Serendipity and the creative process.
There are so many things I want to write about in this blog post; so many associations that presented themselves during the month it took for this painting to come to fruition. Connecting source and method, finding meaning in abstraction and how my life experiences–and synchronicity/serendipity–all came into play in this work.
I’m noodling around in two worlds right now. The world I know, atmospheric landscapes inspired by poetry and the beauty of the Pacific NW, and abstract paintings. The desire to dip further into the pond of abstraction was motivated by many factors: the desire for an expanded palette, the release of the horizon, and the challenge of representing the abstract with the abstract. With my source for my atmospheric paintings being poetry and prose, it is no wonder that I found myself looking to the written word to help me navigate this new terrain.
The painting at left is maybe the sixth painting in my new abstract body of work. I began this piece from a photographic reference of Whatcom Falls Park. It is personal reference to a trail system I have been using over the past few months to walk and think and get my body moving. I have a goal to trek 20 miles a week, and every Saturday when I make my goal I take a photograph. I thought this could be the start of a painting. And it was just that, a start. And then I got stuck. The painting sat in my studio for weeks as I painted one atmosphere after another (my safe paintings). It was not enough for me to have the image, I needed the words to take me further into the work. They came to me serendipitously one day when I picked up a book of poetry in the studio which happened to be splayed open to this poem by Galway Kinnell.
These specific lines of the poem spoke to me.
Splashing her image to pieces, he wades out and stands before her, sunk to the anklebones in leaf-mush and bottom-slime—the intimacy of the geographical. He puts a berry in its shirt of mist into her mouth She swallows it. He puts in another. She swallows it. Over the lake two swallows whim, juke jink, and when one snatches an insect they both whirl up and exult. see up a great maternal pine whose branches open out in all directions explaining everything.
After reading the poem, I left the studio without making a mark. But then, that night, a full moon night, I decided to kayak out to the moon rise (something I’ve tried to do every full moon this summer). It was during this night kayak that I became ever aware of the “intimacy of nature” inferred by Galway Kinnell’s poem. I noticed the moon reflection splashing to pieces behind me. The swallows, my only companions on the entire hour paddle, really did whim, juke and jink as they caught insects around my lanterns. There was a sound of being the only being on the lake and the water became this big bowl of softness as my paddle pulled through the darkness. I knew that the painting back in my studio held in it the maternal pine branches. I couldn’t wait to get back to the studio and bring some of this earthly sensuousness and sentiment to the painting. The experience of which having been made more profound by the reading of the poem.
The experience also prompted me to relisten to Amy Tan’s TED talk about the creative process. In it, she speaks of serendipity and the idea of questions. How framing a question creates the filter for all the flotsam and jetsam of our world. That the idea of questioning in itself is the creative process–it causes us to pay attention to those things that are already there and use them to move along our story, our painting, our product, our idea. Was my questioning of the meaning of my work and what follows the reason I noticed the poem–or was this just a random thing?
We bring our lives to our art, no question. I bring my nature hikes to this painting and my moonlit kayak, but I also bring with it my experiences.
So, there you go. All that is in this painting: source photo, source poem, and life experiences along with my method and color and form. Flotsam and jetsam through a filter.