During the early stages of a new painting, I often sense a gentle yet insistent flow of narrative. A story, all in shambles at the start, seeps into my mind in dribs and drabs. As the narrative flow strengthens and the story takes shape, a niggling feeling of déjà vu pervades my being.
I rarely write things down, but I do listen attentively to the internal narrative. Sometime later, perhaps hours, perhaps days, I experience a sudden burst of insight. This previously hidden story is the wellspring of my current inspiration!
But where was this story hiding? How did it inspire me to start the painting if I was unaware of it?
And then a second realization! This is not an isolated event. I pause and take some time to think things through, poking around my dusty memories.
Ah, there they are. This exact event has happened untold times before.
When beginning a new painting, I never clearly understand what the motivating force is. I feel inspired, for sure, but often I paint in a murky mind fog. While it’s true that I always have plenty of creative ideas and images floating around my head, this first stage of work often resembles a disorganized rummage sale.
I have, however, learned to rely on a time-tested truth that, over the years, has repeatedly rescued my flagging artistic resolve. I know that if I’m patient and just keep nibbling away at a painting, in time both inspiration and clarity of direction will return.
Each creative journey unfolds something like this:
- Out of the jumble of images inside my head, one has come forward, demanding attention.
- Although bright and insistent, this image is often partially obscured and many details remain unclear. I can almost feel the image better than I can see it.
- I try to get the idea down on paper in sketch form. Because I have no confidence in my direction yet, I feel as if I’m wallowing in mud.
- I persevere, producing sketches, tonal studies, and color experiments. I’m involved and committed, but still searching for a direction.
- Then abruptly, everything changes focus.
- This is much like how a light switched on in a dark room illuminates everything. Previously hidden objects suddenly jump into clarity.
- With great relief and even greater elation, I now know where I’m going. All restraints drop away and I’m on my way.
- And it’s at this point that something else takes over.
- The work itself shows all the signs of being infused with a higher intelligence, and that intelligence urges me onwards toward a clear goal.
- My excitement increases in leaps and bounds, as does my focus.
- I’m in midstream now, carried along by an irresistible current. The work has become all-consuming and holds great meaning, at least to me.
And if past events are any sign, my destination is a place where I will experience a pervasive radiance that seems to have traversed the universe from one end to the other. Surely this is where I’ll find fulfillment.
But a painting eventually reaches completion. I release it into the world, and although I do my best to keep my focus, sometimes there is a debilitating sense of loss. I flew so high and danced with angels, but now my pallet dries unattended and the glory has faded to mere memories.
It’s amazing how quickly I can forget the heights I recently soared. And by forgetting, I mean the forgetfulness of the heart. I remember the experiences in words, but the feelings, the direct experience of blissful creation, they all fade away to become but tarnished ornaments in the dusty halls of my memory.
Yet despite this forgetfulness, a tiny spark still glows inside. I never do lose the feeling that wisps of inspiration are nudging at my psyche. And it’s certainly not that my mind is devoid of ideas. There are always thousands of internal images clamoring for attention.
“For goodness’ sake,” I tell myself. “Painting is your life! Connect with the source, connect with inspiration. Now!”
Sometimes I even proclaim it out loud to the studio walls.
And eventually the truth once more becomes obvious, gifting me with another déjà vu moment. Even if I’ve lost touch with those exhilarating high points, I’m again clear about the path back to those lofty regions. It always begins here, right where I find myself.
So I gather wits, search within, and summon the courage to dive back in. And the wonder of it all is that my Muse is always waiting, eager to celebrate my return.
Through all these trials, I’ve never truly been alone. No matter how far I might stray or how many distractions compromise my artistic resolve, my Muse stays constant and true. She has never once wavered in her dedication to nudging me towards the source of all creative bliss and meaning.
This, then, is my inspiration’s source, an intangible something all wrapped up in glorious radiance. To seek light, to nurture light, and to share light, that’s a goal that makes an artist’s life truly worthwhile.