worked out in the making, and the work and its maker exchange ideas and change one another. The ideal image of the work is blurred and hard to picture, as if it weren’t quite there, or as if it were something seen out of the corner of the eye. If the artist tries to turn and look at it directly, it vanishes. The only way to capture it is to do the work, and remake the idea through the paint. The state of mind at the beginning of the creation of a work of art is nearly inaccessible. What an artist knows is principally what will happen in the next second, not the next hour or month. Thoughts at the moment of beginning are only guideposts, and the actual substance of the work is entirely inchoate. This is the common ground of artistic process, which begins in an odd inarticulate place that is neither well known nor unknown, neither substantial nor entirely invisible.