Monday, October 20, 2014

Answering Your Questions About My Art

Selfie with WIP painting
In preparation for a recent artist talk that I offered at The Banana Factory, I asked my Facebook friends what they would most like to know about my art. Their questions and my answers follow below. Have a question for me ? Please leave it in the comment section of this post.

Q: How do you keep creating on the days when the inner 3-year old is shouting, "I don't wanna!" (Do you even have those kinds of days?)

A: Unless I have a deadline involved, the hardest thing for me to do is trust that if I don't want to be creative today, that it doesn't mean that I'll never be creative again. It's in my blood - I'm always going to be expressing myself in some creative way. If I'm not painting or drawing, I'm researching something to inform my abilities or I'm reading, or I'm talking to other artists, or I'm contemplating new ideas.... If I'm on deadline, I push myself and allow any discomfort to fuel my efforts.

Q: Is there a sort of conversation with the work as you are creating it? What do you listen for, look for, ask, try to intuit, etc....

A: My number one answer is BALANCE. It's like tasting a soup as it's cooking to see what it needs - to enhance the flavor, to balance the flavor, etc. I look for balance with how the paint is applied to the canvas as well as with the chosen colors and the imagery.

Q: When you start a new piece, how clear are you on what it's going to look like in the end?

A: I consider myself to be learning, learning, learning and that means that I"m not often sure how things will turn out because I don't really fully know the potential of a piece or what I'm yet capable of. It's really only been the conceptual figurative pieces that have even had any lead in on what I want them to be. I usually just take an idea to the canvas and allow it to evolve. With the abstract pieces it could mean just grabbing colors that I want to work with or a rough quick outline on a canvas. Many pieces end up surprising me.

Q: How do you stay connected to your creative process?

A: I'm always connected. If my eyes are open, if I can hear, if I can smell - information is always being processed and gathered. If I'm not actually making something, I'm thinking about making something. The harder question for me is how do I disconnect from my creative process. (I'll answer that in a few)

Q: Do you ever suffer from painters block and if so how do you get past it? 

A: I don't really think about creative blocks in that way. If I don't want to paint, I'll draw, or look for inspiration on Pinterest, or read about a favorite artist or take notes for a future workshop or clean my studio or look through my inspiration/color books or, or, or.... see where I'm going with this? When stuck, just shift gears.

Q: What kind of things (music, activities, books, film, etc) inspire you to create? 

A: Funky groovy music - Afrobeat, jazz funk, world percussion, (African and Middle eastern mostly) - especially instrumentals or if there is singing, it has to be in a language I can't understand. I've been listening to a lot of jazz from the same period that the Modern artists were creating...  Sometimes complete silence, in my house at night - I feel like I'm isolated from the world - when it's really quiet so I can HEAR - that's a crazy creative time for me. Books? Oh yes. I've got at least three dozen books going at any one time on a variety of subjects that inspire me - especially right now, all of the books on Modern Art that I've been studying. Film? I don't watch as much as I used to. I like documentaries and cooking shows. I like looking through Pinterest - I've used it extensively to study art history.

Q: Do you worry about how to bring across a message, or theme or saying something with your work?

A: I've come to believe that it doesn't matter. I'd create my conceptual pieces and people would come in my studio and I'd immediately launch into the stories and it took me a while to realize that they need to see the work in the way they need to see it. If there meaning aligns with mine, that's great, If not that's great too. If they want to know more, I'll tell them. If there are messages that I feel compelled to express in my work, it's usually for a higher purpose and I try not to be attached to the outcome.

Q: How do you prioritize time to create?

A: The better question would be how do I prioritize my time to get everything else done. Creativity has been my priority for the last few years, Other areas can often get neglected as a result. I am very aware of this and would like to be better organized over all. I don't think it ultimately serves me to continue living in chaos. (or in a dusty house. lol!)

Q: How to you let go, even momentarily, of problems in your life TO create?

A: This is an easy one. Creativity IS the letting go. Everything around me, (problems, frustrations, etc.) are the fuel for my creativity.

Q: What other things do you do to support yourself, your spirit in your work? What would you recommend that others find to support their longevity?

