Creativity is Everything
Last week I was part of volume 4 of Easton's PechaKucha Night. If you've never heard of it, you can find out more about it here. If you haven't been to one before, consider finding one in your city and going. It's a fun night but also a way to gain insight into the community you live in and the people you live among.
Below is the talk I gave that night with the visuals included. I also made a different post without the visuals. Thanks to everyone who came that night.
I loved being a part of this.
I’m a painter. I use the sky in my paintings as a metaphor for consciousness and approach painting clouds very much the same way as I would if I were painting someone's portrait. Clouds are in constant motion, always changing form and evolving, always beginning and ending simultaneously.
That serves as a good reminder that we are in a similar state of change and evolution yet, we ultimately remain ourselves, even as we redefine our form or place in the world.
Contemplating and accepting that kind of impermanence can be very comforting or very disturbing depending on how grounded one is. I try to set up that sort of tension and comfort in the paintings.
There's not much that I don't consider beautiful or meaningful in the natural world and it's not difficult for me to be truly amazed by how powerful simplicity can be but how difficult it is to simplify.
That process alone motivates and inspires me every day in the studio. But for me, inspiration is mostly a slow and steady smoldering fire rather than a lightening flash, although the lightening flashes do happen once in a while.
Inspiration takes cultivating and I have to nurture it rather than wait for it. I have to be mentally and spiritually wide open and vulnerable yet focused and protective of a daily practice. So inspiration becomes more a way of living than a direct cause and effect relationship.
Cultivating that kind of inspiration is a practice- like everything is.
And a practice is a sacred place.
It’s a dialogue.
And if you’re really present, you’re mostly the listener. If you think a creative practice is commanding something to bend to your will, you’re doing it wrong.
I’ve learned to always stand humbly in the face of creativity.
It's a conversation--An exchange rather than a command.
It's better to approach it graciously and have it unfold in layers than to barge in on it and try to force something to become what you want it to be.
It wants what it wants.
If you are making marks or decisions with the medium that are consistently not working then it’s a call from what you are creating that it wants something else. And you better listen to it.
When you don’t, you foster an energy that breeds frustration and that can lead to killing your creative spirit by strangling it with harsh judgement.
I was having one of these moments once, when out of nowhere this little phrase just started playing on a loop in my mind.
“Every mark is the right mark, every mark is the right mark”.
When I really allow that phase to permeate every part of me and my studio, it has the ability to transform my perspective and can turn an absolute mess into more of an investigative mission to find the simple in the complicated.
Building my life around creativity has taught me many things. I’ve learned that there’s never a time when the answer to the question:
‘what should I do to solve this?’ is
‘…make it more complicated’.
The answer to that question is always, ‘simplify’.
Painting is simple. But painting simply can be a very difficult thing.
None of us is born knowing who we are.
Creativity can make you stop postponing who you need to be.
Mostly because when you are fully engaged to or in a creative process, it’s very much about the moment you are in and nothing else.
You are sort of compelled to move forward thru the beautiful and sometimes painful paradox of needing to let go of a choice that you built every other choice around. Where you learn the lesson that the foundation of a creative life is not a devotion to a craft or skill rather it’s a devotion to Detachment.
There's no such thing as going backwards when you’re fully in creativity. In my experience, even ‘backwards’ steps have forward momentum, in that they may work to slowly awaken you, rather than jolt you awake.
Sometimes the slowness of a backwards step is the greatest gift you can give a choice you’re having a hard time making.
As artists, or creators, we all at some point seem to have this idea that whatever we are making, needs to be perfect before it’s released into the world or even before we accept it as our own.
We want to make the perfect thing, perfectly.
There’s this illusion that what we are making is just sort of born there; without mistakes, without failure.
But that kind of perfectionism is a trap.
It’s the anti-creativity.
It’s this prison we build around what we make in an effort to save ourselves the humiliation of failing.
But you can fail.
You can fail elegantly and with grace.
And within the creative process those failures are where profound insight lives and so the whole definition of ‘failure’ is transformed and reborn as purposeful forward momentum.
So much of the work that I consider successful in my career so far has been
built on that kind of elegant failure, which really translates as a letting go of what I thought the outcome would be before I started and allowing whatever I’m creating to help in it’s own creation without getting in it’s way with
ego and judgement.
There’s a great deal of letting go involved in the way I work. I can start out with an idea of what I want but it inevitably gets to a point in the process where what I want isn’t as important as what needs to happen for the greater good of the painting.
I used to fight that and it made me miserable.
But now, I court the unexpected.
I nurture the happy accident.
Because I believe the truest and highest forms of beauty
I agree with the author, Paolo Coelho, who said,
‘Creativity is an act of courage’.
I would add that Creativity is never finished. It’s an ongoing, eternally sourced energy, infinite in its scope to restore,
and to override whatever it is in us that makes us think we can’t do something.
Creativity is power, but it’s not force.
Creativity is an energy that stretches far beyond art.
Creativity is a healer.
And it can heal you by way of profoundly deconstructing you.
I say let it.
Let yourself be deconstructed.
Creativity will build you again—Even with the smallest engagement.
And in turn, it will connect you to every other creator, meaning every single other person who has gone thru anything at all and had to figure out a way thru it. They are part of you, and you are part of them.
Creativity deconstructs as well as it builds and it does so simultaneously.
Which is why art making and life can sometimes feel chaotic and messy.
But there's music in that mess.
Creativity is an energy fed and sustained by the struggles within the process as well as by the resolutions.
Creativity is never finished.
It’s a bridge to beauty—which itself is a bridge to a version of ourselves
that we are born to reveal but that can take a lifetime of work and
re-working to uncover.
Sometimes the most comforting words in the world are,
‘Work in Progress’.
Creativity is Everything.