When I continue…
Yesterday, after my ramblings caused by the flu, I seriously considered to stop posting this 7 day challenge. I felt a bit ashamed about the nonsense I posted and wondered why the whole internet should know it. Then, I realized that this blog was about showing my process to the world, and nonsense is a huge part of that process, so why not show it?
When I paint, make pots, or write for that matter, there are mistakes and there is a lot of time I spend just messing around. I am not an artist who plans things much. I mess around until I stumble upon something I find valuable. It’s a bit like hacking around on a rock looking for a gemstone. Not that I’ve ever done that, but this is how I imagine it to be: You hammer and hammer, find only rocks. Then one rock might have a faint glimmer, because most raw gemstones don’t look all shiny and glossy. If you wouldn’t pay attention, it would be a rock just like any other, but if you crack it open, it suddenly has this whole treasure inside. Something similar happens in my artistic process. It resembles a mess most of the time. So many paintings get discarded, painted over, changed completely. Then in the end I pick up the gemstones.
To come back to the blog post of yesterday, in fact these are the ramblings I might get my titles from for my paintings. For example “I like tomato soup” would be a nice one, or “Fluff in the shed”. I don’t know if I’ll ever make these paintings, but it’s good to realize that from my random daydreams, I actually get most of my inspiration. What I need to do, like I do now, is to sit down and pick up the gems from the rubble. That’s why I spend hours on looking at paintings I made or reading my notebook with possible titles. This is really half the job.
It does feel weird I have to admit: first I spend time messing around and not “working” at all in my own eyes, then I spend hours on cleaning up the rubble, which also seems futile for the mind, because I created that mess in the first place. My rational mind really can’t understand the use of this kind of creativity. It helps when I finally have a few gems that I can sell, paintings that survived. Then my ratio is satisfied. Until that time, for the mind it’s all close to agony. This might be a reason for my lack of motivation, because for my mind the whole process seems so pointless. Create a mess, clean up the mess. It’s like dishes: a never ending story.
If my rational mind gets a bit quiet, and I start listening to my intuition (or creative mind, heart, whatever one wants to call it) it’s much easier to just do the work and not get bothered.
It’s a challenge, in a society where there is so much emphasis on reason, effectiveness and success. This creative process challenges me to turn against most of the things I learned in school and choose a radical new way of productivity, with a focus on the process rather than the result. It requires a lot of trust: I have to trust that whatever I do, the result will come. All I need to do is to keep on going. I do understand now why I feel paralyzed from time to time: I don’t fully trust my own creative process. My mind tries to keep it all in hand, when it fails to do so, I get scared; scared to become a total failure. My mind is at least very creative in making up doom scenarios: I will lose all credibility, my gallery won’t exhibit my work anymore, I will never get an international show and nobody will buy my work, so I will eventually starve to death. Right, so much for reason.
It’s a challenge, in a society where the view on “work” is so different, to go against the stream. I don’t want to end up fighting against anything or anybody. I just want to do things differently. It’s sometimes difficult to explain to friends who aren’t artists, that my work is really my work, that I also need the time for it, even if it looks like I’m doing nothing. It’s even hard to explain to myself. If I look at the blog post I wrote yesterday, in itself it may have been useless apart from the possible titles I got from it. However, I would never have been able to write this blog post today and understand my way of working, if I would have decided yesterday that my blog is crap and I should stop writing it. Then I would now have been stuck, stuck in the thing they call a writers-block. I suppose I have done this in regard to my paintings many times (no wonder I feel unmotivated).
So it seems: persistence is the key. Not to force “good” work out of myself but just to do something small, even if it seems crappy. Yesterday’s mess leads to the insight of today. Hurray!
-Featured image: The colour of mud, 2017