Friday, March 11, 2011

How to engage creativity

 I began making art eleven years ago, following the promptings of my mother who was an artist in the last part of her life.  Both my daughters painted with her when they were young.  Truthfully, I thought that they were talented artists but did not feel that I was or could be a visual artist.  I pursued sewing and various crafts and of course, writing.  My artistic drive was with words.  I wrote professionally as well as in my spare time. 

When my mother told me that she thought I was an artist, I laughed.  But she persisted so I bought some watercolors, brushes and paper and went to her house one day for my first lesson.  As soon as I applied luscious Winston and Newton pigments to the delicious creamy white Arches paper, I was hooked.  It was like a bolt of electricity shooting through my entire body.  Then I joined a watercolor group, took lessons, and began to advance.  Back in those days, I either painted from a photograph I'd taken or a scene I liked from my environment.  I worried and fretted when I painted.  A very loud voice repeatedly told me that I was not good.  However, now and then, I would lose myself in the process.  I would get so caught up in capturing the feelings behind the image that I would forget myself.

For a little while, I would just paint, not thinking about what I was doing so much as letting myself do whatever my eyes and hands wanted to do.  The more I painted, the more that began to happen.  As I began to migrate towards my own artistic vision, turning away from purely realistic to more abstract renderings, and then moving into mixed media, I began to cultivate certain aspects of the process of making art.  I began to select subject matter that I loved.  I played, experimented, and listened to my own intuition.  My inner critic was still talking to me, like some foul-mouthed heckler on the sidelines, trying to ruin my fun, but I was ignoring that heckler and sometimes telling the nasty fellow to go away and leave me alone.  The more I worked everyday in my art studio (by then I had confiscated a very nice little building on my farm, the former milk house, as my domain), the more ideas I had.  I learned to fertilize the fields of my mind by maintaining a fairly regular schedule. This phenomenon I had already experienced in my writing.  Inspiration comes from perspiration. 
How to be An Artist

Today what I love most about being an artist is that each time I sit down to work, I feel like I am going on a great adventure, one that is surely going to give me great happiness and joy and a good time as well as a surprise or two or three.  Whether or not the piece of art I create is a masterpiece is beside the point.  I am there for the feeling of being in tune with the universe, flowing into it so to speak, with my inner vision of something I want to make.  Usually I can't even see that inner vision all that clearly.  It's a feeling in my fingertips, almost like an itch to play the piano.  It's a glimmer in my eye.  It's a reflection in my soul.  All I know is that I need to go to my studio and play awhile and see what comes out.  I don't hear anything in the outside world around me.  Often I play music on my ipod, and I get lost in the music.  I don't feel hungry, I don't feel tired, I don't feel worried or unhappy.  I am hovering in the air above the piece of paper, acting and reacting to what is coming out.  This feeling of flow is so intense that to sustain it for more than a couple of hours is difficult.

Repeatedly following this road map has allowed me to develop great trust in the process I use to make art.  It's not that I feel invincible or pompous about the final produce.  No, I remain humble.  But I do believe that whatever I created was produced from a deep creative center and because of that, I trust that I made the best I possibly could.

Maybe you don't work the way I do, and that's okay.  Everyone is different.  I have a tendency to live very deep inside myself.  It's not something I choose to be.  I was made that way.  But no matter how you make your art, I do believe that art making should be a joyous, affirming experience.  Go for it as much as you can, as much as your life and your responsibilities allow.   Silence your inner critic and instead let your inner child come out to play. 

In my artistic opinion, the point of art is process.  Each creation changes the artist.  Doing what you love, working no matter what, and learning to trust your inner eye strengthens your core being.  Art  from that kind of experience is authentic, truthful, and real.  Art springing from authenticity changes the world. 

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