Thursday, July 30, 2009

Art and Fear

I looked at an old sketch book from 2007 yesterday. From time to time I review my old sketch books to find inspiration and to see what I was thinking one year, three years, five years ago. I'm often surprised to find that similar ideas circulate throughout my work. Sometimes I complete a painting only to discover later on when perusing my sketchbooks that I had made an earlier sketch of the same image.

Yesterday what inspired me were some quotes from the book, "Art and Fear" by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

I wrote these notes in my sketchbook that continue to resonate with me.

"As an artist you're expected to make each successive piece uniquely new and different yet reassuringly familiar when set alongside your earlier work. You're expected to make art that's intimately (perhaps even painfully) personal-yet alluring and easily grasped by an audience that has never known you personally."

"..for most art there is no client, and in making it you lay bare a truth you perhaps never anticipated: that by your very contact with what you love, you have exposed yourself to the world. How could you NOT take criticism of that work personally?"

And this: ..."in our artwork there is nothing but reaction. The breathtakingly wonderful thing about this reaction is its truthfulness. Look at your work and it tells you how it is when you hold back and when you embrace. When you are lazy, your art is lazy; when you hold back, it holds back; when you hesitate, it stands there staring, hands in it's pockets. But when you commit, it comes on like blazes."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

River of Longing

This is a recently completed painting in my new series called, "River of Longing".
I continue to work on images of waterlilies and 'vessels', which are boats/canoes or bowls, as in the Evening on the Lake of Dreams Series. But recently the energy seemed to subtly shift into a new series as I begin to work with images to create a new myth which will accompany this work.

Drawing on my interest in and study of Shamanism over the years, the empty canoe image serves as a powerful symbol. In an article in the San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal, "the symbolism of the boat/ship emanates from what Jung calls, 'the primordial era when the unconscious was predominant and the conscious weak', when myth and lore were taken for factual reality and gods and goddesses for granted as projections of the immutable, incomprehensible forces of nature. Long connected in various world religions with magic, death and rebirth, the boat as archetype has a powerful significance".

Thursday, July 23, 2009

How do you keep the creative fire burning?

I find the creative process to be a fragile place between the conscious and the unconscious. Sometimes I have intensely creative periods and then periods of lower energy, where I still love painting, but the energy behind a series of paintings begins to dissipate.

The composer John Adams said in an interview on CBC radio that he doesn't wait for the Muse to come to him, he improvises and then inspiration comes to him.

My process is similar and yet my own. I keep working even when I find the energy is letting go of a series I've been working on. But there comes a time, as I keep working, when I get a flash of a new idea, maybe in a dream, or just as a clear thought.

I have artist friends who seem to work steadily at their painting with no diminution of their energy. As an outsider looking on, it appears that they have consistent energy in their work from one year to the next. Part of me envies this consistency. Part of me knows that I am not like that and I need to work in my own way.

Besides continuing to work, or 'improvise', when I am in an in-between cycle, I find I am more open to receiving inspiration around me.
Here are a few ways I try to open to inspiration.
Mostly I find if I can quiet my mind, a space is opened.

1.Go for long walks in nature or go and sit in the woods. I am lucky to have woods behind my house so I can sit there often.

2.Meditate. I learned a form of active visual meditation many years ago that really works well for me.

3.Swim. That's my favorite activity and I find, like walking it calms my mind so that new light can come in.

4. I mow my lawn on my riding lawnmower. No kidding. This is one of the best ways to zone out. My earplugs are in, I can't answer emails or phone calls, and I have to focus but not. I guess it's like doing dishes by hand or washing the floor. Mundane repetitive tasks are really excellent for quieting the mind.

5. Tai Chi. I started Tai Chi a year ago and still can't do the 108 moves by myself. So I keep attending classes and following the others. But it is phenomenal at making me focus.

6. Listen to CBC radio, especially Tapestry with Mary Hines, the Sunday program that focuses on the spiritual. Or, "Writers and Company", with Eleanor Wachtel. Listening to such inspirational interviews is good for the heart and the mind.

7. I love reading poetry from time to time, most especially Mary Oliver. But I also love and continue to read Rumi and Rilke.

8. I also love the occasional inspirational quote, which I then write down and keep in my file of guessed it, "Inspirational Quotes".

Here is the quote which I have been rereading lately:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." Martha Graham

Friday, July 10, 2009

New Work

Here are three recent paintings that are currently on the walls at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario as part of the Ontario Society of Artists, "OSA Summer Exhibitions".
I continue to work on the series, "Evening on the Lake of Dreams". The myth that accompanies this work is on my website. I went to the opening last night on a fabulous warm summer evening. There are five Oakville Galleries involved in this exhibition, so it made for a wonderful gallery walk to see all of the work in each gallery.