how was it for you?

 

I’ve been reading a great post from Maria Popova at brainpickings about the moment we recognise we are fated to become artists.

“How does one become an artist — not in a practical sense, not by some external measure, but by an invisible and intimate surrender to the creative impulse? It often happens in a single moment of recognition — a point of contact with some aspect of the miraculous in some aspect of the mundane, catalyzing an overwhelming sense of the unity of things and an uncontainable desire to emanate that sense outwardly; to share it, in some form, with others — whose otherness is suddenly dissipated by the very impulse.”

The article is about Patti Smith and her memory of this momentous recognition. It’s inspiring and wondrous. But it left me thinking, well, what was my big moment of recognition? How was it for me? Was it a single moment or did it unfold over time?

 

Wonderingmind Studio - Michael Leunig: Song

 

In my case, it was both. From tinyhood there was always an urge to be engaged in making for its own sake; I simply loved the way the world (and me as well) would melt into a timeless joy when I was ‘making things.’ In that innocent play I felt totally at home, totally ‘right’, fully fulfilled. (Years later I would realise that I’d always been driven by a mix of curiosity and wonderment – and that this mix had also driven the lifelong urge to understand that ineffable state.)

I was good at academic subjects, and at High School that meant focusing on language, math and science. But I was already seduced by the subjects deemed less worthy – by art and  craft and embroidery. I wanted to make, and to make art in particular, even though I didn’t really know what art was.

As a concession, I was allowed to take Art and Design as a ‘failing subject’ for my School Certificate (= O Levels) exams. What that meant was that if I failed in it, it wouldn’t matter because the other four ‘real’ subjects, which I would do well in, would carry me through. Since we had no proper instruction in Art or Design at my academically focussed school, I was set up to fail – I didn’t even know how to read the exam questions. And so it came to pass.

I was knocked back on my failure to answer the questions correctly. And that was my ‘tingle’ moment – that was when I raised my 15 year-old finger to the high priests of the art world and said stuff you. I didn’t have a clue what art was, I was ignorant of art history and criticism, I was a peasant kid in a tiny city at the bottom of the earth. But I knew what stirred my juice. It was the wonder of colour and the magic of making.

Yet even with that early recognition, it took decades for my via creativa to deliver me to full commitment to visual language as my mode of expression: to ‘out’ me as an artist. On the way I tried my hand at some amazing alternatives. Yet like an insidious addiction, the makings continued. And the hunger to be fully engaged in ‘art without apology’ was insatiable.

Eventually that hunger was satiated. There was no delivery to fame, although mini-fame fluttered for a while. I simply made my way by making, and by helping others know the joy of expressing with their own authentic voice.

It’s a long way back to that “stuff you” moment, the moment when that adolescent intuited that she would spend her life busy at an activity that for most of her friends and family (and society at large) would be both incomprehensible and worthless. Yet here I am, now in my 70s, and I wouldn’t change a thing. For me, making things turned out to be my holy pathless path, my Guru, and my gratitude is inexpressible.

I’d love to hear your own reflections: how was it for you?

 


Image: Michael Leunig, Song. I chose this image because it expresses so well the sense of wonder, fulfilment and sweetness that accompanies the visit of the muse (the little bird?)
http://www.leunig.com.au


True art does not look like art.
– Lao Tzu


no artist is pleased
creativity and autonomy


we go on making, we go on dancing

 
There’s been a long hiatus from studio work and blogging – so long that it amazes me that any readers call by this little corner of the cyberworld at all.  But the stats tell me they do, and I thank you – all of you.  I hope you found something worthwhile among these postings; a little inspiration or encouragement, or something to ponder, perhaps.

While I’m still without a workspace, energy is returning for the beloved creative work/play – for color and texture and shape and form.  I’m inspired anew by discovering the ways in which the inexpressible displays its wonders in the micro-universe.  Whether I’m attuned or not, whether I’m aware and amazed or not, the miracle of Life keeps on making, keeps on creating, inexhaustible and immeasurably.  And artists never lie down exhausted for long.  Their passion – if it’s honored and fostered, given time and space – will always be a source of their healing.  They don’t create because it’s fun or recreational (although it often will be); they create because they must, because if they stay away too long from ‘the dance’ they fall ill.

