“Art is for the viewer. For the artist, it’s a series of perfected processes.” I pulled that quote from somewhere and typed it into the notes app on my phone. Now I can’t remember where I got it. I even Googled it and nothing came up, but I want to be clear that I’m borrowing a dram of someone else’s work to illustrate a point.
Each time I read it, I understand why I wrote it down in the first place. The quote is powerful, and if you’ve ever stopped to appreciate the artistry of a car well driven, then the quote should hit you as hard as it did me.
When I was coming up through the HPDE program, I asked a few of the faster Spec Miata drivers to drive my car while I rode in the passenger seat. I had to spend extra money on a right-side seat and harnesses, but much of what I had read and what I had been told was how instructive it would be. Boy, was it ever.
I had a couple of guys drive while I rode shotgun and those experiences produced an epiphany of sorts. What they were doing with the car — my car — was far and above what I was doing, and it showed me what was possible. All I had to do — and most of my high-school teachers said as much on report card after report card — was to apply myself.
In addition to showing me what was possible, I saw a certain artistry in what they were doing. I recall feeling the same way the first time I watched a Spec Miata race from the balcony high above Turn 4 at Willow Springs International Raceway.
I was still in HPDE at the time, and I remember being awestruck at how those drivers engaged in what seemed like a continual, transitioning slide from the entry to Turn 3, up and over Turn 4 and then down into Turn 5. For the viewer, it was artful and elegant.
For the artist, that series of perfected processes often doesn’t pay off until the end. Writers prefer to have written. For example, my two favorite days each month are the day I turn in the last piece to the art director and the day the new magazine comes out. My third favorite day is when I get to write this column, but still, I’m happier when it’s finished.
Painters feel more satisfied after a painting is complete. Potters breathe a sigh of relief when they fire up the kiln to create something permanent — or at least something they don’t have to work on anymore. As familiar as those perfected processes are to any artist, they are often still a struggle.
Here’s where the quote I opened this piece with gets upended a bit and it’s because driving fast and well is an art form. However, unlike painting or writing a novel or assembling a magazine, the artistry of driving well rewards the artist, the driver, in real time, as he’s doing it. Executing perfect braking, finding optimal entry speed, nailing an apex and reapplying the throttle to use every centimeter of the track is a feeling like no other. It’s magical, and it happens right then and there.
It’s slso elusive, but if you apply yourself and work toward perfecting those processes, the end result is a thing of beauty. The processes in driving may never get any easier, either, but the interesting thing is that the beauty is as apparent and real to the viewer as it is to the driver.