Work In Progress (WIP)

I have been working on a series that has been evolving from an exploration of maps and topography of the California terrain. For now, I want to talk about the progress of working on the wood panel again (I started my painting career doing large panel paintings) using watercolors and gesso. The wood has such a tactile surface. I am leaving the wood to show through and am adding the gesso to create my white. I have been working in inks and watercolor lately, so this new series has me replicating the white of paper with gesso and gouache. 

 

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My source material is the topography maps and a lose interpretation of Yosemite Park. The other material is in the form of satellite views of some type of industrial storage facility. This mashup of man and environment is something that is super stimulating to me and it allows me to look at this as a beautiful painting while taking these serious and consequential issues to the foreground.   

 

Materials used:

Dr. Ph. Martin’s watercolors - I am using them for their brightness and their viscosity as they are a bit thicker and almost gel like in their consistency. 

The panels are 12” x 12” wood panels from Art Alternatives. I am going to do some more research on wood panels to see if I will continue to work with these (or even go back to paper). For now, they are working out great and I can seal them with Golden’s matte medium. 

 

Using the wood panels as a surface for this exploration is a great support for the environmental impact of man on our natural surroundings. I have been looking at the question of “What is a natural disaster?” Since that is such a human centric question and it comes up when nature impacts man, even to the benefit of the land, air, and water we need to live off of.  

 

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Boldness at the Edge of Painting

There is always a point in a painting, drawing, sculpture, writing music and all things creative where one can destroy what they have worked to create. In art we refer to it as "killing the painting"... there is boldness at the edge of this act. 

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Process & Art: is the still point the artwork produced or the source that produces it?

 

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Nothing like an interesting koan-like question to start the day. The inspiration for this post started with a reading about yoga and its connection with experiencing a still space in a practice. This reading surfaced a frequently debated question about art: What is more important, the process of making art or the product itself?

In meditation and in yoga practice, the body prepares for a state of non-reactivity. The word samskara (Sanskrit for Subliminal activator, imprints left on consciousness by actions and volitions) represents an impression of things from our past, things that leave a type of "groove" in our conscious and unconsciousness. They are like a dip in a road, a rut of sorts. In mediation one seeks stillness, a cessation of these samskaras, these impressions, if you will. This state is called nirodha. Nirodha is a moment where the body and mind are still. What is really interesting is that in this state of nirodha, the body recognizes it as a place of healing.

So bear with me here for a moment... The debate in art is this: What is more important, the process of making art and all that goes into it or the product in its final state? The expression "hand of the artist" sums up a lot of process. It can mean, literally, the physical impressions of a brush stroke style, or other markers that represent a signature style of a poet, writer, painter, boat builder, surfboard maker, sculptor, musician, on and on.... I will argue that it can also mean the process used by the builder that produces the final act of creativity. The readings, research, inspirations, conversations, the repetitive practice, sketching, pulling a melody from the air, the failures, all represent a complex state of creativity. A communicator must take a lot of information from all types of resources, distill it, become familiar with it, push on it like a bruise and develop a personal language to spit it back out. The moment the artwork is complete and ready for the world, it no longer belongs to the creator.

In essence, what happens in this distillation process, like a good scotch, is a voice. When the creator sits back and finds this thread they tap into stillness. This place of stillness is a sense of trust that their hard-won language and vision will be handled with care. The result is a book, a painting, new song. Whatever the output, one could call this a moment of nirodha. Maybe this is the foundation of the creative process. I know that the Yoga-Sutras are not about this process but I find the similarities too close to ignore. We are all creators that are striving to trust in ourselves and our ability to heal and move on. Inherently, we want to communicate our lessons.

I am coming closer to this intuitively through meditation and yoga and it has been a surprising clarification that I want to explore more. A group of my friends have been debating the question of what is more important, the process of making or the product of making for over 25 years. This is an "art koan" that will be debated and has been debated forever.

