creativity and spirituality, part 2
This is the conclusion to the text of the talk about creativity and spirituality that I posted last week. Sunday was the day of the presentation at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Eau Claire, and it was a delight to deliver it to such a receptive audience. My talk was purposefully ecumenical in tone in order to acknowledge the wide range of beliefs of the audience, and at the same time, as personal and open as I could brig myself to be. If you'd like to listen to me delivering the talk, click here
Creativity and Spirituality, part 2
When I paint, I am led by intuition, and what I'm seeking is undefined throughout much of the process. Answers or conclusions are elusive during all of the initial and middle stages. I start with a certain range of colors, kinds of marks or a compositional idea, but then I allow each step along the way to influence my next move. There is always a dance between spontaneity and control, and this has wider implications in life, in living wisely. I find my work to be a continuing lesson in flexibility with regards to what to attempt to control and what to allow to unfold as it will.
A number of painting sessions follow my initial moves, during which colors and textures are layered onto the panel with various tools and techniques. The organic aspects of my work are consistent as source material in nature and in the painting processes I employ. There is a continual building up and breaking down of the surface of the work, mirroring natural processes such as accretion and erosion. After complex surfaces are achieved, I begin to recognize a potential conclusion to the work, and the final steps become more clear. A painting for me is finished when there is nothing more I want to add, or take away…the image seems complete, and as if could be no other way. When I am finished with a painting, it always seems that I have made something more than I could have imagined or envisioned, and I am awed by the mystery of this.
This searching and feeling my way through the work, and finally arriving at a conclusion has a parallel in certain difficult challenges of life. So often, the struggle to reach an insight or understanding seems an essential part of the process—there are no short cuts. The frustrations along the way, the need for persistence, and the willingness to keep at something without knowing the final result are similar in both these creative and spiritual searches, as is the sense of resolution and gratitude when a conclusion is eventually reached. And of course, in both life and art, a new problem will quickly present itself, and another journey of understanding will begin. Often the same issues must be worked through over and over until they are consolidated and integrated into understanding.
While my initial ideas are just jumping-off points for the journey that follows, still my process is not as random or unstructured as it may sound. I work within parameters that I've discovered over years of making art, that suit me--the individualized abstract language that I have developed, certain art materials and techniques that define my work as mine. These form a steady base from which I make my explorations.
In terms of spirituality, this base can be compared to the basic core beliefs I've developed over years of reading, questioning, wondering, and talking about spiritual ideas with family and friends. From this base, I take on questions, challenges, new ideas, and life situations. The process in both art and life is similar—what I try to do is follow my thoughts and intuition to where they lead, searching for logic and structure while maintaining an open mind and staying true to my basic principles and beliefs. Perhaps my years of painting have made me a little more patient when making my way through these inevitable mazes that life presents.
In both art and life, I have a sense of trust in this process, that if I stick with it and listen to that "still small voice within" I’ll find an answer. To paint well involves listening to that same inner voice that provides direction and insight in other areas of life. In both cases, I need to resist an urge to control the outcome, and to realize that I have to clear my mind of certain preconceived ideas and negative thoughts in order to receive the clearest understandings. In the end the answer or the painting will often surprise me, and seem to come from somewhere outside of myself.
Trust, then, is for me the most important way in which creativity and spirituality flow together, and is an ongoing challenge to understand and fully embrace. By this I mean, trust in the process; trust that there will eventually be a good outcome, trust that challenges are opportunities to discover what I need to know, trust in a power and presence beyond my own understanding. This trust arises from a core spiritual belief that what is good is the only true reality. Goodness, truth, intelligence, love, and what endures over time are all aspects of spirituality that are central to my work, and to where I find meaning in life, and all relate back to trust.
Since it is about trust, painting for me, then, is essentially a very optimistic and spiritual activity. I believe that growth is inevitable, and that there are no backward steps. Searching, questioning, creating and ultimately trusting in good…these are very deeply satisfying, essential, and spiritual aspects of my work.
I close with two quotes that speak beautifully to trust in the process of searching and discovering.
First, this verse from the Bible, Mathew 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
And from Ralph Waldo Emerson: Life is a journey, not a destination.