Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Sing from the Heart
Earlier in the summer, I found my self in a creative slump, a flat, static stretch; feeling OK, but not great, a little down but no major depression. I’ve spent the past three years spent learning mixed media techniques and processes; I realized that now it’s time to move to the next level. Do more than arranging elements in a pleasing design on a page, or canvas.
I need to find the source of the muse and, at the same time, understand the forces that subvert creativity. Like fear. Fear is a byproduct of most journeys; who, after all, isn’t afraid of face-planting at some point. My problem is that it often takes hold before I get a good footing on the path.
I’d been producing work that I really liked, so naturally fear arrived like a beautiful, fair-weather friend. I found myself doubting - will you really stay, even if I turn out to be a lot less perfect than I’d led you to believe? Will you abandon me just as I get my hopes up?
It’s no secret that growth involves risk, but after a few weeks of numb uncertainty I felt ready for an intentional exploration of the terra-not-so-firma, deep down where the knotted quagmire of roots simmer with meaning; the source, the forces that fuel the yearning, conscious need to create, to connect with the process of making art in an intentional design. Paint from the heart according to my good friend, artist Debbie Westerfield.
In Art and Fear*, the author(s) says: “Naïve passion (the time I spent in joyful experimentation), which promotes work done in ignorance of obstacles, becomes – with courage – informed passion, which promotes work done in full acceptance of those obstacles.” I take that to mean that I’m at the courage part.
Anyone who has lived with that holding back sensation knows that sooner or later it is easier to deal with the risk than put up with the angst and unbearable weight of keeping all the doors shut. I want to collage anger, paint memory, grief and joy. So what if a few stray bags pop open along with way.
Coincidentally, or not, I’m reading Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful and Live Intentionally. I’d be willing to bet that, like me, more people than not have read a stack of books about self-actualization, living authentically. I’ve gleaned useful information from them all, though it seems a bit silly to look for one’s self in a book. In reality, there are times when we need guides and Life is a Verb is one of the best I’ve come across. Life is a Verb is loaded with fabulous mixed media art images, which is what attracted me in the first place, her stories, collection of kick-butt quotes and free-writing prompts are producing more than I’d anticipated. If you haven’t heard about it, or already read it, I’d highly recommend it, whether you’re in a slump or not.
While scanning this collage, which I thankfully managed to complete (I admire the mother who can work with the kids at home during summer?!) I realized that it is infused with more meaning than I’d given myself credit for: the bird house heart, hands cradling eggs, bird flying in with a heart in tow…. cryptic still, but enough metaphor to make sense to me. And, that is why I make art, after all, for me. At this point anyway.