Friday, October 07, 2005

The Cycles of Creativity

Since my solo painting exhibition "Ellipsis" is on exhibit in Sedona, AZ and my excessive workaholic painting self is taking a mini-break of sorts, I am going to redefine my art priorities for the season. It's a good time of year to do this with a fresh fall season starting. One of my goals for this year and next is to come to a better understanding of the creative process, it's ups and downs, anxieties and elations. You'd think that after so many years of artmaking, it would be easy to see how the creative process works. But no, I get just as dumbfounded and stuck as anyone and I am determined to be alert and recognize where I am at all times! In this light, I'll be posting my thoughts on this subject from time to time. Today, I received Canadian artist, Robert Genn's letter on the subject of Catharsis and getting a fresh start. Here's Robert's thoughts which reflect some of my own...

Catharsis by Robert Genn

After painting steadily for six months while doing a minimum of
socializing, I gathered my accumulated works and destroyed
them. Oh, maybe I kept a few of the better ones. I had made up
my mind that this six months was going to be strictly about
learning and experimentation. There were piles of half-finished
paintings showing every touch of goofballitis that hit me.
Stuff was dripped, rollered, squeegeed and scraped. Paint was
on discarded doors, chunks of Styrofoam, linoleum panels and
hand towels. Some paintings attempted materials and techniques
that found me incompetent. Other works had occasional modest
glimmerings of goodness. That happened some time ago--I was in
my twenties. In those days the stuff went up in smoke. With a
used Kleenex and a dead teabag I whistled my way down Broadway.
I was broke, and I was running on empty.

It was a new, more spiritual me that borrowed a few bucks from
a friend and started again. I had reunited with the natural
world--the outdoors and the wisdom of rustic solitude. I was an
"Art Spirit" convert and more than ever I was convinced of the
value of craft and craftsmanship. Workmanlike in my habits, I
would now try for even more joy in my workmanlike hours. I made
a sign for the wall of that tiny barren studio: "Quality is
always in style." It's still somewhere around this one.

A similar and more brilliant cathartic story is told in Jerry
Wennstrom's book "The Inspired Heart." He tells how, in 1979,
he destroyed all his work and set out on a spiritual journey to
find and to rejoin his own soul. It seems to me that Jerry's
book is to become one of the classics of creativity literature.
Along the way he dumps his personal identity and begins to
trust the Universe. It's a surrender to a greater power and a
metaphorical rebirth into a more evolved person and a better
artist. He lives a life receptive to intuition and intelligent
self guidance. He studies under the guru who is himself. His
life and his art merge into one sensible whole, and he begins a
journey to his full potential.

Every artist has such a story. Some hit down harder than
others. Most are less dramatic than Jerry's. The more I study
our business--the more I meet with and enter into the lives of
others--the more I'm convinced that for us there has to be
something that might be called "character." It's not all just
drawing and painting.

Best regards, Robert Genn

PS: "Your work is to discover your work--and then with all your
heart to give yourself to it." (Buddha)

Esoterica: Like a small play reenacted, you can give yourself
these cathartic moments. Artists are often capable of ranges of
emotions and flights of drama. Untapped, you miss out on the
refreshment they give. If you are aware of your mood swings,
you can utilize for profit their ups and downs. After a while
you get more control of their intensity and your ability to
recycle the process. The artist teaches himself the skills
needed to heal himself. The artist reinvents himself.
Click here for Robert Genn's The Painter's Keys

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