Thursday, July 12, 2012

Misery, Beauty and the Creative Process

There's no denying it, I'm miserable...unhappy...grumpy...sneezy...oh, wait - no I haven't become the seven dwarves. Instead I'm doing something totally miserable, spending the morning trying to make sense of a new set of images (none of which are in this post). It's hard to decide if it's worse to not have any images you like, or to have fallen in love with several unrelated images - which then could become just another dead end.

Our mythology about the creative process includes all of the above experiences, but when you're going through them, understanding that doesn't really make it easier. I've got two images I really like...both completely unrelated to each other and I'm trying to figure out what they mean, what they can lead to, and where to go next. Making sense of our images becomes part of the process of figuring out the kinds of stories we want to tell. 

Part of the pressure is that I've got a show in a week - a small experimental space - and I've committed to really using the experience for the process of art - rather than just another marketing stint. I started with a strong idea - actually a word - resonance - one of those delightfully elastic words that roams around from science to spirituality. My connection to it was in reference to Beauty. Yup, I'm still trying to use beauty in my work.  I'd been reading a book my mother gave me, Creative Authenticity, 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision, and the first chapter is about searching for beauty.

"Art and beauty are about that inner resonance. It isn't the subject matter that holds us. Some inexplicable reaction stops us, and we find ourselves connected with something other than our self."

Beauty is like that great quote on pornography - we can't define it, but we know it when we see it. I want my work to have that quality, to become a space in which to rest, something quite removed from the rest of the world. On my living room wall I've got a painting by my mother which has that quality. The scene is simple, just a pathway in a rather wild, natural space. The brushstrokes are lose and a bit wild themselves, abstracted enough that I find myself just staring down that path and transfixed in a meditative state.

So, that's what I'm looking to create...meditative, transcendent, transportive moments. That's a lot of weight for one image to carry, but having the word to grasp onto is a great place to start.  The problem is that now, looking at these two images, I can't really figure out what is making them so good. Ironic? Yup!

Is it the subject matter?  Method of printing?  Perhaps it's the kiss of death to look so hard for meaning, for connection? One of the first mistakes I can say I'm making is trying too hard to have a result - the true irony here is that I found the images I love through experimentation and then the second I have success in that method, I switch to its polar opposite by trying to control everything...ssshhhish! 

I don't know...but I'd like just ONE more image that does it for me...NOW....

Perhaps it's unwise to bully my muse?

Ah, well...

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