Painting from the Imagination

For me, painting is always connecting the inside to the outside. But I discovered a very strange thing a few years ago - that I could draw from my imagination and the figures and images were very like the ones I draw from life. This rather freaked me out, as you can imagine. Now I try to trust 'dreaming with the eyes open while holding a paint brush' ... as a valid process to creating that conduit between the world and whatever happens in the inner mind with its strange and beautiful lunacies.

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How It Comes About

Sometimes it emerges as a gift, but mostly not. More like hewing sculpture out of marble with your fingers as your only tools.

Perhaps there are artists who laugh the whole time they work and who are satisfied with everything they do. While I am mostly 'in the zone,' concentrated, focused, busy doing and undoing, wrecking and saving, there is always a moment when I cry. Anguish. It might be before I begin. Or after I've ended. But usually during schisms during.

I'm in the flight or fight syndrome when I paint. I want to run from the image I am fighting to create. I only stop what surely is a sort of madness, painting, by deciding something is finished when I 'can live with it.' And yet my images clearly don't reflect the pain they have caused me.

People who don't create art don't perhaps understand what you go through as you wait for the moment when your painting, or your sculpture, or your composition sings to you.

Until it sings to you, you have to keep going or give up.

Lately I'm simply making, without being serious. I'm doing pieces that are not part of any project. Mostly I am aghast at what's emerged. It's better to have a direction, to know what it is you want to do. To have a thesis.

Yes, even in paint. A thesis is not a direction exactly. Not in the way I am using it. But an overall 'reason for being' perhaps.

Just doing for the sake of doing doesn't do anything.

Unless you make the 'doing for the sake of doing' the raison d'etre, that is!

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Dancers After Midnight

Dancers After Midnight, 2009, 8"x11", 20cmx28cm, oil pastel, India inks on paper

It's called 'Dancers After Midnight' because I sketched it in the midnight air, and finished at maybe 2am, when the air was still dark smoky blue-black.

Recently I've been 'put through the paces' over my work by someone I considered a friend but who turned out not to be supportive of my painting. In summarily dismissing almost all of my work, it was called 'abstract,' a label that mystifies me. I would say that if one liked a more Classical style of painting, stillness, realism, then my work would not be adequate, but neither would I call what I do 'abstract.'

How can I explain my art? Let me try.

When I work I like to create something realistic enough for you to recognize the subject matter, yet I like imperfection because life is like that. I like to see the brush-stroke, which to me is like the breath of the artist breathing onto the canvas. And a calligraphy of drawing, the poetry of the lines, is crucial. As is motion: rhythms of colour, sweeps of brushstroke, moments of tension between forms.

Slick does not suit me; I like it raw.

When I paint, it tears my heart out of my chest. Can you see my pulse beating there, in the dance of oils and inks?

I like beautiful, on this side of frenzied.

If I had to accept a label, I would say my art is somewhere between drawing and painting. My main influences are an incredibly diverse range of artists both contemporary and throughout history. I think the way you paint is linked to your biological gesture in the world. That paint and inks do not come out of tubes or bottles but fingertips.

My ex-friend and I have parted ways.

I guess the lesson is that you have to believe in yourself. That's most important.

Be true to yourself and follow your vision.

It's important not just to support and nurture the talents of others, but to have friends who support and nurture ours. When there is a balance, of give and take, a crucial reciprocity, we can freely explore and express our gifts, which are, afterall, our sacred offerings.

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Comparing the creative processes of words, paint, voice...

The various art forms are intriguing. Today I'm thinking in terms of editorial capabilities with words, paint, or voice.

Words are easiest, as long as you've kept earlier versions, it's possible to go back, or follow a thought forward to something else, to change the piece of writing entirely, or add to, clarify, work on it until the words sit still (this can take a little time, and only happens after the words stop nagging you with their undoneness).

Paint is a less forgiving. If you go too far or not far enough the paint will give you some leeway, but there's a point where overdone is overdone and there's no going back. Paint has a Rubicon, and I go in fear of it. It takes a long time to plunge into paint for this reason. Gathering the ideas, sketching, this takes time, erasing is possible and I do it often, buying or selecting the paint, this is important, like creating a little medicine bundle against what is to come. It's all laid out on the floor, one is in one's overalls, hair tied back, no phone, the jars of water, the tubes of paint in a row, the palette awaits. It's what I imagine it's like to get into a racing car, or to climb to the very end of the highest diving board. You wait. You steady yourself. Then you go into a Zen frame of mind. You let everything go, you hit the accelerator, you dive. You trust your body will know what to do. You are fully present and completely alert. It is not time to hesitate. The flow begins. I paint with my fingers, my hands, and I can't see what I'm doing in that everything is so wet and sliding that form hasn't begun to emerge. That comes later, as it dries, and there is a paradoxical sense of disappointment, discovery, and a newness, accepting what's emerged, and working with it more slowly, with a paint brush, to make things go in or come out, to echo colour or form, to balance or unbalance, the finishing touches. It's like letting a tornado spin through you. It's the most utterly fearful thing I do, putting my life on the line like this.

A recording of words are the least forgiving of all. A run-through, it has to be all of a piece. Due to the cadence of the voice, which keeps changing, each moment it changes, the air or the particular openness of the glottis or the emotion pushing up or disappearing make the voice different, and so you can't add a word or a phrase here or there and have the piece maintain it's consistency. Subtraction is possible, but again, tricky. The listener will hear it. The momentum is lost. And so with my recordings I find I grate at sections, like other bits, and have to go with whichever version somehow is 'listenable,' that I can bear to live with. It's hard to say what the criteria for this 'listenability' or 'bearability' might be because in a year I might feel very differently.

Unlike with words, where you can diddle endlessly, going over and over a piece, leaving it, coming back, rewriting, polishing, or with paint where it is possible to work patinas over the original whirlwind, you can't with a recording, not the particular track that captures the cadences of the voice, but you can record the same piece over and over.

Perhaps the process of writing is like creating a medicine bundle that you can contiue to compose, add to, pick away at, shift or change; whereas, the process of painting (for moi) is like throwing the contents of a prepared medicine bundle onto the canvas to do their transformative work; and the process of recording, with the ability to re-record, like endless medicine bundles of the same, until finding the one that holds the spirit?

As I speak of these processes, it seems that they move towards the performative.

With all three forms, the final criteria is 'Can I live with it?'

If so, it's bearable.
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