catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 5 :: 2014.03.07 — 2014.03.20


Back at the easel

After an eight-day trip to visit with my daughter, I am back in the studio, refreshed and inspired.  There’s something magical and mysterious that happens when I approach a new painting, or return to one after time away.  When I return to the easel I have a moment (or many) when I wonder if I will be able to paint anything at all.  

It reminds me of struggling to look into a Magic Eye poster and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t see the hidden images that were supposed to be there.  Remember those?  One day it clicked and I stopped trying to see anything and there they were, the dinosaurs silently hiding out in a field of sunflowers.  Or when you can’t remember the name of a movie, but when you’re driving home thinking about what to make for dinner, there it is: Soylent Green creeps into your brain, acting like it was always there. Sure you can dismiss this as a right brain/left brain switch, but just because a college class gave me words to describe what to me is one of my life’s greatest miracles doesn’t mean I’m going to stop marveling.  It feels like more.  It feels a lot like the moment you realize you really do love someone because when they need you to let them go, you can, and you do.  

The process of creating is a process of letting go.  Nothing can enter your conscious or subconscious mind until you make room for it. Have an idea?  Grab onto it, hold it in your mind for a while and let it rest there, and let it go.  What you will create is not the idea, it is the product of the idea.  It is your mind’s child, and while you may have a lot of input into the development of your child, every parent knows we have to let them grow to be themselves.  Intuition is a vine, a root system in the air searching for the sediment of the spirit to feed it.  Every time I approach the easel, this alchemic process occurs, the paint sits on the brush and waits for the signals that come from a space that I can’t see or know any other way except this way.  My past lessons and practice inform every choice, deciding how much pressure to exert, how much paint to load, when to start and stop each mark, but the marks themselves come from a place beyond language and beyond my thoughts.

One of the greatest revelries I experience in my life is the reoccurrence of this magical moment, when I think, “Maybe that’s it, maybe I have nothing left to paint.”  Then I approach the easel and the vine of intuition starts winding itself around me, the easel, the painting, the room.  It is as close to an ecstatic moment as I’ll probably ever have, or at least have had up to this point.  It is the feeling that there is a force larger than I am and it can be trusted.  I end up saying to friends, “When I’m painting, everything makes sense to me.”  I’m not sure if the sentence even begins to explain the experience; words always fall short for me.  And that’s why I paint.

This essay was originally published on Dawn Patel’s blog.

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