For as long as I can remember, creating art of any kind has been been more about the process than the product. Even as a child, I didn’t draw to replicate what I was seeing, but to explore things emotionally. I was acutely aware of how what I saw affected me, and how what I was feeling affected the way I saw. For example, a donut would look very different to me depending on how hungry I was. When not hungry, I’d be more relaxed and inclined to notice and wonder about all the various ingredients, colours, shapes, textures, smells and tastes. I might even notice how the light reflects off the individual specs of sugar; the contoured edges of the glossy frosting; the spongy, rounded surface of the golden pastry…
When starving, I’d simply see a doughnut.
When I produce a visual representation of my internal chatter, I can see things more clearly. My muddled thoughts start sorting themselves into orderly queues instead of simultaneously clamouring for attention.
To put it another way: imagine hundreds of oddly shaped, different coloured Lego bricks scattered across the floor around you. Sharp little boobytraps everywhere you look! Each individual piece unidentifiable as anything other than part of the one big, insurmountable MESS. You can’t step in any direction without hurting your feet.
It is easy to become so focused on getting rid of or around “The Mess” that you fail to see The Bigger Picture. You might even find yourself paralysed (Procrastinators Unite!) stuck to the spot, awaiting rescue.
But what if you were to stop for a minute, crouch down, give each and every little brick your full attention; start sorting through them, finding connections and piecing them together…? You might see how each seemingly insignificant piece, while not of much interest or use on its own, transforms into something entirely different when it’s linked to others. Each little piece plays a vital role in constructing The Whole. By the end of the process, you’ll still have the same number of oddly shaped, different coloured bricks as you had before, but now there is cohesion and clarity, and more space in which to manoeuvre (For the techies: think defragmenting the hard drive on your computer)
To all those people thinking “But I don’t have time to sit around all day playing with my problems! Hand me a broom!”, think of all the time that you’ve already wasted trying to avoid doing emotional housekeeping.
So that’s how I’d describe the art-making process; forcing myself, despite the discomfort, to slow down and confront the chaos, start picking through the minefield in my head, treading carefully to avoid detonation! Examining and fitting together seemingly random thoughts and feelings until I find a common thread or an image starts to form. Because everything is related. No thought, however trivial, meaningless. Everything matters. The answers to most of my questions are hidden somewhere amid the jumble, so I just keep sifting and sorting my way through it, without any real sense of direction, until I have what I call an “AHA! moment”.
And then, there’s ….
Have you ever tried catching a feather or leaf that’s fluttering about on the breeze? The more you wave your arms or move your hand, the further away it will get. That’s what it feels like for me when inspiration is just out of reach. The AHA! moment comes when I have managed to grasp an idea. Then, the the hard part is over.
When in that creative zone, known as “the flow”, my mind becomes very still. I’m no longer chasing or running or flailing about desperately trying to make sense of things. I am completely tranquil, opening myself up, letting those fluttering objects drift down and settle upon me. I loose all sense of time and space, and switch into cruise control. Emerging from this flow state feels like waking from a dream, only I’ve brought something tangible back with me. A souvenir from my subconscious.
Externalising my thoughts and emotions in this way helps me gain better understanding of them and how they affect me, but it also makes my internal world accessible to others. Exposure to scrutiny and criticism absolutely TERRIFIES me, and makes me extremely vulnerable. So why do I do it??
Because my deep seated longing to make authentic connections only very slightly outweighs my paralysing fear of rejection.
It’s something I find difficult to write about without feeling a tad wanky, but there you have it.