Art as Spelunking?

Stolen Afternoon Moments to Resume work on the latest Watercolor

Stolen Afternoon Moments to Resume work on the latest Watercolor

Art is an act of tuning in and dropping down the well. It is as though all the stories, painting, music, performances in the world live just under the surface of our normal consciousness. Like an underground river, they flow through us as a stream of ideas that we can tap down into. As artists, we drop down the well into the stream. We hear what’s down there and we act on it–more like taking dictation than anything fancy having to do with art.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

The bulk of my school day was unusual, but worked well for me. It was the first day of EOC testing, and my assignment was to keep a classroom full of 10th-11th grade students relatively quiet and engaged in homework assignments for five hours, while a large portion of our building was testing. The students followed the instruction, and I found myself seated in front of them, working on ideas, reading five volumes of my old journals from 2001-2002, and digging down to the roots of some things that have lingered with me for decades. The students remained engaged in their tasks, and I was free to explore ideas. I couldn’t have ordered up a more perfecct agenda for the day. It was a very productive and appreciated five hours.

However, EOC testing, plus a schedule of regular classes afterward, leads to a much longer and draining day. By the time I did get home I was exhausted, but when I bent over this watercolor, my enthusiasm and energy seemed to rise once again. I’m focusing on the damaged framework exterior of this abandoned gas station, and find myself getting lost in a myriad of details and textures in the shadows of all that wood, glass, dust and grime. I’m enjoying myself.

I love the Julia Cameron quote above, and it dovetailed nicely with some notes I had recorded a decade-and-a-half ago from my readings of Heidegger. I love his metaphor of following a path into the dense, dark woods, making one’s way to a clearing in the midst where light suddenly breaks through. I have been excited by that picture for years. As my philosophy class is wrapping up the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, I like calling up Heidegger’s metaphors regarding the pursuit of knowledge, hacking one’s way through the thickets, following dark paths, and feeling the experience of epiphany once the light breaks through. His German words are rich indeed: Weg, Holzwege, Lichtung.  Those along with Kant’s essay Was ist Aufklärung have always fueled my imagination.

The reason for my gas station subject is that I was visited by an idea as I was about to fall asleep the night before I left for the college tour, that I should return to some primal subjects of my past that I haven’t pursued in a few years. Hence the abandoned filling station with all those attendant memories from my childhood. I’m experiencing some deep feelings as I work on this one, and am interested in seeing where the painting takes me.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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3 Responses to “Art as Spelunking?”

  1. createarteveryday Says:

    Another beautiful post, and painting too. I’ll be curious where this takes you as well! Have a great Tuesday.


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