At some point while creating a painting, and this happens more often than not, a gentle yet insistent narrative flow begins. A story, all in shambles at the start, seeps into my scull in dribs and drabs till it finally settles down around the center of my being. And as the flow strengthens and the story takes form and shape, a niggling feeling of déjà vu begins to pervade the studio.
Later, perhaps hours, perhaps days, I experience a sudden burst of insight and find myself knowing beyond all doubt that this previously hidden story is the wellspring of my current inspiration.
But where had this story been hiding all this time? How did it inspire me to begin the painting if I was at first unaware of it?
And then a second realization! This has all happened before; it’s far from being an isolated event. I pause and take time to poke around the dusty halls of my memories. Ah, there it is. And there and there and there! This very same event has happened untold times before.
When I begin each new work, I never start wielding the brushes with any great knowledge of what the driving force is. I feel compelled to begin, for sure, but many new paintings begin in semi blindness. While it’s true I can always rely on a swirl of images to fill my head, the first stage of creation still resembles a confused and disorganized rummage sale.
At this stage in the creative process, however, there’ a time-tested truth I’ve learned to embrace to strengthen my artistic resolve. Given time and a good deal of perseverance, the energy will eventually build to such a degree that I’ll find my way.
Each creative journey unfolds something like this:
- Out of the jumble of images inside my head, one has come forward, begging for attention and expression.
- Although bright and insistent, this image often remains partially obscured and many details are unclear. I can almost feel the image better than I can see it.
- I begin trying to get the image down on paper in sketch form. At this stage I have no confidence and feel as if I’m wallowing in mud.
- I persevere, producing sketches, tonal studies, and color experiments. I’m involved, committed, but still not sure of my direction.
- Then at some uncertain point on my journey everything abruptly changes. This event is much like how a light switched on in a dark room suddenly illuminates previously hidden objects.
- 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 is urging me onwards in a definite direction. I can feel the wind fully on my back.
- I’m in midstream now, carried along by an irresistible current. The work has become all-consuming and of monumental meaning, at least to me. My speed increases as does my excitement.
- And my destination, if past events are any indication, is a location where I will not only see a brightening light, but also a radiance that has traversed the universe from one end to the other. This is where I’ll find fulfillment.
But each painting eventually finds completion. I release it into the world, into the ethers and although I do my best to stay centered, at times I experience a great sense of loss. I flew so high and cavorted with demigods, but now my pallet dries unattended and all that glory has faded to a memory.
And I forget, so quickly forget, the heights I’ve so recently flown. And by forgetting I mean the forgetfulness of the heart. I remember it all in words, of course, but the feelings, the direct experience of blissful creation fades away to become but a tarnished ornament in those cavernous halls of my memory.
Yet through all this forgetfulness, a tiny spark still glows in the oppressive darkness. I feel the edges of inspiration constantly nudging at my psyche. It’s not as if my head was ever empty of images. There are thousands clamoring for my attention. There always are.
“For goodness sake,” I tell myself. “I’m an artist and painting is what I do. Just get off your duff and start the wheels turning again.”
Sometimes I even proclaim it loudly to the studio walls.
The truth has becomes obvious, and again I experience a déjà vu moment. Even if I’ve lost touch with the high points, the straightest road back to those lofty regions begins here, right where I stand.
So I steal myself, search within, and call up the courage to dive back in.
And the wonder of it all is that my Muse is always waiting with open arms. Through all these ups and downs I’ve never really been alone. No matter how far I might stray or how many stupid distractions tempt my artistic resolve, my Muse stays constant and true. She’s never once wavered in her dedication to finding ways to remind me what’s important and where bliss and meaning reside.
It’s all about light, you know, glorious light in all its multidimensional expressions. To seek out light, to nurture light and, most importantly, to share light, that’s what’s important.