Recently, I noticed that an artist friend of mine was making greeting cards with photographs of her beautiful paintings. A light bulb went on. Believe it or not I’d never thought of doing something like that. I don’t know if the subject of my work would lend itself to cards. But then again, some images would be just right.
It occurred to me this morning, that no matter where we are in life, young or old, we are always in process. We never “ARRIVE”, we’re always on the journey.
Alright, you’re all smarter than I am and figured this out when you were five, but have you reminded yourself of it lately?
Thirty-year-olds think, that by now, they should know it all, have it all. And for sure you should have arrived by the time you’re 45, 60, 70…
Oh, wait, it’s all over when you hit seventy. Too late. No soup for you!
Except that you haven’t arrived. Still, you’re in the process of becoming. You always will be. You live all your life in the process of one thing or another. The wonderful thing, the amazing thing, is that we get to decide what we want to work toward. Hey, kindness is a good goal. How about that? We can work toward being kind, or courageous, or both and everything else too.
Above is the beginning of an egg tempera painting I’m working on. I don’t know what it will become. I have lots of snarling, buzzing thoughts that tell me it will come to nothing, but I’m excited by it. It has potential. Anything that is in process has potential.
I might be edging my way back into writing. Maybe.
I read books on creativity all the time. I’m not sure if it’s because I, somehow, want to be assured that I’m creative, or whether I want to understand what goes on in that process. Either way, one thing that comes up time and again, is the admonition not to rely on inspiration. In fact talent and inspiration are two terms that almost everyone disses.
I understand it to an extent. Talents aren’t share equally among everyone, and we don’t want to make anyone feel bad because they were born with a little less of a particular talent than someone else. And there is in the creative community this idea that the talented rely only on their talent and don’t work hard. That’s wrong I think, but I’m going to leave that for another time.
Another thing that books on creativity disparage is inspiration. I’m not saying you should sit on your duff and wait for inspiration before you attempt your creative project, but for heaven sakes if it comes along grab it with both hands and enjoy the blessing.
In my last post I noted that I’d finally painted something I didn’t hate. I made a tiny beginning. Then a day later I had the opportunity to visit Lorenzo Dupuis’s studio. What a wonder! I still feel all melty inside when I think about his luminous work, and I was/am inspired. For months and months I’ve been feeling as though I’m repeating myself or taken what wasn’t mine from others. Now, there is a path, a way to learn, a voice to find and I’m going to follow that inspiration. And surprise, surprise there are hints that I’ve been moving in this direction for some time. Yes, I’m worried that my work will look too much like Lorenzo’s, and guess what, he worries that his work looks too much like someone else’s. Creativity is a funny circular thing. Accept your talent, your inspirations and make something of it!
It’s almost too soon to write about it, and too soon to show these tiny paintings to you, but I’m taking a chance.
Some time ago I wrote, on this blog, that I was unable to paint. I’d been working in encaustic for years, and everything I did felt like a rehash of something I’d done before, or a poor imitation of something someone else had done. The downward spiral began after my last exhibition, which was a number of years ago. I pretended it wasn’t happening and I kept spinning my wheels until early this year, when I decided to stop trying to make paintings.
Instead, I made drawings, both analog and digital, and I did an occasional watercolour where drawing was more important than painting. I enjoyed this immensely, especially when I was able to set aside the pressure to be good. This pressure is something almost all creatives experience. It’s intrinsic pressure, not pressure put on you from an outside boss. We’re our own worst critic. This is a necessary thing, but it can at times be crippling.
Last week I told you that being social isn’t only a human necessity, it is important to help you see the world afresh. I’d had a week of socializing. A long time for an introvert, and I thought I’d need a week or more to get back into to doing my work, both writing and drawing.
It rained on Monday. September is a weather turning-point in Saskatchewan and it was cold. The last thing I needed was to make myself unhappy by trying to paint, but for the first time in months and months I wanted to. I pulled out a tiny panel, and some oils and painted. The next day I made another tiny painting, and so it’s begun. Already, I see where I have connected to my past work, but I’m seeing it in new light. It has possibilities. It’s like seeing a few feet of the path in the dark forest.
It’s too early to judge but I see that I will discard some of these beginnings, maybe all of them, but one…one, even in this tiny format, might be the seed of a new painting phase.
“The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the helical rising of the star system Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.” —Wikipedia
Wow, that describes my condition perfectly: lethargy and erruptions of irritation. Occassionally an idea will seek me out and I’m in a fever until the lethargy comes back in taking with it every bit of energy and leaving me, dare I say, mad.
I am overstating things, but yes, there is too much smoke in the air, it’s hot, I need a new project. My old projects, though not finished fill me with lethargy. This happens.
Funny thing is it is exactly these hot, grasshopper hopping, cricket-singing days I remember from my childhood with nostalgia and longing. It occurs to me that perhaps I need not produce every minute of every day. Maybe it’s good enough, sometimes in the dog days, to lie back on a lawn chair with a good book, and look up every once in a while to watch the birds practise their flying and see the heat shimmer in the distance.
When I studied Fine Arts at the University of Saskatchewan we made a sharp distinction between ‘fine art’ and what was often termed as ‘Sunday painting’. This university was very influence by abstract expressonism, especially the works that came out of New York in the 40s and 50s. A Prairie province, like Saskatchewan, coming late to the dominion of Canada (1905) and always tending to feel a little backward, embraced New York and it’s ideas with with a fervor we didn’t give Canadian artists.
As a young sprout I wanted desperately make good art. But I had no idea about this kind of painting at all. What I wanted to do was make drawings and paintings like Rembrandt. But I learned. Iit was exciting to hear the theories of these men of (yeah, mostly men, but my painting above was influenced by Helen Frankenthaler) were exciting and nicely laced with high spiritual thought. Little by little I developed what Mr. Greenberg would have called taste.
And, though not intentionally, I began to looked down on those who could draw realistically and render. I made massive paintings using no method that you might call traditional.
Fishing with My Father, above, was entirely built from bits of paper, glued down on a sheet of plastic, and poured over with acrylic paint washes. Then I added more bits of paper, string and whatever looked interesting, to come up with this final product. The painting is 8 feet tall by 12 feet wide.
Fast forward many years: I still like abstract expressionist art very much, but I’ve found myself yearning to draw and paint recognizable people and things. I long to render and get lost in the minutia of the subject. And guess what I’ve found. There are so very many artists, from Urban Sketchers to Illustrators who do marvellous work, that I in my ignorant pretentiousness never looked at.
So here’s a thing I’ve learned. There are all kinds of taste in art. In fact because I’m a painter, I’m now pretty much a dinosaur because current tastes are for video art, sound art, and compilations of ideas that have nothing to do with the kind of esthetic taste I was taught to cultivate.
So, here’s some advice, younguns, listen to many teachers, stay humble and learn from everyone. Here’s to staying open!
A few weeks ago I wailed about not being able to paint. I’m not going to tell you that it’s all come back to me and I’m flying. But I am painting, and I’ve been completely immersed in it all week long. Everything is different, the medium, the style, the type of painting, but I’m learning, and I’m old enough to know that learning is one of life’s most important things for me. If I’m not learning, I lose interest and everything is washed over in blues.
Above is a digital piece worked in a painterly realistic style.
My whole art education was about abstraction with elements of either the sublime and/or expressionistic. I feel like a traitor to my education, and my mentors, but man, there’s a whole other world of art out there.