Growth comes with confusions. Most confusions, most problems, are rectified through work. I have this worry, "Am I able to keep all my lessons learned, those things I have rectified through work, available to my present consciousness?" Yesterday's drawing has element of silliness. It was pleasant for me to go that way. Today, looking at that drawing, I muse amusingly, "Silly me!" Lesson learned: This one is silliness too far. The hand-like object was made in jest, but it removes the viewer from this drawing's formalistic wonder. This drawing is glorious in compositional play. Its merits get lost because it took the extreme risk of referencing an obvious human trait. This distracts too much; it is not as successful as it might have been. Lesson learned!
Yesterday's work on the painting, Seriously?, is proof of lesson learned. Seriously? is now enlightened by acceptance of atmospheric color. There are many way of holding a painting together; this atmospheric color thing is one great technical method toward coherence.
Amazing has hit me — I am not religious, yet this time of year constricts my personal-time, reallocates it. Some of my time, the time usually devoted fully to personal endeavor, gets hijacked. It is given to family and friends. These Winter Holidays bring socializing, gift-giving, and well-planned generous meals. All nice; still I am conflicted. Interesting to me, the uplift caused by this sudden generosity in human spirit does filter into my work. Yesterday's blog-post spoke of playfulness and mindfulness. Recently my capability to play, to be mindful, has increased. These assets are important to living, to art-making; they have grown in me despite my having niggling Grinch-like scarcity of studio-time. Glorious it is!
That said, yesterday brought a return to a drawing made on December 13th, and a new drawing. Both are playful, but the new one more than the old one. I ask myself, "If I had to return to that day's drawing to make it better, where was my mindfulness on December 13th?"
I was about to title today's blog-post, "Dispelling the Thickness". This morning I realized my insight is more accurately expressed as re-finding child-like play. This morning I visited my studio; I saw the inventiveness, the vigor, in yesterday's drawing. I also have been writing friends during this Winter Holiday season. In both cases, I found myself back with childhood glee in being open and playful. That is, like Pablo Picasso, I have stiffly worked on the academic skills of being an artist. At last, now, after many years of practicing art-making, I have come to this: "It took me... a lifetime to paint like a child." That is a Picasso quote. I now understand it as mine. My thickness, my academic stiffness, is being left behind. I am finding joy in each moment of creation; this is playfulness. Everything we do is creatively ours if it is playfully ours. This is mindfulness. There is no task that is done well without play. This is an absolute truth in art-making (it may be difficult to garner playfulness in other activities). My realization is this: The art of the artists I admire most exhibit the joy of creativity in the stuff they make. Here is a short list: Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Jean-Michel Basquiat.
The risk is this: Going it alone is lonely. I am following a path that is purely mine; therefore not treaded by anyone else, not ever. I am educating myself to see my way. This means I am alone in my endeavor. No one else sees my way; no one else has ever seen my way. Why would I expect anyone, except myself, to understand my means of communication? Yes, I am doing a good job of communicating to myself. I am revealing important information pertaining to myself. This journey is full of self-satisfaction. Yet, what I fully want and what I get are not quite the same. I want my work to have two levels of communication: (1) Revealing and discovering myself, and (2) Communicating to others so I can dialog about existence and universal human concerns. The risk, therefore, pertains to No.2. I have yet to get the response to my art that assures me I am succeeding at communication to others. This is failure. My success is me growing my self-knowledge; with every work I make I know more about my intuition, driving force, and reason to live.
I have often wondered, "Why did I reject academia?" I chose not to teach art. This was, and is, a BIG risk. I have not been employed in doing the thing that is my career. Instead, I live modestly, with no BIG reward for living well looming in my future. The manner I approach art-making reveals the story of my choice. I am going it alone; I have rejected the academic. This kind of career is not a straight line — I am not making academic work in result or in process. I am a seeker of self-truth based upon the history of self-truth seekers, from Van Gogh to Cézanne to Matisse to Giacometti. The painting, Seriously?, exhibits this non-academic searching and seeking. It is wandering, state after state, to nothing anyone else could produce but me.
The painting, Seriously?, is being pushed toward atmospheric effects. I am dealing with so many disparate issues in my painting. This struggle to understand so many issues, from form to image to painterly, does not afford easy solutions. How does a form fall into a painting's atmosphere when local color must be decided too? This process is currently a push and pull activity. I am working hard to make it a natural process of pure flow, not ebb and flow! Can that happen? I believe it can. This is called working toward mastery. We all know mastery can happen. We all know mastery was different for Picasso than it was for Matisse. Please, hang in here with me. My struggle, to move toward mastery, is better endured if I don't do it alone. Thank you!
I am seeing and doing drawing with a new normality. This shift in norms is seeing with immediacy; being-in-the-moment, acting-in-the-moment. This discovery of prescience has also brought a different way I touch and mark. Perhaps prescience is not quite right, since this acting from foreknowledge is not simple clairvoyance; it is marking based upon immediate foresight. The foresight occurs momentarily before the mark occurs. In other words, I am feeling my way by reacting to the incomplete image on the paper that is in front of me. I cannot help but think that Paul Cézanne acted similarly during his artistic maturity.
Following an unknown path has its benefits, highest of which is surprise. This drawing is interestingly mine. Of course it has elements that are not-surprising to me, but a few things happening in this drawing are away from my recent concerns, which are more clearly seen in my recent paintings. In any case, I am back at it again today.
Three million strokes and counting.... Yesterday's drawing celebrates the marking of a white piece of paper with graphite from a pencil. Later yesterday, as I rested reading in my living room, my arm let me know it had been taxed. I had been enjoying finding forms, finding surface, finding space, finding light, and finding composition! This simultaneity-filled activity is a celebration of mindfulness. The more I do it the longer I can sustain it! This is "practice", as defined by veteran meditators. The Buddha would be proud of me! I have not obtained Buddhahood, but I am moving in that direction.
Shravasti Dhammika, a Theravada monk, writes:
The painting Seriously? is transitioning into a serious painting. I am not leaving humor behind. I cannot remove the beginning from the end. The righteous activity I am now doing on Seriously? is a celebration of my mastery. Mastery does not mean this painting is coming quickly and easily. Grand and eloquent cannot be achieved with quick solutions. The painting Seriously? shall be a celebratory example of my arrival as Master of my craft. Achieving mastery is laborious!
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