I gaze in utter wonderment at the dance of creation displayed in this photomicrograph of soap bubbles. And I feel the sap rising.  How will it express?  How will it release and focus energy within the field of capacity and skills that make up the playground called ‘me’?

 

Wonderingmind Studio: micro-photograph of soap suds

 

Yes, we live in a quantum world where there is only, in TS Eliot’s phrase, ‘the dance’, and the dance is always changing, both in the sub-atomic world of particles, and in the visible world of objects.  We construct our world so that we can apprehend it, we make our ideas visible so that we and others can enjoy them and debate them, and usually destroy them at some time or other, but we go on making, we go on turning energy into objects.  The object itself is provisional, the energy, though changing, is permanent, and is a feature of the whole universe.  What art does is to release and focus energy in a particular way, and I would argue that what we call art objects are places where energy is especially intense.  It doesn’t matter whether it is a picture or a book or a piece of music, or a performance, it is a concentration of energy.  This is why the arts occupy relatively timeless space, and why one of the tests of art is that it should go on working on us long after any contemporary interest in its subject matter is extinct.  We don’t go to Shakespeare to find out about life in Elizabethan England, we go to Shakespeare to find out about ourselves now.  The energy in the plays goes on being released.

Jeanette Winterson


For more micro miracles visit the National Geographic website.


no artist is pleased

 

Martha Graham

 

On the opening night of the film Oklahoma! Agnes De Mille confessed, “I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.”  Dancer Martha Graham responded:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.

If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.  The world will not have it.  It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions.  It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.  You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.  Keep the channel open.  No artist is pleased.  There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest.

Martha Graham


Source: stillness speaks
Image source


creativity and autonomy


creativity and autonomy

 

 

To recover our essential autonomy is the bottom line of all spiritual practice, although it’s seldom referred to in those terms.  It’s called finding Truth, or God, or the Real.  It’s called awakening or enlightenment or salvation.  But the core concern is to rediscover for ourselves who or what we actually are.  It’s probably the most important – and challenging – thing a human being can do, because it boils down to fundamental freedom from all inner and external influences.

Artists whose practice is part of their spiritual ‘recovery’ know how powerful the creative process can be in exposing the conditioning that controls our habitual responses.

How do we find our ‘own’ artistic style?  How do we find our unique voice?  How do we find what really matters to us; what’s important enough to be expressed in visual or verbal language?

These are questions familiar to those of us who fail to be satisfied with recreational approaches to creativity and who long to express from our ‘own’ autonomy.  I love the way Adyashanti links spirituality, autonomy and creativity together:

. . . the culmination of spirituality lies not only in discovering our inherent unity and freedom, but in opening the way for life to express itself through us in a unique and creative way.

Such uniqueness and creativity is not to be found in anything the human mind has ever created, nor is it to be found in our ideals of human perfection or utopian dreams.

True autonomy arises when we have broken free of all the old structures, all psychological dependencies, and all fear.  Only then can that which is truly unique and fearless arise within us and begin to express itself.  Such expression cannot be planned or even imagined because it belongs to a dimension uninhibited by anything that has come before it.

True autonomy is not trying to fit in or be understood, nor is it a revolt against anything.  It is an uncaused phenomenon.  Consciously or unconsciously all beings aspire to it, but very few find the courage to step into that infinity of aloneness.

Adyashanti


Image from the wondrous Michael Leunig, who has succeeded in finding a voice that expresses his creative, spiritual and political concerns. Gratitude!


creating from joy
artist, leave the world of art!


genius and creativity

Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame shares her experiences and insights into the creative process. She’s a great speaker – never draws breath! – and is often very funny. I really enjoyed this TED video:

You can watch it here if the video doesn’t want to load:
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html


when I met my muse

 
Ahhh. “I am your own way of looking at things,” says William Stafford’s muse.