What does the label "artist" encompass and mean? In our seeking, research, distillation and finally, voice, is it the art we are sharing or the experience of creation? What does it mean to nurture this vulnerable voice in our culture? Once art moves beyond the creator, it becomes universal. Art that moves people finds the golden thread of human expression and sets out to heal others. It no longer belongs to the artist.

I will open the floor to you. What is more important - the final artwork or the process by which it was created?

~b

 

For Reference:

Patanjali's Yoga-Sutra # 2.46-48 states -->

The postures of meditation should embody steadiness and ease.
This occurs as all effort relaxes and coalescence arises, revealing that the body and the infinite universe are indivisible.
Then one is no longer disturbed by the play of opposites.

Samskara: Subliminal activator, imprints left on consciousness by actions and volition

Nirodha: Stilling, cessation, restriction

Art & Ego: Are they diametrically opposed states?

 

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In reading "The New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle, I ran across this statement: "If you are content with being nobody in particular, content not to stand out, you align yourself with the power of the universe. What looks like weakness to the ego is in fact the only true strength. This spiritual truth is diametrically opposed to the values of our contemporary culture and the way it conditions people to behave."

Ok. I get it. My head gets it, is maybe a better summation. What is hard is that being an artist and working to "get my artwork out there"; it is an odd place to be in. The idea of surrender is a hard thing to get used to since I like a healthy dose of control. And the idea of marketing oneself is also a direct opposition to surrender. Now I will say, the art will get done not matter what. I am compelled to create it. I am also compelled to share it. That is what it is there for. I spend a lot of time doing it, thinking about it, defining its thesis and sharing the ideations that come from all of those exercises. That is the most amazing thing in our current cultural shift of a sharing online community - the ability to put yourself out there.

Does this run against the concept of an ego-less self?

An ego-less state is this sense of quiet. A knowing. Not a place or intent to make others hear you. Or see you. It is Being. And making art is sharing; a loud or a quiet place of 'See Me'. At what point does its creation turn itself into a place 'being in service'? There is a sense of power to make something and bring it into this world - something that did not exist before you made it. And there you have the ego. And if you create something and you do not share it, it falls to the wayside and you are in direct opposition to the muses that offer you a path to the creative spirit. No one wants to shit on that. Your state of nothingness is a tragedy since we are all meant to be here to create. It is not only music or art, it is full creation of being. 

I have no answers here and since I am writing this blog I am obviously participating in the social community and a ego-centric space of sharing. And it feels great to be noticed, to have my art liked, or hated and most importantly - discussed (right behind being bought). The only thing that I know to fall back on is that I do come from a place of curiosity, authenticity and a pure desire to 'make'. That will not change and as I strive to connect to that inner still state, I can at best, keep the ego in check and understand that it is there but it is not ruling.

So show up and create, fail and create some more...

~b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excited for a new piece to take hold... & procrastination

Woke up excited about starting a new piece today and started in on the foundation early in the morning. Of course procrastination struck, and here I am writing about it. I am about to dive back into the work but I wanted to capture this odd push & pull that I am certain happens to others working on creative endeavors. There are a couple of theories as to why this happens: fear of failure or of success, boredom, perfectionism, losing control, blah, blah, blah.

Most of what I read about artists, musicians, writers, carpenters, etc, is that you just have to show up. I find that learning how others work and design their lives around their need to create is something that always helps me to refine my own way to work. In my research and readings I consistently find this concept - plan on the best time(s) for you, do what you need to do and then "do". Let the muse do its thing. Sometimes s/he is there, sometimes not. The point of it is to be ready to do your thing and release expectations of the outcome. Repetition and finding your own groove is the way to build the creative muscle and failure is the best way to learn and grow.

Also, be open for happy accidents : )

This is a link to a Ted talk from Elizabeth Gilbert that not only is one of my favorites, but is more inspiring and humbling every time I view it: Your Elusive Creative Genius -->