Creativity, passion, & the muse
Years ago I watched a very inspiring talk given by the Author of one of my favourite books; Elizabeth Gilbert. ('Eat Pray Love')
In it she discusses the creative process, & tells the wonderful story of her meeting with American Poet Ruth Stone.
Ruth has such a wonderful description of how she 'catches' her poems as they come thundering across the landscape towards her like a train, & particularly how sometimes, when she almost misses one she catches it by the tail & pulls it backwards into her...where it comes out on the page perfect & intact, but backwards! lol
I have just found this very section of Elizabeth's talk on youtube, obviously I'm not the only person who loved that bit. Do have a look, it's only a couple of minutes long but I highly recommend watching the talk in it's entirety. (I'll place the link below this clip)
This image of her rushing to find a paper & pencil before the moment has passed has always resonated with me. The connection to inspiration is very much like that. It feels 'otherworldly' & as if it is merely channeled through me.
I always know when I have managed to fully allow that channeling into a piece of artwork because it's the one that got onto the paper the quickest..the one that was the most enjoyable to put paint on, & the one that gets the most attention... whether I really like the end result or not. :)
I think most often, I get snatches of the real inspiration... a whiff of the muse's perfume...because while I love most of my work, they don't all have that lovely sparkly, easiness about them. That's ok I guess.
Today I read a blog post by Jackie Morris. An illustrator & author who inspires & delights me (go look at her work, you will love it!), & she interviewed the author Margo Lanagan as part of a new series for her blog.
One of her questions centred around the creative process. I definitely resonated with her reply... that she chooses an idea, carries it around for a while & prods it every now & again to see what reveals itself!
An idea may be only a thought, but in an 'artists' mind it is a real thing. A tangible cloud of 'something' alive that needs to settle, unfold, & give itself to you in its own time. It cannot be rushed or coerced into giving up its secrets... that never works. I've tried!
As for me, I am never short of ideas! Everywhere I go, everything I read, or see sparks an exciting painting idea, but sadly there is just not enough time to investigate all the possibilities.
Sometimes I grab at a few & write them down, or make a thumbnail sketch. Or sometimes I just blue tack them to the front of my mind , metaphorically speaking of course.
The really good ones are the 'thundering train' ones... that rush in amidst a flurry of excitement, & those ones you simply do have to run to your sketchpad. I have enjoyed a few unexpected late night painting sessions because of those!
An idea can come at any time... especially when speaking to someone else. It begins to form & take shape around my head.
To describe it might sound a bit odd, but in my mind I see a swirling bubble of misty images just above my head. It's quite a meditative experience actually.
The images become clearer & brighter & the swirling mist seems to envelop my entire head, right down to my shoulders.
Then...I am lost... a blithering, grinning idiot who can only grasp a pencil to scribble it down in words that don't really do the feeling justice.
Always the worst part of painting... the images rarely seem to capture the full range of emotions that are in your head.
It can be difficult sometimes when asked to do a commission & the customer has nothing particular in mind! The possibilities are far too endless for me to just reach up & pluck anything to paint for them, & so I then need to find something I can draw out of them... I ask what sort of things they like...movies. books, places etc... & in their answer something will shine out like a beacon.
And then the secret mists of the muse will begin to form their images around my head. Wrapping me in what has so far proved to be the perfect idea. Often providing a little extra something...a feather, or a particular flower, or piece of imagery that unbeknownst to me has special significance to the customer.
At these times I truly love my gift. It makes everything worthwhile when you can make someone gasp in teary amazement at the personal message within the painting.
It's not from me... it's never my doing. All I am is the messenger...tapping into that amazing place where the muse lives.