Thursday, July 11, 2013

Act of defiance; part 2

Does there really need to be a part 2? Why yes, yes I believe so.

Some awesome synchronicity happened from the last post which caused me to remember one of the thoughts I originally had when Judy Clements posted for advice about how to deal with painting for the public. She asked, I answered and that comment led to the first blog post on this topic. But the thread that keeps tickling is about process.

Process is very different from outcome. Are we outcome oriented or process oriented?  As a parent, I am much more interested in my children's process than any outcome. As an artist I tend to put outcome goals on myself. That can be dangerous territory.

Of course we have ideas about what we want to create, or at least a general direction. Frustration often stems from outcome and expectation not meeting up. Part of me thinks it is the artist's curse because the things you see in your mind are often going to be far more amazing than what our hands can create. An artist's mind is full of WOW.  How do you express that "wow" in adequate terms?

What if we release a lot of our ideas about outcome? What if we become like children again and learn to experiment. Become willing to create "crap" without labeling it as such? What if the process is the most important part and outcome secondary?

I'm not going to pretend I have this mastered. I care about adequately expressing what is in my doubt. It rarely matches up. I am learning that expectations in art are pretty much as deadly as expectations in any other part of life.  * Liberally apply some Zen Buddhism here*.

Art has a life of it's own. Sometimes the thing we imagined we would say with our art or try to create  has different ideas. Just as willingness to be vulnerable is powerful, so is release. Release of outcome. Release of judgment of our own art, even though that has it's place in growth as well. Release enough to be at one with our process. To immerse ourselves in the process. Even lose ourselves in it once in a while. Let's see where this art can take us.

Process and judgment. Those two things bring me back to painting for an audience.

Process is messy. It doesn't look very good at various stages. In fact, it looks pretty amateur. Process means making "mistakes" we didn't want to make. It means stopping and fixing those things or incorporating them. Process is often private, intense work.

What happens when you allow yourself to be eviscerated? To be laid bare? Exposed for the world during that process?  It feels oh-so-vulnerable. So oh-my-god-they-can-see-me-when-I-want-to-hide in the process.  It is the most exposed feeling I've ever had.

That is what brings up the insecurities. It gets comfortable to finish work and put it out for the world to see eventually. But to let just anybody see your process?

What does an artist's process look like?

That has as many answers as there are artists in the world. One thing I have realized over the years is that we need to see process. We need to see the mess. The not-quite-there form. We need to see artist's struggle, see them question themselves. We need to know we share similarities.

It is far too easy to put yourself in the category of "I could never do that" and let go. Watching an artist during the creation of art is fascinating. Watching birth is fascinating!  Birth of all kinds, metaphorical or not is messy business.

Inviting people into my mess has helped me learn so much. It has helped me connect with my audience in a whole new way. Keeping them out of that process makes art a mystery. A mystery and a dance to which they have not been invited. I love inviting people into my world now. It keeps me humble because dang, I make a lot of mistakes. It keeps me connected because they can ask questions while they watch it unfold right in front of them. It shows people what process looks like and encourages.

People need to know about the mess of birth. That the frustrations which accompany creation are okay. That they are not alone. That you welcome the mess.

It was really awesome to watch world renowned body artist Craig Tracy and his sweetie Ashley Breaux painting for a huge audience during the Palate to Palette event in Chattanooga recently. Their willingness to be surrounded by noise and questions and photos and hub-bub gave so many of us a chance to see their work flow in person. As a body painter it was empowering. I learned about tools during this observation and solved some of my own challenges. Rather than intimidating, it was growth.

Do we have a responsibility to share our process with others? Not necessarily. Only the individual can choose that. Solitude has a very important role to play as well.

For me, it has been a crucial part of my evolution as an artist. My hope is that others realize the insecurities are going to surface. They exist for most of us at first. You don't have to take them seriously though.

As my friend Patti Peters says when those voices start tripping me up...."Shut UP Ren. It always turns out fine. Just paint."

Just. Paint.

             Photo courtesy of the brilliantly talented Keith Dixon Studios.

Special thanks to client and friend Renee Bowman for commissioning this piece and for letting me share it in such a public manner!


Jennifer McGee said...

I absolutely love seeing the process of an artist's creation, someone else's and my own. I am so much happier when I focus on the passion in the creating and bringing forth the art. I think it was seeing the process of others that truly inspires me the most.

Ren said...

I agree Jennifer! There is just something about process that is encouraging.