Artful Living

Questions, Answers, and The Power in Choosing How to Explain (or Not)

image.jpg

"It is as difficult for [the Action painter] to explain what his art is as to explain what he himself is; but, since he paints with the question and not with the answer, explanation is not an issue." -Elaine de Kooning, 1958

I've mentioned this before, but I think this is why in part, writing has become secondary for me, for the first time since I was 13. For me, writing places a (subconscious) demand on me to explain and answer...in most cases before I am fully aware of what desires to be expressed or have an emerging understanding of what I'm experiencing internally. With writing, I can't just ask the questions, you know? In the past, words have been a means of processing my thoughts and emotions and keys to freedom, but more recently they have felt like chains, binding me to the floor, restricting fluid thought, movement, and expression.

** 

"You need to write your book," he said to me last week. "People need to read it. It could help people."

I nodded but said nothing in response because explaining my Why for not giving myself to that process is difficult for me to articulate coherently. I know the book is there, in the queue, waiting. I know the format, the themes it'll explore, and even the title. But I can't bring myself to go back to writing it. The words it requires feel

like prison.  

 ***

I think the truth is I don't want to use words to explain certain parts of my story, of what the inside of my mind, heart and soul have looked like these 33.5 years; I can do the work to excavate what the The Impact of events in my life look and feel like, but I balk at the demand to describe it in words. That doesn't feel like healing or liberation to me, when I think of explaining it or my living in that medium. I'd much rather just paint the questions and let a piece explain those things that I can't quite wrap my words around. Painting is sanctuary, freedom and peace. 

**** 

Like I said, I know I've discussed this before, this retreat from words and full throttle immersion into and preference for paint. I continue to share about it because it's a very real aspect of my creative process, and I've had to work my way to accepting it as a reality, which hasn't been easy. While it has felt freeing at times, this gravitational shift also hasn't felt comfortable or familiar during others. So I share it-the messy middle, the discomfort, the joy, the freedom I find in embracing the nuances and growth that occurs within this entire process in the hopes it encourages you to do the same regarding your own creative process-whatever that may be, and especially if you create in more than one medium.

Don't be afraid to to yield yourself to the shifts in seasons and rhythms, to let one replace another in the driver's seat. Scratch that-be afraid. You can be afraid. That's normal. I am about 80-90% of the time, honestly. Just don't let that fear paralyze you. I'm getting better at that-at acknowledging the fear but not allowing it to restrict my movement or expression. Be afraid, but do and give yourself fully to the process and your creativity anyway.

Painter Selfie

I've worked really hard over the last 2 years to believe I am an artist, a painter, a woman who communicates stories, ideas, and messages about living through color and brushstrokes. 

I believe it. I own it. When people ask, I reply with "I'm an artist, I paint"-not stay at home mom, not veteran, not even writer. I am all of these things, of course...but at my core, I am an artist and I've finally gained the confidence to no longer doubt it. I might be a terrible one, or perhaps one day I'll be one who is considered "good" and widely known, but I'm much less concerned about either, and just reveling in feeling so grounded and secure in who I am. I grew up with so little self agency or autonomy so this season of being rooted firmly in knowing who I am  feels like undulating liberation. I'll take it. 

To celebrate this victory, I took a selfie. As you do. 

image.jpg

Smudging

I went into the studio this morning looking for bubble wrap. When I realized there was none to be found and I'd have to take an unplanned trip to Target I grunted something unintelligible out of frustration. On my way out I passed by this piece on paper I've been re-doing over the last week. Without thinking much of it, I started to gently smudge the lines of charcoal and pencil I'd made. It was quick, perhaps not even 5 minutes from start to finish...but it calmed my mind, released the tension I felt piling up in my shoulders, and released the pressure valve that always gets stuck on Monday mornings when I'm trying to B-E PRODUCTIVE and flailing haphazardly  in the process. 

I think I can say this piece is "done". I still haven't washed off the smudges.

image.jpg

The Great Imitator

image.jpg
image.jpg

Be it a brayer I've abandoned for a brush as I work on a piece, or my favorite matte purple lipstick ("Shameless" by Revlon), this one is mastering the art of imitation at age two. He's my constant companion in the studio, quietly underfoot, his little hands searching blindly along the edges of my work tables for something to grasp while I work. Nothing is safe or off limits no matter how far I think I'm moving it beyond his reach-he finds a way to deftly, and swiftly get paint, brushes, spray bottle, brayer, palette knife, paper towels, water in his hands when my focus is elsewhere. I've begrudgingly begun to accept that if he's awake, there is no working in the studio without him next to, behind, or underneath me silently watching or working just as diligently as I am. He watches, then imitates both in the studio and around the house, spraying the walls, couch or television with water from my spray bottle he grabbed off my table or tagging his brand new shirt or wall with my lipstick. 

... 

His brothers enjoy drawing and sometimes playing in paint (Alex always always always uses a brush, no fingers, because tactile aversion), but he's the first of my children to show such an affinity for it...an intense focus on it, which intrigues me as I watch him.

Hmmm.

Come to think of it, I painted quite a bit while he grew in my belly those nine months. A lot, actually. Maybe that's why it seems so flow out of him so effortlessly, in a way that it doesn't with them. He studies my movements and attempts to replicate them on his own. I've often looked down to see him foam brush or brayer in hand, quietly painting a corner of a piece in progress, mimicking my movements and strokes with whatever tool I'm using.  

