I sat down today with the idea of writing on my own creative process. This is more for me than it is for anyone else, but I’ll try and make it so that others can follow along.
Part of the reason for doing a Final project on Zen and Art, this last semester, was that I had sensed my own inability to enjoy (or engage) the artistic process, and to plan a piece to death before actually working on it at all. The idea I had of Zen was something around engaging with the process for the sake of the process, and fully living the process. I still don’t know if that’s accurate to reality.
Planning things to death runs contrary to the way I made art as a youth, which was to sit down with my materials and see what would come out of me that day. I really wouldn’t try to explain what I was doing to myself or anyone else until after the fact, when I’d make up a reason why I made it (in order to satisfy others, and it was always to satisfy others. Why can’t it just be? Why do I have to assign it a meaning? Can’t you imagine that yourself?).
With art, as with writing…historically, I’ve been tripped up by a lack of planning. This changed when I went for my AA in Art. Basically, it’s the lowest degree I could get, aside from a Certificate. Being so near to the completion of my first Master’s and looking forward to becoming a Librarian, though…continued education at the Master’s level in Studio Art and/or Art History is actually becoming a possibility. In turn, that would open up Librarianship posts in Museums, but from what I hear, the competition is tough and the compensation not so great.
That’s an offshoot, though, of what I’ve been trying to get at, here. Let me get back to the main point:
I think that what training I did get in Art, has somewhat derailed my own artistic process. Instead of sitting down and making a mark, and then another mark, and then another, without knowing (or caring, really) what I’m going to end up with, I was trained to visualize an end product and then somehow get there. This is counterproductive for me. It works for academic exercises, but as for actually generating art on my own, it is crippling.
The problem is that a work of art, when I start out with an idea of what I want it to be, never fully reaches the point I want it to reach. There’s the world of ideal perfection, and then there’s reality. And the two don’t really meet. By engaging an idea of what I want a piece to be, or, to say, I end up envisioning something more perfect than I could ever really make, possibly something more perfect than could ever actually exist in the physical world.
I’ve run into this on other levels. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Mostly, though, I feel like I bumble along and run into things and reset my course accordingly, and the resulting path forms something truer to me than if I had set a destination of what I thought I wanted at some point, and made a beeline for it.
For example, if in 2002 I had decided that I was a transgender man and had transitioned to male, my life now would be entirely different. And it would not have been truer to who I actually am or what I actually want, than the place I’m at, now. The outside would change; the life would change. But it’s trading one set of setbacks for another. And even though it’s obviously superficial, who I would have become would still have the same core as I do now, though I’d probably be more conflicted.
The thing is, the way I envision myself now is something I’ve arrived at by a process of listening to myself, not something I tried to form myself into.
It’s like making a picture and having some teacher ask me what it is a picture of. It doesn’t matter. It came out of my living experience. Why are you asking me what it is a picture of? To gauge whether it is, “good,” or not (and why should I care if you think it’s, “good?” How does that positively impact my life)? What do you see? Because I bet it’s not what anyone else, sees. And I bet my giving a word to my experience that I’ve illustrated on paper doesn’t make it any clearer for you if you can’t see it now. Just own your experience and don’t reflect it back on me or my hypothetical intentions. Because I may not even consciously know my own intentions.
I’m sounding bitter. I’m also editing out a lot of curse words. I’ve been having mood issues since the semester ended and I started staying up way too late. I’ll be in bed before 3 AM, tonight. Promise.
Anyway, there seems to be the assumption of an intention to communicate which I’ve found over the years in academic circles. But maybe the best communication is at times, letting the work speak for itself, without trying to explain it. Sometimes ambiguity is best. Sometimes thinking in color rather than in greyscale or in black-and-white, is best.
Can I tell you why red-orange makes you feel different than green-blue? No. Do I know why I used red-orange instead of green-blue? You’re going to have to engage with that mystery yourself, just like the rest of us (including me). Don’t expect me to spoon-feed you dead words, and theory that probably doesn’t matter to anyone but me, in the hope that you’ll understand.
(No, I can’t remember anymore the source of the living word/dead word argument…I think it’s Taoist, though. Actually, I think it may be in the Tao Te Ching. I might have to look that one, up. “Dead words” are things that are spoken that can then be twisted around to say what they were not meant to say, losing their meaning; while “living words” are not necessarily spoken…they live through actions.)
To try and wind this down…I am pretty much set on trying to go back to the way I operated, artistically, before school (and grades) got in the way. This means being led more by intuition and just putting one foot in front of the other, rather than trying to visualize something in total and then attempting to make it, or “copy it,” from my mind.
After all, this is my artistic process. This is art for me, for my own health and refinement. Not for anyone else.
I’m not sure of the reality of being able to explain the way I work, though I’ve tried before. I also know watercolor isn’t necessarily the greatest medium to try this, within.
But what I do, doesn’t have to conform to realism. Nor does it have to be precise and tight.
It doesn’t have to be planned, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Right now, I just need to engage.