December 30, 2016

Painting With The Girls 365

December 30, 2016

Day 365 (1 day to go)

Rock Detail I

Photo manipulation, 5X7, matted

Creative Mind

There is a history of artists who were considered geniuses but were also passionate and unstable. Some great masters fought addiction, mental and physical illness and alienation. Despite different states of mind, artists through history painted no matter what.

Caravaggio is a good example. The painter, who created“chiaroscuro”, was ill tempered, violent, and always-in-trouble with the law. He was put in prison for several acts of violence and later was stabbed to death at the young age of 38.  Despite his apparent mental illness, he painted for a living, and his genius is still exhibited in museums all over the world.

Some of us suffer from mental or physical problems, including simply lacking self-esteem or being physically challenged. I have a close friend who used to be a nurse. Because of a car accident that broke her spine, she endures chronic pain and has to take heavy drugs that impair her senses. Despite being paralyzed from the waist down,  and suffering constant pain, she found that art soothes and comforts her.  Painting became her way of life.

As I started my project, I was excited that I was challenging myself to something I was passionate about.  For the first couple of months, my mind was preoccupied with getting things done. As I discovered that I was capable of reading, writing and producing something new every day, my mind relaxed. When a few months went by, I felt less excited about the work.  It became an everyday job, and my mind started to drift a little. It sought to reward itself with longer breaks and less work.

I thought this was natural, and I started challenging myself by attempting forms of art I had never tried, such as block printing and painting on an I Pad. I looked at the work of many contemporary painters and tried to experiment with concepts more than technique. I rediscovered that writing a journal about what I think I am doing is helpful to my creative process. It guides me towards a ‘goal’ and eliminates all the questions I did not think about. Writing about my process and my life puts me in an ideal state of mind to feel creative.

In general, one does not need some sort of perfect state of mind to create. One should just take advantage of the moment when the mind demands the pure will to create.

Most artists I know complain about two things: the lack of enough space to spread their art materials and the problematic issue of managing time. Time and space are all tied to other factors too. One might live in a very small space or be constantly surrounded by family members or roommates. Affordability of space and freeing up hours to work are issues that are obstacles. I will come back to these topics in a later chapter. 

Going back to being in the right state of mind, the object of looking at this is that all of us have daily responsibilities and sometimes not the optimum peace of mind required to stop and be creative. Having a studio and time will not produce paintings. I have a very close friend who had a studio available but complained she had no time. She told me once that the most important thing to her was to have time to think. I actually laughed at her because I did not think she was serious. I just could not believe she was not giving herself that simple thing.

This seems to happen a lot in our society, where we are just bouncing from one thing to another without giving ourselves a break.

Time is precious because it forces oneself to be in touch with what needs and thoughts are important. Thinking is a process. One cannot conclude anything jumping from one activity to another under pressure of time.

Listening to my friend made me realize that she did not have time to even know what she needed.  She explained she had no time to decide what she wanted to do in her studio, so she was going to just take classes and read. 

That is a great example of having the perfect space but not a mental place to be creative. My friend could not imagine entering her studio without knowing beforehand what kind of project she would be working on. 

I think we all go through phases like that. We feel we are not inspired or not in the mood to create, and consequently we do not show up to work.

My experience this year was different because I forced myself to show up to work every day.

Nevertheless, it is a valid feeling to be unsure what to create. Sometimes just sitting at your private space and thinking quietly, will allow you to evaluate your needs.  When I did not feel inspired I sat at my chair and took a few breaths.  I told myself I was a capable artist and I enjoyed my time alone.  I would read and organize my art supplies.  Eventually, the dedicated quiet time in my studio guided me to my next inspiration and creative process.

I also recommend Julia Cameron’s book, “ The Artist’s Way”. This best-seller book has been on the market since 1992 and has been used by artists who think they are stuck by creative block.

In 2008, I did the twelve-week program recommended in the book. This year I read it again to remind myself of all the wonderful progress I achieved.  I have kept many habits from the time I decided I was going to make my mind work better, in order to be creative.  Not everyone needs a twelve-week program. As my friend says, “one needs time to think”,  so that one’s mind can wonder.