 ....

I think it's time to get him his own easel, brushes, apron, and paper. Perhaps his own brayer as well-that seems to be his favorite, which has me smiling as I type this because it's mine as well. 

Sigh. 

This kid. 

Oh you beautiful, mischievous, joyful, getting into all the things all the time boy. 

What an explosive and intricate work of art you are.  

image.jpg

Black Creatives Who Inspire: Christa David (Beatrice Clay)

image.jpg

Who: Christa David (Beatrice Clay) 

Where

Inspired By Beatrice Clay

Art Shop: http://beatrice-clay.myshopify.com

Instagram: @beatriceclay

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/inspiredbybeatriceclay/

image.jpg

Her work: "Dear God, this sh*t cray?" Themes of faith, divinity, history, individual and collective responsibility, and kinship loom large in my work. With color, shape and a variety of media, I explore the questions that keep us up at night - "What do I believe?" "Why am I here?" and "What's next?"

image.jpg

Why: I first met Christa and was exposed to her work at a conference in 2014. I literally gasped out loud when she handed me her card and and a few other self-care goodies that were all designed to spark my own creativity. Her visuals are offer that minimalistic look that's all the rage but unlike others who practice this aesthetic in their work, she doesn't sacrifice color. Her work is soft and simple, but she also keeps it vibrant and bold. 

 

Your artistry pushes me to find the beauty in life, Christa. Thank you for being an inspiration-Salute!  

Anyone Else See An Iguana's Face?

 I spent some time today quickly throwing initial layers of paint down on some 12x16 single sheets of canvas...just to test out new color combos, lines & composition, looser shapes and different impressions & imprints with the brush and brayer. I wanted to explore a more abstract, deconstructed composition. Turned out to be weird but wildly fun.

image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg
image.jpg

This last one made me laugh when I finished because of what I saw when I stepped back to look at it. I see an iguana or lizard's face, & big eyes. Which to me is a hilariously cruel trick for my eyes to play on me because I have a severe reptile phobia. (Just typing that made my toes curl!) What the hell? 

So now of course I'm curious: what do YOU see in this one and the others?

image.jpg

Intentionality & Expression

I've been thinking quite a bit lately on how I can grow as an artist, on what would stretch & enhance my visual work. For the last few weeks I've been feeling the compulsion to grow and reach for more...to root down even deeper and excavate what lies dormant, whatever is I'm searching for that's waiting for me to unearth  it. I hear its desire for expression and I've taken to trying out new tools, and studying new techniques in videos and books in an effort to find how to articulate it. In the process I'm learning what my limits are and where my capacity & skill need to be further developed. 

I'm exploring...and questioning, and "ruining" sheets of canvas in the process. It's honestly just as extremely frustrating as it is liberating.  I'm also making a mess on my work tables, which led to the current thought sitting at the forefront of my mind after an attempt at cleaning them up: As an artist, I'm afraid to let go & go deeper, press inward, and unearth what's calling me to be expressive but...unrestrained. As bold or declarative as my work may be with color & subject matter, I still find I've been holding back. It is wild but only within my self-imposed boundaries. I'm afraid to do the next level of work necessary to free my artistic voice even further. I also think this is largely due to my desire & efforts to become intentional & methodological with my expressions. 

That is, after all, the message I was given 2.5 years ago when I asked my arts & humanities professor what she thought of my work. I had only been painting for 6 months and was questioning if it was just a hobby or something more for me. She said she liked it-loved my use of color. "I think if you could bring intentionality to your artistry, you'd really have something here." Art should be...intentional, shouldn't it? Or perhaps not. We never really arrived at a definitive answer about that, or what art actually is or isn't, that semester. (Especially in regards to abstract & expressionism) I think I took that message and internalized it too deeply as I've created since then. I've leaned too far right, focusing so greatly on intention that I've shut out intuition and being at times when it probably would've benefited me creatively. 

That brings me to my work tables. Scattered across their surfaces are what's left behind: drips, drops, splatters & scrapes from pieces I completed. They are not organized into a structured composition. There is nothing intentional about these remnants that are scattered across my tables but when I stopped trying to scrape them off and just stared at them, I saw the freedom I've been craving to convey lately on page & canvas. It made me teary eyed because I recognized the kind of visual expressions I want to translate throughout my work. I saw that I've been thinking too much about the what and how-to of expression instead of just the act itself. Instead of just being and yielding to what's there. On some level I've come to care too much if my visual work is likable, digestible, or even meaningful to others. I've been trying too hard (mostly out of fear) and as a result I've been stifling my creativity. Maybe subconsciously I'm still searching for validity as I get used to identifying and calling my "untrained" self an artist...

It was this flurry of thoughts that forced me to quit trying to scrape away what's been left behind on my tables as I cleaned up my workspace earlier today. I'm going to keep them there and add to them as I keep pushing myself to grow beyond my current boundaries, piece by piece. I need them there to hold me accountable as I strive for courage & not fear when I show up and sit down in this arena to make. I need them there as a reminder to use everything I've got and leave nothing to waste. 

It it makes me wonder what my art (and my life) would look like if I became more intentional about just trusting The Muse & my intuitive urges.