For those of us internally stirred by the urge to create, we each seek ways to capture what personally moves us.
Despite having invested heavily in developing some facility in the world of words, first as a literature major and later as a clinical psychologist, I’ve long recognized I will never be able to write the novel I want to read.
By contrast, in the world of water media, I’ve discovered how, by approaching my efforts with receptive curiosity, I can create images I want to view and patterns that, somehow, feel meaningful to me.
So, that’s where I’m now devoting my energy, later in life. Doing so makes every morning I awake to walk into the studio a day worth … walking into the studio.
Describing my process for creating work requires a couple iterations.
Iteration 1: I go out to my studio every morning and paint most of the day. Sometimes, I’m moved by something I’ve seen or by a dream or by a feeling state. Often, I just paint, lately without brushes. As the day move along, it’s not unusual for me to feel discouraged but I’ve learned to just keep doing something and see what I discover. Kind of an if-you-paint, it-will-come approach. It can be daunting. But, then, isn’t most of living, if you engage it?
Iteration 2: I’m self-taught in that I did not go to art school and have only done a couple of workshops. Instead, I mostly operate from my experiments. The most important workshop – hence, my most important teacher, who is still in my life in her 89th year – is Mary Todd Beam, a water media contemporary artist (her designation) who has received the Dolphin Award from the American Watercolor Society. I like to think it’s because she can swim so fluidly with the paint. I once said to her, “You love the colors so much, it’s no wonder they perform magically for you.” It’s not an exaggeration.
Mary tells a joke she heard from her Grandmother, so it’s likely a century old:
A mother cat was outside watching her kittens play. One of them strayed into the neighbor’s yard and a ferocious German Shepard chased after it, growling and snapping. Terrified, the kitten fled back to his mother.
She purred, nuzzled her frighten little one, and confidently proclaimed,
“Children, let me show you how to handle this.”
She then strolled over to the fence.
Menacingly, the neighbor’s dog charged again, snarling; teeth bared, hair standing on end.
Mother Cat calmly puffed herself up, continued sauntering toward him, and, in the loudest, deepest voice she could muster, barked,
“WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!”
Cowering, the dog immediately, dropped to the ground, then submissively slunk away, tail between his legs.
Quite satisfied, Mother Cat turned back to her kittens and pronounced,
“Children, that’s the advantage to being bilingual.”
Lest my point remain obscure: My process is, at a minimum, bilingual.
On the one hand, I work very hard to articulate my experiences – ephemeral though they might be – into words. I don’t care how hard it is. I don’t care how slippery might be the feeling. I don’t care how aversively the experience strikes me. I insist that just beyond the edge of what I can put into language is something worth putting into language. If I persist, try some words, read them, revise, try some more …. If I keep up that process, I will learn something. Something, again, just beyond the edge of what I knew.
And, invariably, it turns out to be a something with an amusing twist to it. That aspect strikes me as important. If we can’t find some amusement in this being-alive-as-a-human-being state of existence, what’s the point? So, I insist.
On the other hand, and here’s the bilingual part: I approach my painting exactly the same way. It’s just that, rather than employing words, I use paint (and, sometimes pencils). See the point? I strive to articulate something just beyond what I can see or comprehend; however, in this context articulating requires tools of expression other than words.
So, I paint (or draw) and look. And then revise. And, when I get frustrated, I revise some more. And eventually, just as it happens with verbal language, something will emerge through my use of a visual language.
And, of course, I insist on finding something amusing along the way. Otherwise, what fun would it be?
2019 National-Juried Shows:
• 13th Arts & Culture Alliance show at the Emporium in Knoxville, TN
• Loss, Redemption, and Grace exhibit at EBD4 in Atlanta.
• 4th place and Special Merit award: “Primary Colors” Art Exhibition 2019
• Honorable Mention plus two other pieces accepted: Fusion Art: Line, Shapes, and Objects – July 2019
2020 National/International-Juried Exhibitions
• Paint: Medium as Power in a Time of Crisis National Juried Exhibition – Barrett Art Center
• Knoxville Photo 2020 National Exhibition at the Emporium Center: Three photos selected
• Art In the Time of Corona™ - A Global Art Project: DAB ART
• The Black and White Show 2020 – Core New Art Space
• Unleashed – 2020 – Gallery Underground