A friend, who is also a writer, asked me to describe my visual art ‘process’ .
Unfortunately, it feels as unknown to me as what happens in writing. Frankly, my process with writing is to, ‘just keep going.”
And yet, the truth is, I just now found myself staring into space between typing the paragraph above and these words that are now re-engaged in writing this post. During that ‘blank’ time, I’m sure I appeared rather vacant. But processes (see question above) were at work ‘behind-the-scenes’.
Isn’t it amazing that we have a curtain between our selves? The ‘I’ of our mind is only occasionally revealed, as if there are heavy velvet drapes that are rarely pulled open to allow us a glimpse of the hidden workings. These concealed operations seem to operate on a much higher plane than the mundanities of our everyday realm of me-ness.
The idea of the God behind the curtain plays out in everything from The Wizard of Oz, A Wrinkle in Time, to the Old Testament fear and awe of the curtain around the Ark of the Covenant. Intuitively (which is once again more of that behind-the-drapery stuff) we know there’s more to us than the regular operation of a singular self.
There is a larger mystery we are part of and I believe it is art that tries to pull those infinite concepts down into the weakness of words. With other artistic means, we desperately try to make images that bypass words or to create music that can speak directly to the heart.
This, all of this art-making, is simply the process of trying to have conversations of the soul. And art, in all its forms, is the universal language we use.
There are shared realizations of beauty through form or musical notes that transcends our Babel-induced confusions of language. Even when communicating in a common language, we are forced by the limitation of these scratches of black and white and mostly only manage to belittle the bigger concept we’re trying to communicate.
How does one truly impart how we’re feeling? How do you convey fear, love, joy or grief?
I think there are five words that combine to make the biggest lie of humanity. That sentence begins with, ‘I know how you feel…’
Sorry. No you don’t. Not ever. Not once.
Yet we spend a lifetime trying to communicate these emotions and other barely attainable concepts, and although we might get close to another’s experience, we never directly know what it is truly like to be in the world as someone else.
This, of course, is doing nothing to answer the question of the visual art process. Though I suppose this is my process to answer that process question.
The short answer is, I really don’t know what happens. But saying I don’t know is the easy way out of every question. Digging deeper, I realize that part of me does know. Even so, it seems that every blank canvas mocks me with my ignorance on the topic.
However, if I wanted to help someone to create a mixed-media piece similar to the ones I make, I would make some of the following suggestions:
First, gather images and pieces of found papers and anything that speaks to you. Don’t think, just pull out things that you’re drawn to. Don’t listen to the voice in your head that says the one image has nothing to do with the other, just trust your gut (also known as God/Mind/Consciousness/I)
Next, I would suggest you assemble them in a pleasing arrangement. Ensure there’s space in the composition for thoughts and reactions other than your own.
Set it aside. Layer paints and coloured papers and patterns and images and spread on lots of matte medium to hold it all together. Let it dry. Look at it in despair. Gouge at it. Spray it with rubbing alcohol, rub off some of the paint. Look at what’s revealed. Sand it. Walk away. Come back. Be shocked at the mess. Despair further. Fear not. Keep going.
Repeat over and over.
Add on those images that you assembled so long ago. Rip almost all of them off because they’re now yesterday’s news. Add something that feels more relevant to where this piece seems to be heading, seemingly, on its own accord.
Keep adding. Keep subtracting.
Do this for days or weeks or months. Near the end, you might want to add layers of encaustic wax, only to discover once it dries that you have made a key image obscure. Burn it off. Try again.
Carry on until it finally feels resolved. Only you know when this moment occurs.
How do you know? I have no idea.
PS. Please feel free to share this post in any way that feels right. And if you’d like to see my art in person and happen to be in Vancouver, you can view them at: Harrison Galleries.