If you are a student of the creative arts, chances are you have encountered an art instructor or two who seem to have all the answers. If you are a beginning artist, struggling to find your own artistic process and visual voice, perhaps you have been discouraged by a teacher or mentor that you follow or find inspiring. Seasoned artists sometimes forget the struggles of a less experienced beginner and make disparaging comments or suggestions that stifle expression rather than encourage it.
In a recent class, at the Art of the Carolinas, I had a painting workshop with a fairly well-known, popular artist. He’s privileged to be a full-time artist, with a full-time marketing manager. He produces fun, engaging Youtube videos, teaches art all over the world, and has quite a following. I was excited to be a part of the class, having watched his videos for a couple years. I even had him sign my paint palette for me. Yet, as he shared his own artistic process, he also made light of and trivialized the artistic process of a few of the students in the class.
Recently, in “Shine Your God-Colors” I wrote a meditation on a certain exchange I witnessed from him and another student in the class. This blog post is an extension of that meditation, touching on a couple more of his art “absolutes.” While I respect his own artistic process, confidence in my own process has given me voice to encourage you to “DO YOU!” When you take a class or instruction from a teacher – trust what works for you – take what you need and leave behind what you don’t.
1. “A Celebration of Violet“
“You should always begin a painting with a theme or concept. Know the title before you even begin to choose your colors. Paint until your theme begins to manifest on the canvas. Don’t approach your canvas until you have your theme.”
When people ask me about my process, I have to say it’s experiential and intuitive. I never approach a painting or art project with a theme, a concept, or even an inkling of what will be produced. I work messily – welcoming mistakes and “happy accidents” – I let the art reveal itself to me. When I have tried to create based on theme or concept, I never seem able to accomplish what I set out to do. A case in point, I recently titled a new project “A Celebration of Violet before I touched brush to the canvas:”
I know what you are thinking, right? What? Where’s the violet, and all those vibrant purples? If I had stuck with “A Celebration of Violet,” I’d feel disappointed and dismayed at my work. Now, I have to find a new title as I finish up these pieces. Any suggestions?
Whereas, I celebrate intentionality in many aspects of my life – work, relationships, spiritual practice, yoga – in art I have to let go and just be. AND…just let it be. Naming a painting before it even begins and takes shape is impossible for the intuitive artist. Art as spiritual practice must flow from the individual and can’t be streamlined into a simple process. You – the artist – must dive deep within your soul. You allow yourself to lose time and forget all about the world. You float as if in a dream, experiencing your art as if time has no meaning. All else in the world melts away and you are at one with your hands, the colors, the canvas, the textures, and the shapes. Totally engaged in the process.
Trust in yourself – trust in your voice – trust in your truth – and don’t let naysayers and absolutists define what your own artistic process and experience.
2. Claiming and Naming Your Art
“Never take a photo of your artwork and put it on Facebook asking your friends and family to name it for you. I hate that. That annoys me.“
“Conjuctio” – A recent wall-hanging named by an dear friend, Art R.
I asked. I posted on Facebook “Happy Monday. I am needing a name for this wall-hanging. Suggestions?” I heard from many friends, old and new, distant and close. I loved seeing the art piece through their eyes and perspectives. I couldn’t have thought up better names myself. Again, this was a art piece that came together with play and experimentation, and I think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask others to be a part of the process. You might be surprised at who participates in the process.
My buddy – Art R. – we go way back. We studied together at Chicago Theological Seminary, and we took many classes together on spiritual work and spiritual practice. I was delighted and had a big smile to get his title suggestion, a touch of Carl Jung, and a reminder of a life I lived so many years ago:
Conjunctio: “The alchemists often referred to the Conjunction as the ‘Marriage of the Sun and Moon,’ which symbolized the two opposing ways of knowing or experiencing the world. Solar consciousness is intellectual and relies on rational thought; lunar consciousness is feeling based and taps into non-rational sources of information like psychic impressions and intuition. After this Marriage of the Mind, the initiate experiences an increase in intuitive insight and the birth of Intelligence of the Heart. This newly found faculty produces a sense of reality superior to either thought or feeling alone.”
“I love you, Art, my dear friend! And miss you! Thank you for being a part of my life back then and for gracing my life now. While time and space provide distance, the Spirit still holds! Blessings my friend! Grace upon you.”
Title your art in whatever way you want. Be intentional. Work with a concept or theme from the beginning. Or not. Be you – celebrate your process – let go – be brave – and journey on, dear artist, friend, and fellow journeyer.
With Love and Joy,