“Springtide Harmonics” Acrylic on Canvas, Diptych, 24 x 36″, 2016.
Lately, I have been seeking out books, events, and conversations to find out how artists express themselves when it comes to their creative process. For years I have had the intent of reading Emily Carr’s journal, Hundreds and Thousands. Her love of nature and unique style has placed her among the venerated painter Georgia O’Keefe. We rarely know of Carr because she is was a Canadian painter.
In several entries she expressed her struggle to capture the essence of nature, in the way that it awed the senses and not in it’s visual realism. Even at 60, when she was beginning to be recognized for her work, her concept of failing, which was based on her daily painting practice, still continued to haunt and temper her success. Throughout the journal she documented days when she did and did not connect with her painting practice. With perseverance, she was able to understand when she successfully painted the spirit of a place. The quote below touches on this achievement.
“Chords way down in my being have been touched. Dumb notes have struck chords of wonderful tone. Something has called out of somewhere. Something in me is trying to answer.” -Emily Carr
To tap into this experience she advised to come to the painting experience open-minded and free of expectations so that the spirit could be open to new directions and possibilities. In this painting experience there are no rules or formulas to shortcut the process: the painter, painting and paint transform into a vision that has not been seen by others.
In a recent interview between Bill Jensen and David Hinton, Bill Jensen, a painter, describes his experience from one who has read much of Tao philosophy. He relates that the paint becomes a living tissue that takes on the quality of nature which is coaxed out of the cosmos and easily slips back into the cosmos. I believe it is this feeling as painters and artists call “the flow”. It is difficult to achieve this on a daily basis but it is the objective with each painting session.
Many times I feel that I am stumbling in the dark and feeling my way through because I don’t have a road map. On these days it seems I start and stop frequently and erase much. I find I am able to trust the process when I see others writing about this struggle to capture something that they themselves have not seen but more important to me, I can begin to verbalize it.
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