Over the past year I have moved twice, spent time on the road, done renos to the house I am living in now. It wasn't until I looked at this with new, kinder eyes that I realized why I haven't spent a lot of concentrated time in the studio. A lot of creative time has gone into re-visioning the home I am living in now, a creative process in itself. But until stopping to have a good look at this I created a lot of angst around the art making process. Art making needs space. Like any Dharma practice it needs room to breath and space to allow things to lazily and playfully percolate to the surface. So in thinking about my frustration, which I am now acknowledging as part of the process (gasp) I was drawn to the following quote: "The greatest opportunities for creative transformation are often lodged in our discontents. Art is an alchemical process that feeds on emotional energy. When we realize that a perfect equilibrium in our lives might not be the best basis for making art, then we can begin to re-vision our stress points. So rather than try to rid your life of tension, consider doing something more creative with it."
"Don't underestimate frustration and discontent. They are eternal wellsprings for artistic expression. After sustained periods of being stuck, your impatience with the situation might unloose a new phase of creation. You might boldly paint over the picture you have been fussing over for weeks and discover the basis for an original composition in your burst of emotion." I love the idea of finding opportunity in our difficulties, of reframing things (though I don't always get this right away!). It's like nothing is ever wasted (it's the ultimate in recycling, right?) we use even adversity. from "Trust the Process : An Artist's Guide to Letting Go" by Shaun Mcniff. It's a lot like any aspect of the Dharma really. We embrace everything, the ups, the downs. We become "a bigger container" as Joko Beck puts it. So riding the horse of frustration is a necessary part of the process, even if it's not much fun. Perhaps we can come to regard it as fun??
Another idea we've been exploring in the mine shaft is the role of creator/ editor in the process. In thinking about this I referred to an old friend, "The Zen of Creativity." The late John Daido Loori offers this commentary on the act of creating art: "In the creative process, as long as the energy is strong, the process continues. It may take minutes or hours. As long as you feel chi peaking and flowing, let it run its course. It's important to allow this flow and expression, without attempting to edit what is happening - without trying to name, judge, analyze, or understand it. The time for editing is later. The time for uninhibited flow of expression is now."
... "The editing process begins with reconnecting with the feeling, the resonance, that was present during the creation of the work of art. Then we slowly and deliberately remove the unnecessary elements, without disturbing the feeling of resonance. If the resonance weakens, we've gone too far."
"... Attending to chi and resonance can facilitate the process considerably, particularly if the mind is empty and you trust your intuition. ... Ultimately, all of the elements, ... muse, hara, chi, resonance, expression, editing - are really nothing but the self. It is important to trust this and to trust the process. Trust yourself. Your way of experiencing the world is unique. And what you're trying to do is give voice to this unique experience. Criticism in art is certainly valuable, but the creative process and developing your creative abilities is not the place for it. It is important, in engaging the creative process, to be able to work freely, without hindrance or judgment." These are important suggestions to work with I think, to make them your own. I find there is always a period of understanding and then adjustment as we work them into our own process.
So it is a rich and on-going exploration. I have decided I want to get lost in the "process" of creating. I want to forget about the end product. Considering outcomes is counter productive and stifling in the act of creation. As in the work of the Dharma and awareness we just want to be present to what we are doing, not constantly catapulting ourselves into the future.
I have decided that as part of the creation process I will conjure up an inner guide (I acknowledge the need for help) to offer positive direction and guidance. I need a road map through the creative wilderness. It is easy to get lost, to get off track. The automobile association towing service apparently doesn't service this area. I need an alchemical, cartographer type in my court, failing the service of a spiritual tow truck. Do you think I could advertise for her on Craigslist? I will know her when she answers my advert. When she comes for her interview she will be slightly eccentric, graceful, yet awkward, unusual, and bookish, homely, yet intensely attractive. If you were to peak into my studio you would see her there, a tall woman with dishevelled dark hair in a long blue skirt, wearing blundstone boots and a lacey shawl. She would be telling me some funny story and doing an impersonation of someone that would have me rolling on the ground. Of course I would hire her on the spot. The only fee she would charge is gingerbread cake and strong black tea sometime in the late afternoon. And as needed she would put on her dark rimmed glasses and turn her razor sharp sense of inquiry toward the canvas and ask me just the question I need to put me back to work. If you see her, tell her I'm looking for her.