I used to just dive into a painting. I’m talking about bigger paintings. I’d have a few sketches and ideas but I’d just start laying on the paint and hope for the best. I’d always reconsider things too late in the game and think that I should have had a more solid plan. As time passed, I started making more and more complex drawings before hand and preceding the painting with loads of conceptual work. Then I gave more and more thought to how the colors would interact and what the best way to approach it would be – do I put a background on first or start with pure white canvas and just lay the colors down or do I do a monotone painting on the white canvas and then proceed to glazing?
There’s so many different techniques and approaches to creating a painting but, ultimately, what is important is the final outcome and the feeling you want to evoke. The texture and grain of the canvas are as important as the colors. The background is going to set the whole mood. And if you decide to go with gradual glazings then you have a whole other set of variables to consider.
But before any of that – there is simply the creative process itself. All the technique in the world isn’t going to make a GREAT painting. It will make a very good and technically proficient painting but GREAT paintings are born out of something more. There are museums full of very good paintings. But GREAT paintings… they are born from inspiration and dedication and openness to the process. The trick to making a great painting is using the tools of awareness to follow the subtler aspects of our perception and our movements and momentum as artists towards their sublimely inspiring peaks.
So head to your sketchbook and be furious about it. Be passionate. And be patient.
When you have reached that place – when you have that drawing – whether sketched with intentional intensity or simply as an offhand remark that turns out to carry the weight of the ages – when you have it and are happy with it – then turn to the canvas and consider… what is the best process to turn this drawing into a painting? What does it need? What does it want?
Look at other paintings by other artists. Don’t be cloistered about your approach. Look at ALL artists. Consider ALL approaches. EVERYTHING is valid but don’t get lost in possibilities. Eventually – you need to get started.
So do it. Make it. Make beautiful art.
This is something I was thinking about while painting tonight. Often I leave things in my paintings rather ambiguous or suggestive. There are shapes are suggestive of things – animals or plants or clouds or structures… And they are all inspired by countless things I see through the course of my days. O, nature and it’s multitudes of fractal qualities – the curve of the leaf of the succulent in my garden or the window of a cathedral I might happen upon (for the cathedral, like the anthill, is an echo of nature). All of these things become part of the visual language and an artist can draw upon these shapes – even just the step of an edge or the clip of a curve – and use them to inform the work.
Now, the more you know – the more shapes and curves and lines and movements that you store in that visual memory – the more you can take your sense of ‘I don’t know what this is going to be’ and simply shape it and allow it to take form and be informed by your visual memory and the feelings evoked by the different shapes you run across. Granted, it takes some practice to allow for the space to allow that through but with effort and practice (a sketchbook helps) you might find that this comes more easily than you realized.
I think we get so caught up in things ‘being things’ that we forget to allow them to simply be what they are. Early on we get taught that if we’re going to draw a cow, it should look like a cow and so on for everything else. But it doesn’t have to be that way. All of life – it’s a huge sea of energy, moving and coalescing and taking form and we perceive it and name things and assign them a thousand responsibilities – to make us happy or sad or turned on or repulsed. Likewise, we look at our paintings and say ‘It must be SOMETHING!’ But there is a grace in following a train of thought to it’s natural finish without forcing upon it a responsibility to be a certain thing. In that, there is generosity, acceptance, and, ultimately, I think, joy.
Granted, if the thing is supposed to be a horse and the horse is simply not coming out right but it really should (because of the vision) be a horse, then perhaps you should spend some time sketching and drawing horses. However, the ambiguity which I speak of is really more along the lines of the places where there isn’t a horse and there isn’t a landscape and there’s simply paint we’re simply working with it…
At that point – it’s even more effort sometimes to cut out what isn’t working and to work what is. We get so attached to our lines sometimes! That’s fine. But still… ALLOW…. Breathe space into your work… don’t force anything… be patient…
BUT more importantly – if you’re not sure what it is, don’t just let the mud take over – don’t just be content with a muddy composition – MAKE THE CHOICE. In choosing it, sculpting it, shaping it, in all of it’s ambiguous beauty, you will quite possibly find sublime beauty and echoes of your life in ways you hadn’t imagined possible.
I assembled the stretcher bars to the desired size (18 x 14) and cut an appropriately sized rectangle of canvas. With pliers and staple gun I stretched it around the bars and then proceeded to gesso it. Once it appeared to be dry, I brushed on a background wash of yellow orange azo, burnt sienna, and a dash of dioxanine purple. But there was a several square inch spot in the middle of the bottom right corner that wasn’t completely dry and so the wash picked up the gesso. This wasn’t terrible in and of itself but it left a slight ridge between the original primed canvas and the freshly gessoed areas. I let it all dry and then went back and added more gesso to that area – creating a rather white sort of starburst on the yellow sienna background. After the gesso was dry I went back and washed over it with the original wash colors. Unfortunately this left sort of a lighter area under the final wash.
