Posts Tagged ‘The Artist’s Way’

Art as Spelunking?

March 30, 2015
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.

Sweet Solitude in the Studio

May 30, 2014
Friday Night in the Studio

Friday Night in the Studio

I am here because “art” brought me here.  Obedient, I came.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Still Later in the Night

Still Later in the Night

Artists toil in cells all over Manhattan.  We have a monk’s devotion to our work–and, like monks, some of us will be visited by visions and others will toil out our days knowing glory only at a distance, kneeling in the chapel but never receiving the visitation of a Tony, an Oscar, a National Book Award.  And yet the still, small voice may speak as loud in us as in any.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s I toiled late into the night in the minister’s study, writing sermons, preparing Bible lectures and writing papers for seminary classes.  From the 1990’s until now I have exchanged that discipline for the production of lectures and lesson plans for university and high school classes.  Since about 2006, I have also spent thousands of solitary hours in the painter’s studio.  The one constant throughout all those decades of creative solitude has been the conviction that revelation was about to happen, that a visitation would occur, that darkness would yield to the light.  And I still live that way.  This has been an amazingly quiet Friday night, after a noisy day in public school.  The weekend offers organized plein air activity, and I plan to participate in that as well.  Time spent with other painters is always time well-spent.  But I would not have exchanged the sweetness of this evening for anything.  Julia Cameron wrote it well–artists toil in cells like monks, expecting the glory of some kind of visitation.

I am nearing completion on this barn I encountered in Ovilla, Texas a couple of weekends ago, and am also finding joy in a large painting of an historic Louisiana house.  The quiet of the evening has found ways to nurture me and affirm that what I am doing is quality work.  That alone is sufficient reward, filling me with a sense of eudaimonia.

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.

 

The Sanctity of an Artist’s Working Space

February 25, 2014
Working on a Small Watercolor Tonight

Working on a Small Watercolor Tonight

I seem to have only been like a boy playing on the seashore, diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton

Putting more space between tonight and my recent illness, I am finding a renewed delight, tinkering with watercolor projects.  The shock of discovery is returning, and I feel like a small boy again, oftentimes my eyes widening with suprise at what comes out of the end of my brush, or what pools up on the watercolor page.  And all the while I work on this watercolor, I feel ecstasy in knowing that I am a part of an extensive tradition, an endless line of creative spirits.  In the stillness of this studio, I work while listening to the voices of Robert Motherwell, Willem De Kooning, Andrew Wyeth and Joseph Campbell on the VHS and DVD documentaries that I have stockpiled over the years.  I love being a part of something much larger than myself, something much larger than this moment.  I sense an immortality in all of this.  I have read, over and over again, Julia Cameron’s work The Artist’s Way.  Writing from her Upper West Side Manhattan environ in that day, she pushed out these words: “Artists toil in cells all over Manhattan.  We have a monk’s devotion to our work–and, like monks, some of us will be visited by visions and others will toil out our days knowing glory only at a distance . . .”  I love the sanctuary feel that floods my studio space in the night when things get quiet and I have only my thoughts moving about as I bend over the watercolor and explore its dynamics.  There is so much waiting to be explored, that I keep coming back to Newton’s testimony that the small boy turns over pebbles while the ocean of truth waits beside.

ART STILL HAS TRVTH.  TAKE REFVGE THERE.  These immortal words of Matthew Arnold are chiseled over the portal of the Saint Louis Art Museum.   I have read them on repeated visits to that “cathedral of art.”  And I take them to heart tonight.  My working art space has become the cleft in the rock, the shelter from the storm, the safe haven, my refuge.  Life has had its difficulties lately, but I’m grateful for sanctuary this night, for the quiet hours to pursue art, while outside the temperatures continue to drop and the rain continues to fall.

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.