Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Creator & Critic Find Their Seats

Tatami Dream
Mixed media on matte board
8" x 8"  matte, image size 3.75" x 4.5"
$25 includes shipping in North America

This little abstract piece is done in neutral, serene shades I don't often work in.  I love the feel of these subdued colours of nature but find myself most often working in vibrant colours for reasons I don't really understand.  Art is like that.  A lot of the time you are doing things that are really beyond your understanding, working from somewhere deeper and more ethereal and intuitive.  The really difficult thing  is to not stand in judgement of what you have done.  I find my mind so often wants to rush to "I like, I don't like" and as we all know,  judgement it is not a very helpful companion.  In fact it's downright paralyzing and counter productive.  And yet it is such an habitual response, done in the blink of an eye, without a breath or a conscious thought.  It is not malicious, simply reflexive and lacking in wisdom. 

 The funny thing is you'd think I'd learn because some of the things I've wanted to fling out the window at some point, later become the things I like the best.  These are pieces that I often regard as beyond recovery at some point and yet when I keep on working they are transformed.  I push past the chaos and the ennui and come out the other end.  It is such good practice but always feels so hard at the time.  There I am with my little time manager hat on, wondering if I've wasted hours, wanting the problem resolved.  The sense of discomfort at walking into the unknown is palpable.  And there is no guarantee that it will always work out just because I persevere.  There is no formula, no equation that goes (many hours + perseverance + agitation = success). (This is as close as I get to math.)

What I do know about writing and art making is that there is a creative, intuitive aspect that needs to just be let loose, given free reign.  Sometimes it takes a long time for the creative furnace to warm up and sometimes you produce a lot of smoke and a little fizzle.  But you have to have faith and work without question.  Sometimes that furnace heats up and a spark ignites from somewhere beyond.  And that is when you truly connect with some special energy.  It's where all really great art comes from, the place where the spark catches and flames transmute the ordinary into something flaming and miraculous.  Sometimes (and you've heard artists say this) it hardly seems to have anything to do with them.  You can look at what you've created and be as surprised as a stranger and wonder "where did that come from?'

And there is a second part of the process, the evaluative part, where you do stand back and consider and edit the work.  "No it needs something else, no it looks a bit flat or yes it's good, just the way it is."  It might be the honesty to see that the first 5 (or 50)  pages of writing need to be chucked.   So the evaluator self has value and a place in creation but it seems that it's not good to get it mixed up with the creator, who just needs to move and flow and muck about.  This creator is interrupted by the evaluator, editor self.  They are two different parts of the process.  And I find sometimes there needs to be a good deal of space between the two.  There needs to be some distance before you change hats from creator to editor, otherwise the hats get tangled and you start to feel like the two headed monster from Sesame Street.  It's kind of like when your eyes need to adjust after being in the bright light.  If your inner eye is still in creator mode, the focus of the editor's eye is a bit blurry and unreliable.

Art is such good practice in many ways, so much of what operates as the truth in other parts of our life is there is small bite sized pieces waiting for us as we step through the studio door or sit down at the computer.  It is training in its own way, just waiting patiently for us to wake up.  As my Zen teacher always says, "the eternal can wait forever, how long can we wait?"


  1. Almost in spite of myself, I am presently working with fabric. Scraps, threads, ordered randomness. I am not fighting it, but I question it. It must be a process I need in my artistic journey. I think, "Any one could do this--it's nothing special." But it is special because it is an intuitive expression of self--of something coming from within. It pleases me. So I will just keep on with it until the time is right for me to get back to my paints. Trust. Let go. Keep on. Yes, the critic will show up and scoff at it all as "craft" or worse yet, as crap! But the critic must learn her place as well, and enter only when invited. Thank you for your thoughtful posting about the process of creativity. I particularly like what you say about the creator needing to move, and flow and muck about.

  2. It is interesting to watch the process, isn't it. It reminds me how little "control" I have over what happens. I just need to do my part by tuning in and hearing what it is that I need to do and then doing it. And then I get to see how much comes from that deep source. I don't need to be out there orchestrating and trying to make things happen with my head! It seems life is a lot more simple when I just get out of my own way!