So turned the canvas upside down and suddenly it had the appearance of the sun setting behind a cloud bank. Magic. Perfect. And in just the right place….
Sometimes though, it’s best to just fix it. If I put my hand in my paint and then proceed to stamp it across the canvas then I wipe that off. That never works.
There aren’t really ‘mistakes’ when painting. Sometimes you might find you did something wrong or the materials start behaving in a way you didn’t plan on but it’s best to just go with it… Afterall, as the hand of nature – as life expressing itself – it’s best to just roll with things – like a river, like the wind, like life – moving towards the final result which, as we always hope, will the the vast summation – the grand explanation – the ever effulgent one – light.
Below is my conversation with Ehren Cruz which was at once time on SolPurpose, an art and lifestyle site. The website is no longer active but you can read the interview below.
Can you speak toward the origins of your path? When did you first decide that following the way of the artist and your creativity not only as your passion, but also as a source of your foundation(?), begin? We are in a society that champions linear thought and professions that shy away from creativity and liberated expression. How were you able to develop your early career to follow your dream of becoming an artist while still being able to support your basic needs?
In truth, there was a lot of blind faith as well as a lot of helping hands along the way. I was blessed to meet people who had a lot of things to offer me besides money. I could trade art for places to live, had various jobs like dish washing and work trade situations. It’d always be something that never required too much personal investment of my time so I could continue to paint. The artist type cabn be more prone to washing dishes, as it’s not a means to an end – some kind of career goal – and more of a means to allowing us to sustain ourselves so we can continue doing what we love. Of course, the occasional painting or drawing sale certainly helped out.
In my early twenties, I didn’t really understand how to value my work although there seemed to be an inherent value in my art. When I’d finish a larger painting, I felt I had genuinely produced something worthwhile and had some value. When people offered some small sum, it just didn’t feel right to accept. So I’d hold off on selling it even if it meant not eating or having to struggle. I couldn’t sell those paintings in which I had given so much. Even though the money was certainly more than I’d ever gotten for a painting, at that time, it just didn’t feel right and I had to honor that.
Having a positive feedback loop from the world around me has always been instrumental in helping me too stay focused on my work along the way. Friends and my community supported me, really inspiring me to keep doing what I do with joy. Illuminated responses and rather profound experiences along the way solidified the notion that painting is my path. No other ‘work’ path has ever come close to bringing about these revelations. Ultimately, we have to go with what feels best, what feels authentic in our hearts in whatever we do – or we will always struggle to find happiness.
I mean, there were plenty of times when I didn’t feel supported at all – where I didn’t feel like I was getting back what I put into it. There is always that raw feeling tucked deep in the back of your mind asking… Does this mean anything? Is anything happening here? And your heart just tells you to keep doing and trusting because it’s awesome and amazing. It has been a long and joyful and sometimes difficult path…But one I wouldn’t change a thing…
Younger Visionary artists starting out often struggle with really honoring their process and craft – taking the time to cultivate and refine their technique without feeling the need to put things out there. A lot of artists often fall into a bit of a trap when they are offering their work from an unstable foundation…and they are almost give away their hard earned vision for the soonest bidder – sometimes at the cost of rushing through the process. That sense of really honoring what you have developed takes a certain kind of discipline…
With artists starting off in their career, selling something is a powerful positive feedback loop… “My work is worth money – maybe I can sustain myself with my art!” – It’s a very affirming and exciting situation early on. Well, then what happens is the artist will say – “If I can get this done, I can sell it!” – And sometimes you stop yourself short of putting the amount of energy and time it takes to hone something into a piece that really speaks to your heart. It may take a month, two months, or even four months. You have to ask yourself are you really putting the time to bring your work to that level that you feel is your best offering? Is your painting a genuine reflection of what you are dreaming through your craft? Young artists often feel pressured to rush to a finish. And sometimes they end up short changing themselves and, in effect, others.
So this push to sell appears to happen quite often when artists are in the position where they do not have a strong foundation where they can develop their craft comfortably. Their basic needs appear to continually be nipping at the heels of their creativity. It seems through what you are saying that a lot of younger artists that are rich in passion and skill may perhaps may lacking in patience and the drive to wash those dishes – Or the kind of “Do what you have to do” to establish a sense of balance at the root so they can take flight with their craft. Do you have any thoughts for those artists that are in a space where really want to share and explore the sacred visions that are coming through their hearts, but are really struggling with how to sustain and take care of themselves in the process?
