The Edge Of Being - Making An Abstract Painting
The Edge Of Being – Making An Abstract Painting
Inventing artworks is an obsessive affair. It demands intense effort. It requires nothing less than quiet, independent exploration during regular periods of creative isolation.
Flirting With The Unknown
Only in creative isolation, can a person open up to beauty that occurs in accidents. Maybe there are no “accidents”—this is merely a manner of talking about inevitable events that we cannot anticipate or predict.
Fine details that seem to happen by accident can sometimes surpass details that arise in certainty. The universe is alive this way—it tells us how to create art using a language NOT spoken but felt in our muscles and bones. We, thus, move according to instincts that arise from the natural structures common to all things. These instincts exist prior to spoken language and prior to written symbols. These instincts are our true, original guides in the creative process, and we must obey them to see the visual revelations they can produce.
There is no method to teach these instincts—they already exist (in varying degrees) in everybody. To use them successfully, a person has to tune in, take chances, observe outcomes, try again, make adjustments, and persist until something fulfilling happens.
Turbulence Becomes Beauty
Beauty erupts from crashes between opposites, in a whirlpool of possibilities where unpredictable forms are the perfect forms. Beauty happens in turbulence.
Turbulence is the birthing ground of all things, the parent of all creation, the interface between colliding energies where every possible shape arises. Turbulence is the drama of natural fluid events that exists in clouds and stars.
Shapes that we sometimes see in turbulence (for example, animal shapes in clouds) provide a clue that similar fluid dynamics happen in our bodies and in our behavior.
Eons ago, natural fluid events became the life forms of the cosmos. Turbulence ultimately produced higher intelligence, because turbulence is the most primitive style of intelligence. Formal thought is the true abstraction from turbulent, primal reality.
A Painting Is Born
Turbulence produced the original painting whose picture appears in this article (actual size 40 x 60 inches). At first, this painting seemed finished after a few months. It then sat presumably finished for over a year, until one day I decided that it needed more.
Early stages of the painting were arrived at by pouring fluid acrylics onto archival paperboard taped to a large, sturdy box. The paperboard was first soaked with flow-enhanced, distilled water. A variety of viscosity-adjusted, fluid acrylic colors then were poured onto the resulting thin liquid surface, as it lay flat on a mattress that I also used for sleeping. The box (with paint laden, soaked paperboard attached) was manipulated vigorously by wobbling it on the mattress, also by shaking and slamming its various edges or corners against my not-so-sacred sleeping pad.
Messy. Sloppy. Ungraceful. Difficult. Occasionally painful to my wrists. As I have suggested, … like giving birth.
A Painting Matures
Later stages of this painting emerged from the human brain, rather than from the raw intelligence of nature. Small brushes were used to highlight random channels, pocks and islands that formed during turbulent flow. Preconceived shapes found their places amid the inconceivable complexity of fluid catastrophes. The oriental symbol for “chi” claimed center stage. Circles played peek a boo from behind selected masses. I did not know why. “Why?” was not a valid question here.
It all felt right—I trusted the feeling. It all looked right—I trusted the vision. After the painting lived with me for several more years and repeatedly won my approval of it, I deemed it done.
Inspiration Or Perspiration?
A painting captures the unique energy of being alive and preserves it in tangible materials. It records a series of peak moments that assemble into a uniquely human record.
I do NOT feel glib inspiration to make paintings. Inspiration is not sufficient. Inspiration is superficial and fleeting. Deeply meaningful art requires something more lasting: You have to be driven far beyond inspiration. Your consciousness has to sweat. Something has to nag the hell out of you, until you can resolve it. Sometimes what nags you is a clear vision; sometimes it is only a vague sense of a possible coming together of things. Many times you do not know a composition in advance—you cannot possibly know it. But you will definitely know it when you see it.
The Way It Is
There is a continuous exchange between forms that come to be and forms that go away, … between forms we see and forms we never see. What seems to go away is, in fact, just getting here, and what seems here now is, in fact, already going away.
Everything moves in a symphony where ugliness eventually becomes beauty, and visa versa. Nothing ever is lost completely, because what seems destroyed is always created into something new. Abstract painting involves the most intimate interplay between creation and destruction. How you observe events and how you adjust to accommodate them allows you to find harmony at the chaotic edge of being.