Tuesday, June 24, 2014

This fragile earth

I rarely set out to paint a specific thing; it's more a matter of turning the brushes and colors loose and watching where it takes me -- which is almost always a surprise, though not always a pleasant one.

What I hadn't understood until this morning, when I began reading David Bayles and Ted Orland's excellent little book, Art & Fear, is why this process is sometimes so frightening.

As a child I loved the stories of Scheherazade, and loved listening to Rimsky-Korsakov's symphonic poem by the same name.  What I hadn't realized until this morning is how powerful that metaphor is: that as long as Scheherazade continues to weave her magical stories, she will remain alive.  But if that well of fable runs dry, she will die. Which explains why, when my well of art runs dry -- as it inevitably must at times, for any artist -- it can awaken so much fear.  Something in me begins to wonder: if I am not creating, do I in fact have any right to exist?

My rational mind tells me otherwise, of course.  But fear is not always easily swayed by our rational minds.  And so I find it vastly reassuring to be reminded  by the authors of Art & Fear that "the seed for your next artwork lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece.  Such imperfections are your guides -- valuable, reliable, objective, non-judgmental guides -- to matters you need to reconsider or to develop further.  It is precisely this interaction between the real and the ideal  that locks your art into the real world and gives meaning to both."

After several weeks of truly non-productive work, this one painted itself yesterday.  I'm not thrilled with it, but it's certainly superior to what's been happening lately.  And it triggers a lovely memory from our years worshiping at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church when our daughters were little -- a quote from Eucharistic Prayer C:

"At your command all things came to be:
the vast expanse of interstellar space,
galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home."

-- The Book of Common Prayer

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