It’s true that taking care of one’s basic needs really helps images take flight…well, it’s true to some extent. But sometimes that picture of the starving artist is completely valid. It’s not that the artist wants to be starving, it’s just that having a little bit of want and need be used as a path to finding something deeper through the art. “I’m going to get out of the canvas that sustenance.” – is what they feel. Knowing that the rent isn’t paid this month, whatever – we turn our lives back to a practice of gratitude and simply doing our work – working with through the want is a powerful thing.
Because it’s the “Want” that creates a sense of lack. When we say – “I need more, or I do not have a sense of gratitude with what I have…” – We create a space that can’t be filled. Many “wealthy” are quick to often say they don’t have enough and they are surrounded by stuff and misery. The lifetime artist finds the sustenance within and through their craft. It’s ok to not have much.
If you are able to find the abundance within yourself…then everything else works itself out. Even in those times when you say, “I can’t really get my work done because I don’t know if the rent is going to be paid or how I’m going to do it.“ It’s not going to help to worry. You might as well just do your work. Embrace your craft. Or you may say – “I can’t get my work done because I have to run out to this festival and I need a ride…” – If it feels forced, perhaps you should just do your work. That sort of being present with your desires and letting go and doing what is truly best is immensely important. Sometimes I go out with some expectation of finding excitement on the “scene” and I end up leaving early and go back to painting, because it’s just not as heart-warming and genuine to my core as my mind convinced me it would be. You have to honor the call.
Another thing I want to bring up that I feel I share with many of my middle aged contemporaries is I believe we were all blessed with having the opportunity to really focus on the early threads of our work, finding our voice within our art in the pre-internet days. We didn’t have anyone to compare ourselves to. There were far fewer festivals and events than there are today. There wasn’t this visionary art movement and community going on. I was just living in Vermont, painting. I didn’t know there was anyone else painting similar things at all! In fact, I often thought these ideas were just way out there and it felt like I was painting on some deserted island! There was no sense of competition, comparison, rush or anything like that. A number of artists I know have had similar experiences, just working in the tranquility of their own space finding a voice and rhythm. It really does a lot to evolve your own craft when you are painting in peace..
I also never went to art school…there was never anyone pushing me in one direction or another – I was following and honoring my own thread. And the internet world has made it so there are 1000 artists to compare yourself tto at the click of a button. It makes you feel rushed to put things on a website, post on facebook, share to receive likes and views… There is an immense psychic chatter taking place judging our work when in the past, we were just creating without a care. Creating for the love of it – that’s where the real juice is…
That’s an interesting point. As much as the internet has helped to create and link together this expansive visionary culture, stitching together these many nodes of inspirational expression that may otherwise not have found each other, there certainly is this immense underlying social pressure as to – “What have you been doing lately? Why have you not been posting? Where are you at with your creativity? Why are you not contributing to the conversation?…”
When someone goes blank and hasn’t given an update to what they have or have not been doing lately…the thought that generally surfaces is they have fallen into a negative space in their process. That immense psychic conversation that is continually brewing can be detracting from finding your own voice, inspiration and spirit. – “Who are we truly doing this for? Where are our intentions coming from? How do we honor our creativity among the social chatter?” – This is definitely something to consider deeply as we continue to progress through our creative process.
Visionary art is such an expansive yet illusive term in and of itself. As Kathryn Ka June mentioned in a recent Evolver Panel discussion – “Visionary art is a term used for art that expands our vision beyond preconceived limitations and tries to push the limits of perceivable reality into an uncharted spiritual potentials…” – So in other words, the style itself is an attempt to help us embody our inherent creative nature…
Your style is influenced by many different techniques – from impressionism, to futurism to surrealism. In it’s quest for inclusion and homogony, visionary art appears to have fused and amalgamated different approaches to art to the point that it really doesn’t have any particular underpinnings of its own… There seems to be a loss of any particular identity in the genre, but also a total liberation as to what you can do. What does visionary art mean to you? What does that term awaken within your when you heart it? Do you feel that in its goal to merge all these worlds of style is it suffering a loss of identity in the process?
In the U.S., it’s a blessing and a curse to have no history. It’s a blessing because there is not much comparison to what’s happened in the past. You can really just run off and do whatever you want….think however you want, believe what you want, and ultimately paint how you want. It’s helpful, because if you look at Europe there is long lineage of historical precedence to create and move in certain directions. It’s a land that’s infused with art that goes back millennia. As much as this art has created magnificent movements, it’s also created critical expectations.
The curse of it though, is that it’s not very clear what the direction it is that we should take. Sometimes it leads to a lot of muddling around and working things out on our own. There is not much training in our dominant culture for looking inside and translating energies into a truth that is uniquely suited for us. We are trained to be multiple choice answering consumer machines. To choose otherwise thereis this “feeling it out” that has to take place. Looking for our teachers, trying to find our path, and navigating social pressures that don’t relate to our ultimate goal and calling.