A: This is a really good question because I consider my art making to be a major part of my spiritual practice, And by spirituality, I mean knowing myself and thus knowing god - so everything I do is serving a much higher purpose than just making something for the sake of making it. (Though that kind of work can serve the soul in other beneficial ways I'm sure.) I don't think I'd be the artist that I am without my constant search for knowledge - of self, etc. It's taken me a long time to find a belief system that suits, serves and supports my growth and what's been working really for me are the Yoga Sutras. (Some might know these as Raja Yoga or Astanga Yoga) Prior to my discovering the sutras, I used reiki as a self-disciplined spiritual practice which I believe the benefits of such also helped to greatly support and sustain my growth. (I am still using reiki in this way) In short, when the going gets tough, it helps to have something like a trusted belief system and a somewhat stable mind to fall back on. (All of which for me, is a constant work in progress.)

Q: How do you keep your inner critic from passing judgment on a piece, creative process, yourself and derailling you from continuing on?

A: Great question. Here's what I got: In the beginning, we've just got to tell the inner critic to f*ck off. Trust me when I say, that THAT voice is offering UNINFORMED and UNHELPFUL feedback. I'm not talking about the voice that tells us to stop buying so many art supplies, or the one that tells me that I should put the paint bush down and clean the bathroom... I'm talking about the one that tells us that we aren't GOOD ENOUGH. That we aren't WORTH the TIME we are spending to do the thing that brings us satisfaction. That's the voice that's crucial that we learn to ignore. Why? Two reasons: 1. EVERYONE is entitled to, and DESERVING of the benefits of creative action and of a creative mind. 2. VERY FEW PEOPLE are born with a creative "edge" in most cases, creativity is a LEARNED skill. Like walking. Would you be harsh to a baby that's just learning to walk? Not likely. Create because it feels good. When YOU (and no one else) decides that you want to increate the quality of whatever it is that you do, you seek out a teacher that can offer INFORMED feedback to get you where you'd like to be. After that, it's just practice, practice, practice. Don't have the time to practice or the discipline to practice to get "better?" Then just be ok with exactly where you are because it's the perfect place for you to be.

Q: Is it you or the work who decides when it is complete, ready to stand on its own? or How do you know when a painting is finished?

A: I'll offer a two-part answer here. 1. It's an intuitive process and most times I feel as though I get it right. Sometimes I feel like I hold back, (See my piece "Resonate" as a good example of "playing it safe") other times I overwork a piece to the point of breaking it. I sense a balance has been achieved and I stop. I don't know if it's me stopping of if its the piece stopping me. 2. Sometimes I find that I stop because there's nothing more that I can add at that time - and I am not always conscious of that decision. I'll stop because I think I'm finished, but then months or years later I find myself making small tweaks to a piece that totally punches it to a whole new level. Other times I stop because I know I need to do more studies to achieve the desired result. The new piece I'm working on, the three females, (Tentatively entitled, "Evolution MMC") is an example of this. I'm just not ready to paint the faces. Maybe I should just do it anyway, so I can learn, but right now, I'm just not ready to do that.

Q: What spirit/soul work did you experience/do to give you the courage to create art?

A: I don't think I've ever needed courage to be creative, the courage I needed was to put myself "out there' as an artist. Aside from the (literally) thousands of mandalas I've drawn since January of 2007 as part of my spiritual practice, I've learned two levels each, of two different reiki lineages (and continued extensive self-studies about reiki in general) and have practiced self-reiki every day for over 3 years. I attended 8 years of transformational retreats and several dozen personal growth type workshops facilitated by my friend Jim Donovan. I worked closely with Jim in a variety of capacities for about three years and I can't begin to express the depth of what I learned & experienced during that time. It wasn't always easy, but I am a better person for all of it.

I've participated in shamanic journeying visualizations, walked over fire, broken an arrow with my throat, driven solo across the state 4 times to participate in additional similar transformational retreats, (camping solo on three of them.) I have also worked with numerous alternative healing practitioners over the years.

Discovering and studying the yoga sutras has been huge for me as well. It has shed a lot of light on the interconnectedness of the collection of universal truths I'd been carrying around for a long time. Reading and listening to books by Alex Grey, and spending a week with visionary artists Alex and Alyson Grey at CoSM really ignited a few fires within me.

More recently, I've come to learn more about myself by discovering that many of the early Modernist painters were also creating art for spiritual purposes. I've been reading lots and lots about that.

As much as I've listed here, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of the work I still must do to discover my whole self....  Have been practicing a physical yoga practice for the last two years - that's been monumental in helping my mind/body/spirit to grow -practicing mostly on my own since the beginning of this year.

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