The Ugly Stage

When painting a portrait…you soon arrive at THE UGLY STAGE!  That is when your mettle as an artist is tested.  You don’t see how you can possibly convert this ugly piece into a thing of beauty.  This is the time–you’ve been working on this for awhile already–when you want to walk away and abandon the piece.  It’s hard to imagine something
“pretty” coming out of this.

That said, experience has taught you that this is only a stage.  Stay with it.  Don’t give up too soon.  So you go forward in conversation with the piece to see what’s next. Then, what follows that?  You step back and then forward and bring this being forth to become who she is determined to be.

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Sometimes, often or always, there is a message in a painting.  The artist may have a clue  before she begins painting.  Then again,  it could emerge during her process with a piece.  Blending words with art is often an intriguing way of stating the message.  The word that sits in the lower right corner of the piece is “STORY.”  Like each one of us, the subject of this painting has a story to tell.  While we may not have a sense of her exact story, we get the idea that she has a depth of experience.  Those eyes convey something.  The mouth, neither smiling nor smirking, shows determination.  There is character in her chin…and so on.

If she were the heroine of your short story, who would she be?  That’s the thing about art, each person views a piece and then their imagination begins to conjecture a story.  We do that when we meet someone new also.  “Who are you?”  “Where are you from?”  “What brought you here?”  Then our judgments and old information come in and create a story before we even really know who we’ve actually met.  Interesting that we do this.  Make up stories all of the time.

Conversing with your Creation

Whether it’s painting, poetry, writing, sculpting, woodworking…you name it, what is your relationship with your creation in process?  Is there an ongoing conversation as you work with a piece?

When, for instance, you are crafting your poem, are you aware of a subtle dialogue going on between the parts of yourself that demand expression and the you that witnesses what has been said, written?  With poetry, I think the dialogue comes in when crafting the poem, less than in the initial stages of “getting it down.”

When you are painting, do you impose your design and/or desire on a piece or really step back from the canvas and ask “what’s next?” or “what do you want?”

Yes, creating art is typically a solitary expedition.  However, there is definitely a relationship that is being cultivated.  The language of creativity can be expressed with words–often hunches, instincts, intuition, images, symbols, thrusts or bents that have no logical explanation and aren’t couched in words.

I love it when this conversation induces the creative flow.  Ordinary time is left behind and I enter “the zone.”  And the guidance for what’s next is in place, because basically I have surrendered myself to a process in flow, to the creative conversation.

When you awaken from this trance-like state, you are often surprised to find how long you’ve been so occupied.

What is created while in this zone can be something quite surprising to the artist or writer.

Writing Prompt:
Have you had such an experience?  Write about what it feels like for you to be in conversation with your work of art, poetry, or prose.  Look for metaphors to describe both your creative process while in the zone and the passage of time.

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Lanterns & Fans

A life-long artist and teacher critiqued my
painting (above).  He noted the daring in my abstractions,
designs, color choices and composition.
I remember being deep in creative conversation
with this painting and the art critic recognized
this.