It’s sweet to find the words of an expert to support one’s own line of thinking. In this case the expert was the multi-talented John Cleese. There’s a great video of his talk on creativity. One of the conditions he mentions as being key is “Confidence to allow spontaneity and audacity. To get properly into the creative mode, you need to pull up the tiresome anchor of reason. There are no mistakes, and nothing that you think or do in your confident state can, for the time being anyway, be wrong.” He mentions also space, time, time, and humor. Time is cited twice because of its importance.
I have struggled with all of these. The space was resolved long ago when I made workspace more important than living (home) space. Time is always a hard one but it’s more or less manageable. Humor is easy for me; I can make myself laugh in my dreams. The great challenge is the one he calls “confidence” that I planned to write about as “courage”. If you google “courage and creativity” you will find a huge mass of information. Rollo May dedicated an entire book to the subject (The Courage to Create) and there is much more.
It’s difficult to write of something one doesn’t entirely understand but I’ll do it in the same way as I paint — when I am painting well. That is to just put down whatever occurs to me and let the devil beware. It’s not even about trusting the self. It’s just doing it. (As Nike most famously said.) As I believe those olympic athletes are doing now. As a painter, my experience is that I sort of fall into the operation and let my hands and eyes take charge. That can be hours in which the operation takes over. And then, usually the next day, I look at what I have done. Sometimes whatever I have produced requires additional layers of paint and the process is continued. Sometimes I am not sure of what I have and I put it aside and go to something else. But often, oh glory! I am delighted and I have a keeper.
But it’s me I have pleased. My trip into a color, a color combination, a series of lines, dots or soft shapes, or clear drawing of architectural or organic shapes, whatever was the impetus, is such a personal experience that I cannot but wonder about how that could possibly have anything to do with the very different challenge that lies ahead. That is using this object of paint on paper or canvas as a means to making a living. It is an almost impossible bridge to cross and I just do it. But not without a lot of performance anxiety. The other side of that is some excitement about showing the work but please notice: it’s just a jumble of feelings, not a rational, orderly procedure at all. And somehow, it has worked. The marketing part is, of course rational and orderly, but it is the poorest part of what I do. Not done as well as it could be but it is has provided most of what has supported me all these years.
I should stop here but hang on — just one more thing. Last week I wrote of curiosity being what provokes new works and keeps older quests for answers from becoming completed paintings. Once the results are apparent, the curiosity is satisfied and the more difficult task of resolving that into a finished work remains. Often it is the answer that is the painting and I wonder if it is a painting. In the words of Jun Kaneko I found this: “I do things I am curious about. This creates new ideas and this brings more questions and more curiosity to the original idea. This is how creative energy expands rapidly.” Words from an expert.
Today’s images are “pieces” painted this week, that will eventually be integrated into the large collage paintings that are my current project. The orange one is complete. The blue one is waiting for a decision about whether those white dots are needed or if something else would be better.