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.

Advertisements

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.

Shades of Grey

I’m now four classes in to my oil painting class at OCAD. For starters, my teacher is amazing. I’m more than a little star struck. Not only is his work stellar, but he’s also a really great instructor. His name is Bogdan Luca. His work reminds me of waking from a really intense dream and not being sure of whether I am awake or asleep.

This year, in my own artistic journey, I’ve endeavoured to learn more about color. I feel as if I’ve finally made some real headway in that direction. Learning about colour feels like seeing the world as I’ve never seen it before – in higher resolution. At my painting class we’ve often been challenged to create grey tones that are in a sense colourless. The word grey is really a catch-all for the myriad of tones that cannot be described by any other colour reference. The world of grey can simultaneously be tinted to be brownish or reddish or bluish or yellowish – all depending on how you get to that colour mix. I finally understand why my art teacher forbade the use of black to mix colour all those years ago – because when you learn how to arrive at certain tones without black, there is a depth of colour that becomes discernable. It seems as if your eye can somehow detect the many tones within the single pigment. This world of grey constitutes a great deal of what we actually see.

The mind autofills so much of our interpretation of what we see. A wooden table appears at first to be brown – but when you pay attention to what your eyes actually see, without letting your mind interpret it for you, the truth is that the reflection of light off that table is what describes its form. Therefore what one paints is the reflection of light, married with its shadows. This is the world of grey.

Shades of Grey - no black used

Shades of Grey – no black used

Im not sure as yet how this relates to abstract painting. All of our classes have focused on still life painting.

In terms of oil painting, I’m really enjoying the medium. Unique to oils is a depth of colour rendition that is quite lovely.

I have two more classes in this course. It’s been thoroughly worth the investment of time, money and travel. Working in a studio environment this way is so satisfying. At the end of each class I feel thoroughly spent in an altogether pleasant way.

The Blank Canvas

Creating something new is always daunting.
I’ve been staring at a blank canvas for 2 weeks. In a sense the reason why I haven’t touched it is because of something that’s happening inside of me. Although I’ve completed work since I broke my ankle, those pieces have been continuations of things I began before. Other than a few sketches – I haven’t created anything new since I got hurt.
The event of the injury was significant in my life. Healing has come with an enhanced understanding of my own vulnerability and with that has come a fear or breaking my body through my mundane daily routine. Through the recovery, my closest relationships have changed in a myriad of deep and meaningful ways. I’ve felt a revival of passion that comes with understanding that I won’t always be as vital and capable as I am now. In short – I’ve changed.
So when I stare at the canvas, I’m not sure what I want to say. In ways, I keep trying to find projects that step around that issue – because I just don’t know the answer. I suppose I can explore that very question through painting, but for the moment all I have are words. The brush strokes will come with time.
Thanks for tuning in.

The Messenger

The Messenger, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30"

The Messenger, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30″

This turtle has been wanting to be painted for a while. I started this piece a little over a month ago. As some of you may know, I had an accident around that time. I was walking my dog on a pedestrian trail near my house when I slipped on a patch of ice and broke my ankle. This is why I haven’t posted in a while.

Source images of red sea turtles have been taped up on my art room wall well before my accident. I’ve had a long time to think about him. When I first filled in his outline on the canvas I felt like I was in over my head, but I got into a great painting zone and after half the night, I was happy with how he turned out. I’m really enjoying a totemic approach to animals these days.

In terms of process, as an experiment while making this piece, I took progress photos every time I took a break. This turned out to be a great technique for me, since I changed my mind a few times about the way I painted the sky as well as the peak. It was by looking back at previous images that I was able to determine what I really wanted.

It’s kind of amazing how many hours went into this piece. In the past I might have been more frustrated at the time it took to create. Now however, with more experience, I am no longer as impatient with my work. That’s something great that’s come to me through this accident – patience. I hope I don’t lose sight of it when I’m walking again.

Hope you enjoy.

Crush

Crush

Black, white, ochre, red and yellow. Those are the only colours that I used to make this piece. A long time ago an art teacher told me that I should avoid using the colour black straight from the tube. In this piece I’ve played with it in different ways – including using it straight out of the tube. A final rebellion against one of the last lingering painting ‘rules’ in my head.

The beginning of this piece was heavily influenced by 90’s alternative rock. That sounds like a disclaimer. It’s true though. There’s a lot of nostalgia in this piece. My 17 year old self would approve.