The Ebb

Perhaps it goes without saying, but the process of artistic creation fascinates me. There’s an aspect of ebb and flow to it that feels like a natural rhythm. The act of creating a piece of Art is much like the action of the tide. There’s the momentum of surf rushing onto the shore. The Flow. It’s full of energy and direction. The water follows as a force that comes from the ocean depths.

Then there’s the action of the water receding as it’s pulled back into the sea. The Ebb. The rush forward is more visible and more memorable, but the rush back has it’s own significance and challenges.

It has been my experience that the Flow occurs in those moments where time and thought recedes and you are in the slipstream of inspiration. All of your artistic training facilitates the forward push of the tide. The Flow is sweeter because you can accomplish what you wish without static.

The Ebb occurs when you shift out of that focus. It’s when you sit back and look at what you’ve made so far. It’s where you assess progress and plan your next steps. It’s also where you get pushed out of the Flow because you have poor technique or crappy materials.

I have never received advice or training on how to deal with the Ebb. Perhaps it’s singular and individual since it’s based on your own coping mechanisms and mental state. In my experience though, the Ebb is the place where the artist really hamstrings herself. This is where I drown myself in judgement. It’s the period of time when my cynical mind starts yammering on about ‘sale-ability’ and how inept or useless the whole endeavour is.

When the Ebb comes you are bereft of your muse. Without understanding the process as a tide however, each time it happens, you forget that the Flow will come once again.

This has often been my problem. I go through a prolific period of Flow and then one day there’s nothing there and I can feel the absence of inspiration and I think, “Well I guess I’m done forever.” What follows next is a desperate and predictable decline.

The self-recrimination that can spring out of the Ebb, can be crippling and actually defer the coming of the next surge. Deep in the Ebb, I think that that period of absence is actually who I am. In that headspace, I think that the inspiration is a Muse who has long left because I failed to be a suitable medium. This is not helpful. That kind of thinking means that I take months and sometimes years to do things that should take far less time.

The Flow is always going to come again. Whether it’s a week from now or two years from now – it’s a cycle and it will come again. Presence and Absence. Knowledge and then Doubt. I hamper my own progress by getting bogged down in a miasma of bullshit. I get down and out and miss the swell. This is what mismanaging the Ebb can do.

It’s important to remember that for the creative individual, the next Flow is inevitable. It will always come – so it’s important to spend your Ebb in productive reflection and spend it learning skills that will aid you when the next surge inevitably comes.

And so we continue…

I started this piece in the last week of my pregnancy and I finished it off in the past coupe days. Maya will be 2 months next week! I cant say that pregnancy was particularly fruitful for me in the art department – my lack of blog posts are testament to that. I suppose my body was busy working on my greatest creation.
In the period since Maya’s birth, I’ve felt a resurgence of creative power. Everyday I imagine sketches and have ideas for pieces – of course none of which I manage to do because – hey i have a newborn. But while others fly away, some of them have stayed, patiently waiting to be drawn. I wonder how much of this new found fount results from no longer being pregnant vs no longer being mentally oppressed by work tedium. Both I’d wager.

 

Like everything else in my life now, in order to make art, a new rhythm needs to evolve in my process. For the foreseeable future, time to work on my pieces will be minced up into bits. Right now, Maya is napping beside me, so I frantically think and type while I have the opportunity.

 

Making Art remains entirely necessary to my sanity. I had wondered if I’d stop making work when I had a baby. Instead however I find that the challenge of fitting it in to already full days is a challenge of love and tenacity rather than the desperate anxiety to which I had become accustomed.

 

mandala-landscape

 

This piece is an abstracted city scape and landscape. The mandala portion is an abstraction of the inner voice that makes a place special. I may be working in this medium for a while since its the easiest to work with quickly and in short bursts. I enjoy the gouache though. The colours are brilliant and they yield such intense pigments.

 

Thanks for tuning in.

Mandala

mandala Dec 26 2015

This morning I was out for a walk with Kai and I felt the familiar stirring that I wanted to make something. I sorted through whether it was something written or drawn, coloured or black and white, realistic or abstract, 3 dimensional or 2 dimensional and eventually realised that I wanted to make a mandala. Then, in my mind I went through my paper collection and and decided on a grey page. I got home, dug into my art supply stocks and sat down to make this. A few hours later and here it is. I feel so much more relaxed and centred.

Blog-worthy

Absence. For the latter part of last year and the first half of this year, I have felt the absense of something inside of me. It is as if there was now room in my mind where there was none before. Over time I have come to recognise that absence of drive as the absolute lack of desire to create something ineffable, wordless and beautiful. At first I fought it and tried to jump start my creativity into making something worthwhile. Then, slowly and regretfully, in lieu of that innate artfulness, I turned to working on developing different skills. It turns out that I really can’t just sit still. I love making things, even if they aren’t deeply emotive. I’ve been sewing and working on a realistic painting, based on a photo I took long ago. Will post more on that later.

For the past few months I’ve also thought about this blog and wrote nothing because I thought that I had nothing to share. After a friend prodded me to share the things I was talking to her about, it made me reconsider what I think of as blog-worthy. I mean we all go through creative dips and swells. The truth is though that in the midst of this latest dip, I had half convinced myself that I was done – that that part of me had run out like a fully tapped fount. It seems like an overly dramatic conclusion now. At the time though I was responding to how different I felt inside my own head. All ambition and purpose, was replaced by indifference and boredom.

I quit my job in Kitchener in March and moved to Toronto. I’m working in Architecture still, in a quite different job. I’ve been living with some friends from school. During this time in Toronto, I’ve felt the beginnings of inspiration again. Slowly those feelings have increased and with the encouragement of my roommate, who is also an artist, I’ve started making art again. Last week I made my first painting after a long stretch of absence.

image

I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do when I sat down to paint. All I knew was that my hiatus was over and that it was time to pick up a brush and make something new. I have ideas again – all kinds of lovely things that I can’t wait to try out. I’m also less scared of making mistakes. With this has also come a kind of faith that I can trust even the dips in my cretivity because I am not a vessel that can be emptied.

Unveiled

Here is my latest, titled Unveiled. It’s been sitting in my sketch pad for a week or two. It was NOT an easy free flowing composition that came out of some blast of inspiration. Instead this piece came out of scattered energies and unfocused thoughts. I was pushing myself to work, because the act of working brings me peace. Despite feeling creatively blocked and this piece being relatively painful to complete, I’m glad I stuck with it and didn’t just tear it up or colour it black, as I was tempted to do. In a sense its a reminder to me that the work serves me when I need it, just as much as I serve the work.

For a while I’ve noticed that the piece that comes after a piece that I really like, feels like this one did. I begin with a lot of expectation and then somewhere along the line I feel like it’s totally contrived and then rounding up to the end I push through to come out with something I have mixed feelings about.

However one thing I’ve learned when it comes to the creative process is how important it is to keep working on one’s practice, regardless of how interesting or futile it seems. Movement is important with creativity and like Liz Gilbert said in her TED talk, some days your muse shows up for work and some days they don’t. If you don’t keep working though, you might miss a good day.