I’ve recently returned to visual art. I’m making small mandalas, mixed media projects, and developing art journals. These journeys are explorations that I prime, color, pencil, layer, blend, embellish, color some more, blend, and layer again. I then sign, date, and protect the work — an uncensored journey whose colors and forms I uncritically inhabit and own. Because of these artistic jaunts, there’s a creative dialogue emerging in my life, as art seeps into writing, bit by bit.
It’s been a drink of water for my soul, like watching a withering plant come to life after a long needed soaking. Yes, it’s a worn metaphor. But it’s the best one available to me, today.
This hands on practice has flowered in several ways, the best bloom being a satisfaction in greeting the day’s work. All of it. I’ve become less worried about facing demons on a page, and more inspired to simply create — and create a lot. Visual art isn’t an unruly forest of ideas for me: it’s a simple place that I visit in a sacred and unquestioning act. I don’t blind side myself by over thinking. Art. I just do it. After these colorful and arbitrary excursions, when I return to the black and white of words on a page, instead of facing a hedgerow of ego, ideas, and revision decisions blocking me from the story, there’s a more serene acceptance of process, and a kinder forbearance for development.
Writing’s restored. Or at least given a bit of space to grow.
A few weeks ago, in a radical creative declaration, I splurged on art supplies. Not the cheap ones. The good ones. An excess of indulgence, I told myself. “You shouldn’t do this,” I thought, “too much time and money on the superfluous, focus on writing and the social media platform. Buy the art supplies, later, when you have real income. Assuming you will actually have real income someday, dreamer.”
Yes, I still speak to myself like that. I’m working on it.
But the iris purples, cornflower blues, teal greens, assorted roses, marigolds, and metallics of Caran d”Ache kept calling, as did the cotton watercolor vellum, the smooth flow artist pens, the brilliant colored pack of origami papers for folding and collage, and the other miscellaneous media.
Though I tried, they would not be ignored.
When I uneasily hit the order button, the words, “jump and wait for the net to appear” went through my mind.
I jumped. The net did indeed appear.
The pleasure of the materials is near indescribable. A minor purchase for a professional, a luxury for an amateur, these are artist quality supplies whose pigments and application are like a trip to Paris, without packing a bag. There’s sensuous delight in the wealth of variegated color, and in laying down layers effortlessly, exploring depths of hue and overlay, playing with opacity and transparency, mucking around in matte, gloss, and sheen, painting, outlining, stippling, blending, smudging, and then doing it all again. I don’t worry much if my composition is correct, or my color choices are the best, and I don’t double guess if the materials are serving their purpose. I just do it. If I don’t like it, I fix it. Or I don’t fix it, and I move on. I don’t take the visual creations as seriously as the writing. There’s freedom in the process, creative respect in the acceptance.
My analogy machine went into predictable overdrive, and I made the obvious connection, “don’t take your writing so seriously, either.” Prolific ease comes with creation as focused play, letting stuff emerge on a page, learning techniques as you go along, stumbling on different ways to achieve effects, discovering a smarter more nuanced method with practice.
Same with words on a page.
Same with life.
“I’m working on it” revised is better understood as “I’m letting it happen, and it’s better this way. This is the way it’s supposed to be.” It referring to life, creativity, and the production of meaningful artifacts and ideas, and my relationship to them.
Austin Kleon, who published the first blackout poems, writes in “Steal Like An Artist”:
“Side projects and hobbies are important. . . . one thing I’ve learned in my brief tenure as an artist: it’s the side projects that blow up. By side projects I mean the stuff that you thought was just messing around. Stuff that’s just play. That’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens. The blackout poems were a side project. Had I been focused only on my goal of writing short fiction, had I not allowed myself the room to experiment, I’d never be where I am now.” (Italics and bold added.)
Magic happens. On the page. In life.
I’ve gotten some tool and practice tips from an artist, whose first vocation is image, words are her reluctant side. Today in my universe of magic and creative confluence, she shared an Ira Glass talk on storytelling, as a creativity prompt for her visual art friends, and those of us who inhabit multiple worlds, though not entirely living in any single one, yet.
The video is two minutes.
I hope it serves your creativity, as it did mine.
(Videos are not embedding on the site. Haven’t figured out the problem, yet. Stay tuned.)