|Kimono Threads 11"x 14" Cold Wax on Panel|
Along with this I wonder how much "belief" plays a role in this perceived distance between what we love and aspire to and what we create. A study I read years ago suggested that the only variable that set creative people apart from non creative people was (get this) that the creative people believed they were creative. Another study suggests that "belief" is such an important aspect of mind that it can influence whether food acts as if it has lots of calories or few calories when it hits our metabolic system. So what beliefs do you hold about your work, your process, your life? How do they influence (unconsciously or consciously) how you work and what shows up in your work (or life)? Don't get me wrong, I am a big believer in the fact that sustained practice or the repeated engagement with our medium, whatever it is, pulls us forward in our work. I think it was Picasso that said "inspiration finds us working." But what is the role of trust and faith in ourselves and our process?
|The Secret Life of Dirt 10"x 10"|
These questions interest me because I have experienced a lot of frustration with my process. I think in part it was because I wanted something that wasn't showing up on my canvas (commonly known in Buddhist circles as rejecting what is and recognized as a source of suffering). But curiously that frustration seems to have burned itself up, for reasons I don't fully understand. It mostly is just not present anymore. Maybe it was a state I just had to pass through after sustained hours, like the seemingly endless fields of Montana, but I digress into geographical insults.
As I look back on this state of frustration I realize that there is an aspect of "pride" in it. When I am beseiged by the unconscious thought, "I am better than this ugly painting in front of me, I should be able to create something more pleasing than this" I am not only rejecting what is, but claiming superiority over it. Ouch.
|A Body of Thought 10"x10"|
There were many times I thought of just packing it all up and taking those art supplies to the thrift store, kind of like a friend of mine who threw his golf clubs in the lake after a really bad game and never golfed again. But there is something that keeps me going, a sense that I am looking for something, and that something is just around the corner, kind of like tracking an animal or fishing, to use a carnivorous analogy. I used to joke with my Zen teacher that there was something very pure in pursuing a goal that I felt I was not very good at. William Vollman says it this way, " The most important and enjoyable thing in life is doing something that's a complicated, tricky problem that you don't know how to solve." Wendell Berry says "it's the impeded stream that knows how to sing." (full poem here)
|How To Read The News 10"x10"|
I am reading "Free Play" by Stephen Nachmanovitch. He's a musician but his exploration of the creative process spills over into all of life, because isn't life the ultimate creative pursuit? I like what he has to say about our relationship with our work. This is the growing edge I am exploring these days. "We arrive at this effortless way not by mastering the instrument but by playing with it as a living partner. If I think of the ... paintbrush ...as an object to be controlled then by definition it is outside of me... Unless I surrender my identity, the instrument's identity and the illusion of control, I can never become one with my own process, and the blocks will remain. Without surrender and trust -- nothing."
Nachmanovitch winds down the chapter on surrender by saying " Unconditional surrender comes when I fully realize -- not in my brain but in my bones -- that what my life or art has handed me is bigger than my hands, bigger than any conscious understanding I can have of it, bigger than any capacity that is mine alone." Apparently art is not for control freaks. Or is it that art, if we let it, slowly works away at dissolving the control freak in us? Really it's all about the mystery of the process, the mystery of life, just the mystery, really.