Friday, October 27, 2017

Responding to the longings of the heart

No problem can be solved 
from the same level of consciousness that created it. 
Albert Einstein

Knowing that I'm coming up on a period of time in which I'll be too busy to paint, I've spent the past week working hard to spend time in my studio, playing with paints and canvas.  I'd been away from it for a while, so I was working up to it gradually, walking through some simple exercises, trying to get out of my head and back into the groove, hoping to replicate -- or at least emulate -- some of my recent successes.

But nothing was working. Everything seemed forced, labored, and ultimately unappealing. The colors were wrong, the shapes were wrong -- nothing was going right, so I was feeling pretty discouraged. 

So, when yet another avalanche of catalogs appeared in our mailbox, I found myself thumbing through them, looking for inspiration, and I found myself drawn to an odd little glass platter. So drawn that I decided to try using its design as inspiration for a painting. What you see here is the result.

I know -- completely different from anything I've done before, right? But OH so much fun to create -- plus I got to invent a new tool, and try out another new tool, and explore some new techniques... it was altogether a very satisfying experience.

Will I try something like this again? You bet! Will it be as successful, without a specific instance to guide my design choices? Who knows; only time will tell. My painting has been through several phases since I began (almost 5 years ago now; how time flies!) and some of them have only lasted for a couple of iterations. But my theory is that each phase and style will somehow feed the overall process. 

Perhaps someday they'll all come together someday into something totally original -- and perhaps not. The truth is, it really doesn't matter. I started this path because it looked like fun, because I was really drawn to color. It still is, and I still am, and -- when it really comes down to it -- that's ultimately what matters. 

As the only child of a narcissistic mother, I'm an inveterate people-pleaser, no matter how hard I've fought to be independent from that trait over the years. Painting has become my opportunity to wrestle that into submission, and it's been an amazing gift. Whenever I've slipped into trying to replicate something I know people like, it's been an abysmal failure. It's only when I paint what feels good to me that I succeed. (Note that I'm at least self-aware enough to define success as "I really like this one" instead of "That sold! Yay!")

So the other quote that occurs to me this morning, as I sigh in happy contemplation of this painting, is one often attributed to Einstein, though its actual origin is apparently unknown. That's the one that goes "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." I'm not exactly sure how it applies here, since I was doing what I THOUGHT was the same thing, but NOT getting the same results. But perhaps the quote really resonates at a deeper level than that. The "same thing" I was doing was the people-pleasing, and the different result I was hoping for was satisfaction, a feeling of joy and accomplishment. 

Which, I think, is the lesson here. However much we crave the approval of others, true joy ultimately comes -- at least for me -- from exploring a creative response to the longings of the heart. 


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