Creative soup

I finally have my art station set up on the main floor. This time, I have mostly watercolour palettes spread out on it and a table easel that allows me to work standing, with a slight slant for the paper. The slant helps me get even washes. The size of it, though, only allows me to work on small sized blocks. If I want to work big, on a full size sheet, I’d have to clear the easel away because it’s not big enough to support a full sheet.

After an evening cup of tea together and a shared task of rolling pennies into fifty cent bundles for the bank, I left Mrs. Stepford , my parting words, as I went out her door and home to mine was – “I’m going to paint tonight.”

I’ve been struggling with getting back into a routine with my painting after a long, far too long, hiatus as first I cared for my aging and dying mom. Then, after she passed away, I was occupied with looking after the Estate. Somehow, with two moves, all the sorting, packing and unpacking of things, the legal obligations that dogged me, I didn’t see two years pass by. I can hardly believe it. But that’s mostly past now.

I spent July sorting out the basement, trying to find where my art supplies were so that I could put my hand on what I wanted when I wanted it; sorted out storage for the framed work and for the empty frames. Now it’s time to get back into holding the brush or whatever I’m working with,  and making it work for me.

In the last seven years, I’ve just done too much of painting pretty pictures. Now I want to reach into the creative soup and bring out things from my own source of inspiration. I want to marry the feelings and their intent into images that speak not only to me but to my viewer.

I realized tonight that I was carrying a lot of resentment for the time I have been away from my vocation of painting. I realized that I was irritated beyond my ability to contain it and decided to see what that looked like on paper.

It’s a bit like brainstorming exercise where one lets just any thought come out and it’s not edited at all in the beginning run. I am drawing on something that I learned from Susan Ruebsaat from whom I took a series of art workshops a few years back. Her teachings helped me to change direction, to start searching my subconscious for imagery, by letting it ooze out of the creative soup that lives within us.

Susan Ruebsaat is an Art Therapist. I found her workshops very informative about the ideas of Carl Jung. Her methods of helping us understand how to reach the subconscious and use it to understand ourselves brought me out of my lethargic pattern of using photographs to paint imagery albeit pretty but rather….

Well, let me explain it this way.  When I am painting an image of, say, a bouquet and trying to make it look like the bouquet I’m looking at; that is, when I am trying to reproduce an image as I see it before me; that is, when I’m attempting my best at a photographic representation of that bouquet, I essentially am testing my hand to eye coordination. I’m testing my ability to mix colours and I’m testing my skill in working with the medium. But, I’m not creating. I’m essentially copying.

What’s here that I see is    What’s here on my painted page.

Given little time, which is exactly the position I’ve been in for the past seven years, I’ve been happy to have at least this much connection to the arts. But my brain had been taken over by obligations and full time work. There was no creativity going on, and if perchance, there was a glimmer that occurred from time to time, the best I could do was note it in a sketch book or the margin of an office paper, or write it on a napkin for later. I certainly didn’t have time to explore, or comment or experiment with the idea.

Given lots of time, that process is relatively boring to me. It doesn’t say anything more than “This is pretty.”

Given lots of time, I prefer to experiment. I might start with a recognizable image, but then I want to play with it. I want to see if it can be expressed another way. I want to see if I can shift the colours and still make it understandable. I want to see if I just play with the composition of it in different ways, if I come up with something more interesting. I want to play with the shapes. In short I want to unleash the dogs of artdom and play with them in a glorious romp through the vast green pastures of creativity.

First leaf                                                                 Second leaf

Two nights ago, I painted a leaf. I was  doing process number one, trying to represent the interesting leave with paint on paper. Last night, I tackled the same leaf, now slightly drier and curled up, with a looser brush, a more liquid paint and a damper paper. It turned out…. something, (I hesitate to describe it in words) but it felt loose and unsatisfactory to me – essentially boring.

Tonight when I looked for good paper to work on, I found I had already started a painting on my watercolour block and so I started that with a background wash and then when it dried sufficiently, the second steps of it – blocking in the shadows and then some detail.  Still, this was just like dealing with a colouring book. Once the colours were mixed, it was just filling in between the lines on a ready made drawing.

I decided to go back to a fanciful, whimsical style of painting and got out another  block of watercolour paper. I placed a light, warm coloured wash on the background and then when it was dry, drew an ink line drawing on top of it. It’s a goofy figure with numbers flying out of his head. I read the expression in a book recently and had been pondering how funny that really was. The expression was “Don’t quote me on numbers. I can remember names, but the numbers just keep flying out of my head.” I tried to visualize that.

I started to draw in pen, just like a child, not worrying if my lines met up, not worrying if my numbers looked like properly designed numbers, not worrying if the head I had drawn looked like Uncle Jimbo or not. I just drew, and the creative force and the pen and my brain made up something as I went along. I made creative decisions about where to add pattern and how big to make the numbers in nano seconds as the pen was working, as if by its own accord, although I knew it was me pushing that pen and my subconscious finally being stirred up.

Well, it’s not a perfect drawing and I will add some colour and decoration before I will find it satisfactory, but “Oh! the thrill of it!” It was so much fun.

And then, while I was all fired up and having fun, all I could find on short notice waiting for the numberless guy to dry, and before I would be able  tostart adding some colour to it,  were some kids’ metallic coloured wax crayons.

I decided to tackle how I felt about the last two days events while I waited for my goofy character to dry.

There is a dispute in the family over a legal matter and I just hate conflict. My anger from it has been seething underneath, has boiled close to the surface a couple of times, but mostly I’ve been trying to put the whole thing in perspective.

I drew a circular image of a head and put two popping big eyes in it to represent how my eyes feel from thinking about the problem. Then there are two feet-like things attached to the bottom of this. The character that was developing looked a bit unstable, as if  it could roll away if pushed from one side or the other. I had a dark green chalk stick that I used to colour it in and a charcoal black that I used to grey the large eyes. I used the metallic blue to give irises to the eyes, and filled in the background with both blue and green metallic inks.

They weren’t very satisfactory for giving a solid -ish dark background for my little ghoulish figure but they served to darken around it. The only problem was that too much white still shone through. I used a vermillion red colour to go over this. The charcoal started to loosen and mix, just like another watercolour pigment. The new colour – black mixed with vermillion became a blood red. But the blue and green provided a resist and the red filled in between all the interstices. There was no white background left at all.

At the bottom of the figure, weighed down and sinking, is a small blue heart.

Now, Mr. Psychologist, I invite you to have a heyday with that!

Anyone looking at it might think I was depressed and needed help. But I wasn’t depressed at all. The meer act of letting out my anger and frustration over a current incident left me feeling elated. I had put my finger on what was bottled up in me, sitting under a very thin slick of calming oil, through the process. In that process I have created an image that no one else would ever create. It was truly personal; and I knew that I was back on the road to recovery. I’ll be doing some serious painting soon. Painting that has personal meaning. Painting that is deeply steeped in truly creative juices.

Digging into the creative soup and pulling out images is a sacred thing.
There is a feeling of elation when the hand, one’s material and the brain are working in tandem and the results are profound and from the heart.

I’ve done a good night’s work and I’m happy!


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One Response to “Creative soup”

  1. fencer Says:

    Enjoyed your drawing… and your thoughts on painting.


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