The Creative Impulse in Later Years

Work on a Laguna Madre Landscape

Work on a Laguna Madre Landscape

Artists and poets are the raw nerve ends of humanity. By themselves they can do little to save humanity. Without them there would be little worth saving.

Inscription on a headstone in Green River Cemetery, Springs, New York, where Jackson Pollock is buried

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?  Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse! What will your verse be?

John Keating (Robin Williams), “Dead Poets Society”

Throughout this day, I have been responding to friends who commented on yesterday’s blog about aging, and coming unto one’s own. In recent days, I’ve had several opportunities to engage in conversation with friends of whom the creative impulse has taken hold in recent years. Many of them are the same age as I. Having spent a lifetime at a profession, they now feel the impetus to do something creative, and I am thrilled at that. The only matter that disturbs me is the hesitation I often hear from others, stemming from the fear that they have no talent.

Does the bird singing outside your bedroom window in the mornings have any idea of the beauty of its song, or is the bird just doing what the bird naturally does? How about the spider spinning the web in your garden? As the web glistens in the slanting rays of the morning sun, does the spider have any clue as to the beauty, the design, the symmetry of its web, or is the spider simply spinning out of its own essence?

Why do people create? Are they aware of the beauty of their works, or could it be that they are only doing what naturally comes to them, obeying an impulse? I was never an effective art teacher in the public schools, for a variety of reasons. But a major reason stems from the dilemma of grades. How could I possibly grade the quality of a student’s work? As a workshop instructor, I can answer questions, and I can help a student improve his/her technique, but at least I don’t have to assign a grade and give the illusion of quantifying the value of someone’s creation. I love the creative impulse, period, and wish that all humans would respond to their muses. Everyone has ability, and everyone has desires for expression. Words, pictures, sounds–these all contain powerful aesthetic forces and are in the consciousness of the active mind. What a terrible waste, not letting that impulse run its course. When one feels the tug of inspiration, s/he should respond wholeheartedly and not worry about whether or not the creation is “good.” Personally, I can think of few things that match the sublimity of creation, the mere notion of starting with a void and finishing with something of visual or auditory pleasure. The integrity of creation is its own reward, not what others might say, despite the reality that others might not even notice.

Today I had a little time in the studio, and worked further on the cloud definitions in the center and to the right. I also began planting some growth in the bald sandy spot in the lower right corner, tried to correct the color of the field station, which has a green tint against the blue sky. I’m also working at transitioning between the foreground wildflowers and the grasses surrounding the building. All this has appeared to be tinkering, but the devil is in the details and I enjoy that too. The fact of the matter is that I have been lost in abstract patterns while working on the textures of the sky and the ground. And I’m always crazy-in-love with abstract patterning. Lessons from my high school art teacher kept blistering to the surface as I worked on the ground textures, as he was the first to instill in me an appreciation for abstraction.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


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11 Responses to “The Creative Impulse in Later Years”

  1. Jodi Says:

    Thanks for reading ? Thanks for writing this ! Powerful.


  2. Shelley Says:

    This blog post really grabbed me, too, with its passionate invitation to the human creative urge. Thank you for your beautiful words and your beautiful art alike!


  3. Linda Navroth Says:

    I have been engrossed in your blog for two days since stumbling across it in a Google search for Winslow Homer’s works (for similar reasons as your search–to be inspired by his creative experiments). This post really had my attention. I’ve been hamstrung by the excuses I make for not doing enough painting for years now. Then I turned 65 last year and decided it was really time to stop that nonsense. I have been making more art ever since. This post was a wonderful epiphany and an inspiration to keep on. Thank you!


    • davidtripp Says:

      I cannot thank you enough for your post. I’m so inspired when people find that creative urge, even in later years. I’m about to turn 62, and it is better for me now than ever before.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Navroth Says:

        I absolutely feel likewise. I am reading nature books in the morning that make me think and feel good. I have even considered giving up my smartphone, and I only go on Facebook for about 10 minutes, and not every day. I am painting more now (even during my lunch hour at work!) and getting better at it than I ever thought possible. One I stopped standing in my own way, the sky was the limit (and not even that is the limit, really).


      • davidtripp Says:

        This is so inspiring to read! A book that changed my lifestyle is Hamlet’s Blackberry. I spend more time now making art and less time online. And yes, when we make more art we can’t help but improve.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Navroth Says:

        I read that post you wrote about that book and it was like synchronicity. My head was already there, but I ordered the book anyway! Keep up the great work. I am so glad I found your blog.


      • davidtripp Says:

        Thank you so much. I’m so delighted to connect with you. Wish me luck next week!


      • Linda Navroth Says:

        Yes–it has been a pleasure. And all the best to you! Hope to chat with you again soon.


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