I am working on 4 paintings at once right now. I like to work that way. You could see it as ADD or you could liken it a butterfly that flits from one flower to another in conversation and contemplation. It is such a focused process, these smaller detailed paintings, that there have to be breaks built-in, in order for me to stand back for better perspective and best outcome. There is a rhythm to it. During that time of breaking for perspective, I love the work so much, I want to do more. So, another painting begins and then that one calls for some break and perspective, so I go back to the original one, then the paint has to dry, so I begin a new one, and so on. Right now, there is painting on 3 of the 4, and drawing on all of them. I have usually keep my process to myself, however, I realize there is something to seeing someone’s process and then seeing the resolution of the finished product that can be eye opening. I know that most times my outcome looks nothing like it did in process. It is like knowing a kid when they are little, not seeing them for years, and then seeing them again when they are teenagers or young adults. One way or another, it can be quite a surprising encounter.
A church once asked me to do a few murals for their Sunday school rooms. The way I create a mural is freestyle. Although my outcome is clean and relatively detailed, my process on a wall is quite messy and chaotic. I did a rough sketch on the wall of my plan. Only I would be able to make sense of it. The pastor who had hired me was gone and the long time members inspected the room after I had done my preliminary sketches. The response was extremely negative. They all but booted me out, likening my beginning on the wall to vandalism, despite my attempts to explain. I was stunned. One, I had never had my process questioned before. Two, I had never imagined how my process may look to others who have not an artistic bone in their body.
I left because they wanted me to, feeling misunderstood, angry and frustrated. When the pastor returned he visited me at home, apologizing and pleading that I come back and finish. I agreed, as he promised there would be no more interference. I finished the mural in the room that started all the drama. It was a very large and whimsical take on Noah’s Ark. The same people who had admonished me and my beginning work on the mural came in once it was finished and told people next to them that I was brilliant and that the painting was amazing.
That was quite the moment, overhearing their response. I realized, as I heard them praising my work, that the process of creation can seem lawless, wild, ugly, threatening. There is a certain amount of trust and faith involved in the artistic process. There is a lot of guts (aka: courage, bravery, backbone, pluck, nerve, boldness, grit) involved. Guts to go along with the chaos forming into something, to play with the perceived “mistakes” and flow with what wants to emerge as much as what your vision is. Eventually it becomes like a beloved child. It will be born and be what it is and there will be the admiring phase before it is let go into the world.
With the creative process you have to be ok with things possibly looking weird or “ugly” or “wrong” for a while as they progress into what they are to be. Sometimes the art itself is supposed to be ugly or wrong or weird and the process is the beautiful part. Sometimes it isn’t. The process, at any one moment, can be a whole spectrum of feelings and perceptions or nothing much at all. It is intriguing. I am so thankful I had that experience with the mural in the Sunday school room. It opened my eyes to what a brave thing it is to create something. And, how it can be perceived by others.
Here are some images I am working on now. Don’t judge! Ha ha. Seriously, only one is finished. The other four are in process. They are imperfect. Yeah? Oh, aren’t we all? Perfectly imperfect. Perfectly what and who we are. I can’t explain to you what they will be when they are finished. I have an idea, but it isn’t manifest yet. Soon, though! You get a sneak peek. Enjoy!