After all my years at art school and experimentation in my studio, I find the most joy and freedom in what I like to call ‘no rules’ creativity. While some art styles absolutely require calculation in its execution, the type of mark making I’m talking about here pertains to the creative process being unrestrained. More often than not what emerges on the canvas will be hints at figures and shapes, but nothing concrete or realistic enough to be named. Abstract.
Anyone who knows me well knows I am a spiritual soul in a human body (not religious) with an endless desire to create. Creativity for me has always been my companion, many times not a choice but a necessity, and often a way to alchemically take human emotions and bunsen burn them into a work of art.
When we approach art as a spiritual practice, as spirit moving through our being, we become less concerned with the end product and more with the process. By abandoning rigid, classical ideas about art and art making we free ourselves. Constriction, ideals and preconceived direction can be hugely debilitating when our main aim is flow. What this process does is make painting accessible to everyone, from people of any age terrified of picking up a paint brush, to people of any creative prowess. In fact, prowess isn’t even required, just curiosity. No prior experience is needed as intuition and letting yourself be lead is key. This process often just needs a beginning.
My process usually starts like this: the sun has set and the moon ascending, it is almost always night. There is always a trigger, a key of inspiration, a spark that starts the fire. This usually encapsulates an emotion, and more often than not its the intense ones I don’t know what to do with that ignite the night. I feel compelled, driven, possessed with an insatiable urge to throw paint around. There is an underlying electricity within my body with an edge of energy that begs for freedom. During these surges I have very little time to talk, organise, plan, eat or drink. I cannot think about anything else besides getting into the studio and unleashing. I know I MUST create, and nothing and no one can stop me in those moments.
I have a regular playlist that sets the stage. Tool, Stateless, Jeff Buckley, Something For Kate, Ani DiFranco, NIN, Mammal Hands, among others. Play goes the button as I flow about my tool table gathering brushes, colours, canvas, candle flame, water, wine. While setting up and letting the music flow through me, I will often gaze broadly at visual cues around me; objects, light, sound, colour schemes and always the natural world. Usually with some loose contemporary dance involved the brush collects paint and onto canvas it goes. That first moment of paint to canvas always enlivens me.
Magic only happens when I give myself completely to the canvas, and it is done when I settle and soothe the inner director/inner critic that tries to control everything in the name of safety. My spirit exclaims, “Throw safety out the window! This night is about movement, merging and flow by dissolving into the seen and unseen universal soup all around you”. And so it continues….colours, shapes, turning, twisting, squeezing, expelling, looking into whats emerging at sparse intervals. I will often turn the canvas on its side, upside down, back around and back again. I will often move away from conventional paint brushes and use fallen twigs, branches, leaves, feathers, makeup sponges, gauze, textured cloth, old rags, sea sponges and different shaped palette knives. If I can see it in the studio it will at some point probably end up being used to paint with.
There are certain art principles (balance, proportion, emphasis, variety, movement, rhythm and harmony) that I adhere to towards the later stages of a works completion but at the onset it is about feel and feeling. It’s about moving with music, seeing colour as the notes of the songs fill the air, listening to my heart, letting my hands gravitate toward this colour, that brush, that palette knife. There are no rules when you get the bulk of the paint down. It will take its own shape, it will take its own colour palette, and it will emerge freely when you get yourself out of the way.
While various techniques like preliminary sketches and figurative studies can be important, here it is not so imperative. Allowing the 8 elements of art – line, space, shape, form, colour, value, pattern and texture to emerge on its own with no thought is where something bigger overcomes us, where alchemy happens and where we lose our edges and give ourselves over. Its surrender in its purest form, and its the closest one can get to the Divine Universal One Being God Goddess All Seeing Eye whatever name you prefer. We are all talking about the same higher power after all.
Our hands are capable of so much love, union, nourishment and genuine care, and those same hands that put paint to canvas can be seen as being orchestrated by a puppeteer in the sky, a loving benevolent force that guides us, detours us, shapes our work. It also shapes our existence and makes our bodies breathe. I only know this because I nearly died at 19 from a horrendous epileptic seizure, and I saw, really saw, that the life I live can be taken away at any moment. Me being here is a gift, and one that I feel insurmountably grateful to experience. For the longest time all I have wanted to do is paint, and so I make an effort everyday to make marks on paper, canvas or tablet to feed my soul. Nothing makes me happier or gives me as much joy (except maybe travel)!
I have a whole series of blog posts planned, so if you like this, sign up and I’ll keep you in the loop. Creative expression is a path to individuation, and one that will most likely enrich your life in subtle and lasting ways.
With much heart,