In discussing a work in progress with my nephew Kyle we came onto a thread of conversation about creativity that I have been thinking about for a while. This is the idea that a painting is a continuous record of the creativity expended to create it, a continuum of creativity. The process is the creative part, the “creation”. What you have at the end is a visual record of the process.
Speaking as an artist, the interesting and challenging part of the painting process for me is this continuum of creativity through time. The finished work of art, what people see as a result of your labor, is really a by-product. Of course you want to sell this by-product so it must be crafted well, but have you ever stood in front of a painting and considered the creative process behind the facade?
Now we come to the finished product. Complete or finished are relative terms. The Impressionists were berated for not finishing their work to Academy standards. Sometimes not finishing a work is part of the concept. I think that many artists, including myself, sometimes have a problem realizing when a work is complete. You get so wrapped up in the creation that you lose sight of the concept, if you can even define it. Sometimes the concept doesn’t become clear until you are well under way or even finished as a consequence of working out of the subconscious or intuition. All of this can be a mystical process and open to interpretation.
Apparently Cezanne’s take on this was that a work was complete at whatever stage it was at in process. This leads me to think that perhaps he considered the record of the process of creation (the painting) a complete act… every day.
I feel that most people who are not artists, well… even some artists, well…even myself at times, consider the creative process a mystery, in that they have no idea what leads to the conception, inception, execution or completion of a painting. Of course every artist’s process is different, but sharing the process where possible only increases your chances of being understood visually. I think that this curiosity by the public is what drives the open studio idea.
To this end here is a short clip of a work in progress; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J71pXQZ_jdk
For those of us who worship in waiting silence (and I’ll include those who practice meditation here), there are some curious parallels between the times when we “sit” and the practice of an art. There’s the period of settling in, of course, and of letting go of a lot of extraneous motion/thought — of focusing and going deeper. But at some point, we can go no further — the hour is up, our bodies become restless again, we’ve been filled to overflowing, we’ve eaten sufficiently, or whatever. It’s time to move on, to tackle another chore, to answer the phone — something else beckons, the tide turns.
With a work-in-progress, I find myself first entering a zone where I’m somehow receptive to a flow of whatever and am carried in that before reaching a point where the edge is gone … a sense I’m spent and am largely going through the strokes again.
In either practice, each occurence different, no matter how similar our situations outwardly. And, with a work of art — visual for you, literary for me — we can go back and paint over or edit and revise, adding layers of experience. But do we simply reach a point of exhaustion? We’ve engaged an idea or an image as far as we can at this point in our life. It’s time to put it aside.
Maybe the work is finished when it shakes hands with us, smiles, and drifts away for its own cup of coffee. You know, you might even start to follow but there’s a tap on your shoulder, and you’re staring into a new face that opens another conversation.
All this, too, before we even consider showing a piece to others.
Yes, it’s all a mystery. At least you visual artists can offer an open studio. A writer’s space, by contrast, is hardly as inviting — could the live reading be the equivalent?
Thank you for this insightful comment. I do feel a lot of similarity with the process of worship and painting or music. That certain mind-space that you enter into. I feel that I do my best work when in this “zone”, however the difficult part is entering into and remaining in this quiet, intense, focused space.
I think that this creative continuum idea can be expanded to include all of the arts. Each branch has it’s own way of encompassing it. Performing arts are the most visible in this area of creativity through time but I feel that the language arts, as you pointed out with your experience, are just as valid.
the painting is beautiful – finished or not! xoxo
Great post Roger. the observation and outcome of the process is very interesting to me. Also, thank you for sharing Cezanne’s view; it is a great outlook and a valid one to me.
Dreaming of walking to Beach Haven today……