 
Photo by Rachel K Ivey
 

When I Met My Muse

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off—they were still singing. They
buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled
forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails
up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “I am your own
way of
looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you,
every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I
took her hand.

– William Stafford


Image credit – Rachel K Ivey


the reach of your compassion is the reach of your art

 

Today is my birthday:  sixty six wondrous orbits of the sun.  Many people comment that Life seems to turn up the screws around one’s birthday time, and it’s certainly been the case here.

About a month ago wonderingmind studio began being dismantled.  Materials, paints, equipment disappeared into cartons.  Some found their way to the art department of a local school for autistic kids.  Some went to a charity that organizes art and creativity events for city youngsters.

Works-in-progress and completed pieces came down off the walls.  Shelving was flat-packed, books sorted and passed on.

It was like packing up a life – which is exactly what it was.

And what a timely opportunity to take stock!  I was over at Zen Dot Studio recently and found that its author is also in the midst of moving house.  I loved the way she had penned her thoughts and observations about the moving process and all that it reveals, and wished I’d had more energy to blog my own.  But it was all too exhausting at the time.

It’s one thing to move from one home/studio to a new one and quite another to pack up a life without knowing when – or where – it will emerge from the boxes again.  My boxed life has gone into a storage unit.  My unencumbered life is moving on.

It demands to be let loose again; the circumstances that constrained it for the past decade (caring for precious parents) have changed.  There have been long months in that intense and deep place called Griefland, which I have come to understand is really a place of R & R.  And of adjustment – to absence.  It heals.  Allowing the energies to bubble to the surface of the lifestream, embracing them and loving them, has worked wonders.  The stream enters deeper waters, vast, silent, unknown. I know this ‘place’ – I call it the via creativa.  Another chapter begins …

Joseph Campbell wrote that the reach of your compassion is the reach of your art.  I feel that the gift of this past decade – the gift my ancient, beloved Mum and Dad gave me – was the swelling and bursting open of a heart that had become pretty dried up by life’s apparent disappointments.  From a shriveled up pea it has slowly unfurled into a quivering flower.  Its perfume is Compassion.

How will it express itself?  Will there be more art-making?  Perhaps.  Meanwhile, it is reaching out to simply share.  And so, I scribble on this little blog.


finding your passion

 

Imagine my delight to hear Sir Ken Robinson interviewed by Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report this week.  Sir Ken is described as an ‘education and creativity expert’ and received a knighthood for his contributions in these fields. He has written a book called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

I’ve interviewed a lot of people for the book, and, you know, there was a time when Paul McCartney, so to speak, was not Paul McCartney.  You know, it isn’t that all these people were born as celebrities; they achieved some celebrity because of pursuing their own particular talent and their passion.  And I do think we all have that in us, yeah.  The people achieve their best when they firstly tune into their natural aptitudes – and lots of people I have interviewed aren’t musicians, they’re mathematicians, they’re business leaders, they’re teachers, they’re broadcasters, you know, they’ve found this thing that the completely get.  But the second thing is that they love it.  And if you can find that – a talent and a passion – well that’s to say you never work again.  And it is true, I think, that our current education systems are simply not designed to help people do that.  In fact an awful lot of people go through education and never discover anything they’re good at at all.

… we’re all born with tremendous creative confidence and abilities.  Young children are full of great ideas and possibilities.  But that tends to be suppressed as we get older. And it happens in part through this culture of standardised testing that I think is now a blight on the whole of education.

But the second thing is that we all think and learn differently.  I mean, some people are highly visual;  you know, some think best when they’re moving;  some think best when they’re listening;  some people respond well to words, some people don’t.  And getting the best from kids in schools is about understanding the way they think, as well as what it is they’re supposed to be thinking about.  And I think that’s also why some people get through the whole of their education and don’t discover themselves at all.

… the one thing we have as human beings is this extraordinary power of imagination and creativity and the ability to solve problems as well as to deal with ones that we’ve just created.  So, this isn’t some whimsical idea.

– Sir Ken Robinson


Read the whole interview at www.abc.net.au

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything