It is primitive. It is a part of the root of all human communication. Symbols.
We as humans communicate through symbols and understanding is created based on the common agreement within a culture to what those symbols mean. But as individuals, we have our own understanding of symbols, shapes that have particular meaning to us. These things are often subconscious. We like something or we don’t. Sometimes we have no idea why.
As creatives, there is great value in bringing those symbols to the surface, to be placed within the technical framework of what we do. It is what makes our work more authentic. Not knowing those symbols and shapes can make our work more ‘random’.
What makes art unique/authentic?
That is a huge question! I have found the answers come in pieces and with practice, but you must have a “why” and it can only be yours. Sounds simple, right?
Someone else’s vision will never be as good as your own vision of your self. Live and die with it ’cause in the end it’s all you have. Lose it and you lose yourself and everything else.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe
I have been listening closely to interviews with artists of all stripes and realizing the clues are not in what they do, but why they do it.
Technical skill is merely a toolkit, like grammar and syntax are tools for the poet. Good writing skills alone do not make an artist, nor does good painting technique – They are necessary but will not reach the destination of great work by themselves.
O’Keeffe said in an interview that nobody could teach her to paint landscapes. She tried to find someone, but they could only show her how they painted landscapes, they couldn’t teach her how to paint her landscapes. Georgia began working on her own terms, not in classes or academies.
“I decided to start anew-to strip away what I had been taught, to accept as true my own thinking. This was one of the best times of my life. There was no one around to look at what I was doing, no one interested, no one to say anything about it one way or another. I was alone and singularly free, working into my own, unknown-no one to satisfy but myself. I began with charcoal and paper and decided not to use any color until it was impossible to do what I wanted to do in black and white. I believe it was June before I needed blue.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe
O’Keeffe talked about how she felt she could express more with shape and colour. Her early abstracts were black paint or charcoal until she felt it was time to add colour. She would work with shapes, shapes she liked, shapes she’d discover, shapes she’d see or would come to her. She practiced until she found them. I am beginning to understand what Georgia O’Keeffe meant by ‘her shapes’. And it is those shapes that communicate a feeling.
So what does this all mean? How do we bridge skill to soul?
Alfredo Arreguín said in a recent interview that we need to quiet our minds. “Pacify the monkeys that are always fooling around with you”. Things that interest you will find you. Technique is only one part – the important part is the feeling or you’re just a designer. The spiritual part is always there. You can’t access it if your brain is too busy.
Art is not a profession it is you” ~ Alfredo Arreguín
I have noticed that I easily think in analogies and metaphors. It’s a way of deconstructing and reconstructing ideas from different points of view – a case in point – an analogy for this would be like picking up an object and turning it around in your hands to understand what it is and how it works. Finding your ‘shapes’ is about thinking metaphorically or symbolically.
- What are our individual symbols?
- Are they cultural, universal or something else?
- How do these shapes ‘feel’?
- How do I paint what the soft velvet nose of a horse makes me feel? Or the smell of my grandmother’s house?
These are the kinds of questions I am asking myself. A fun and valuable project over the coming weeks will be to assemble a collection of symbols, a collection of ‘my shapes’. Learning technique is challenging, but this – this is the thing that brings life. As I said last time, I cannot do what I have always done and move forward, love my work again. Not the subject – love the process.
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. ~ Lao Tzu
Everything I have done has led to this. I won’t be showing everything because it’s sometimes better to have no one to look at it? But here is one. The others are building, layer by layer…
Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking of them as triggers for experiences. ~ Brian Eno
I am progressing through the program I mentioned in my last post. It is keeping me in the studio and it is bringing a new level of understanding to my work. This post is a part of that process. I had never heard of the course until the Spring and I’m surprised I did it because the tuition was kind of a big nut. But Nicholas Wilton has a way about him and a teaching style that reached me on a deep level. The program is called the Creative Visionary Program or CVP. So far, it has been a challenging and enlightening journey! I’m always excited to see where we’ll go next.