Now, as far as the term visionary art goes, I’ve shied away from using this term at times. In truth, it feels a bit pompous, a bit pretentious. There have been so many visionaries over time, who have fundamentally looked at things differently and changed the direction of art. Monet painted differently than those before him… Da Vinci and so many other artists redefined art in their own time… Them and so many others – they were all true visionaries. To call their work anything but visionary is an injustice.
In the turn of the 19th century, there was a slow shifting of our abilities to turn our vision from working from outside inspirations to looking at a surface level, to finally looking at how we experience life. Then gradually we began filtering our art and turning inwards, drawing from our own internal motivations and intentions – into the realm of modern and post-modern art, where we were beginning to feel things out with colors and lines. We were trying to see internally -”What is happening in here?”
That went through it’s own muddled stages, ecstatic compositions with colors and lines seemingly discordant and unfocused at their essence. To many of us today, this art seems to lack a spiritual depth, although many of these artists are actually incredibly spiritual. There is a book called “The Spiritual In Abstract Art” – there is a lot of work in there that many would not give a second thought to as being inherently spiritual, which is in fact filled with occult meaning and part of a broader dialog of transcendental experience.
In any case, we finally arrived at a point where we turned our gaze fully inward and directed our imagination, mode, and vision toward what I often consider to be like trying to find the light of our inner sun. Within, we can find our brightest light if we push our work and focus – moving past the muddle and shadows, into the realm of symbols, color, and archetypal inner pathways of realization. Wecan direct our attention towards that really deep inward spiritual component within. That might be what defines visionary art. It’s art that merges a spiritual dynamic with the creative process through using it as a spiritual path.
Your personal art reveals a deep soul journey. Each piece is steeped in rich archetypal, mythological, and spiritual symbolism. As one moves through the progression of your work, it seems like you are continually consecrating, cleansing, and clarifying your inner vision through the journey of your canvas. How has your personal path of self-realization and spirituality shaped and honed the trajectory of your vision?
Consistently refining and clarifying my vision is a very true observation. At times I feel as if I’m actually painting the same painting over and over again. Each painting is just a toenail of what I am actually trying to portray, one small element of a grand discovery. The universe is huge and the canvas is not really that big comparatively – so the story of the artist is a continual dialog. The dream of the artist is to piece together visions in a way that captures the heart of the grander story…the grand journey story of the life experience they are trying to portray… it’s sort of a personal dialogue with Spirit.
People often say, – “You must meditate all the time.” – Well maybe and maybe not. My path – my spiritual journey – is awareness… Become more conscious of my actions and choices: how we treat people within our relationships in love or in friendship matters, the way we we grow as a people and evolve as loving individuals is important for the whole.
Ultimately what we all are seeking is happiness. We want happiness for those around us and for the greater community, because that will in turn nurture our own happiness helping us to form a healthier more harmonious relationship with the greater world around us.
Meditation is not just sitting in bliss or trying to find some kind of light or something.It’s sitting and watching the wheels turn – letting go of expectations – letting the process wear and work itself out free of judgment. You allow for openness but you can’t force it. You might find that peace to settles where anxiety once lived. In those moments of clarity, you feel liberated and, maybe, inspired. That same experience can come from dancing, driving, hiking, spiritual practice – just being present in life.
Often the path of least resistance, the path that feels the most heart-centered brings the most joy. We can feel past the psychological struggle. ,In that, we can use our path to become better people. This is a big reason why I do what I do – because it is the most heart-centered path I can find and, of all the paths I’ve taken, it creates the most joy.
If you are in the woods and take a look around, you’ll see – everything follows this natural progression. The river, the rocks, the trees: it all flows together in a perfect symbiotic relationship. A lot of times we get so caught up in our human perceptions of things that we clash with the world around us. Our culture isn’t exactly a culture that’s built on symbiotic progressions. In painting, I work on staying in a space that supports that natural flow. I try to carry this understanding into the rest of my life – following the natural progression within my speech, actions, choices – ways of relating to the world harmoniously.
When approaching your painting, do you have some form of a foundational concept, energy or message you are trying to convey at the onset? And while moving through your natural progression do your intentions shift forming new concepts and conversations along the way? How does your painting process reflect your inner dialog as you watch the wheels turn?
With any conversation, the process of communication often ends up revealing information you might not have thought of otherwise. Painting is very much the same way. There is always an underlying feeling at the core of love, joy, and light – even in the darker images. There is always a looking for ways to express deep emotional experiences and understanding. But with most pieces it really is as much about that as it is about personal process… Trying to convey varying aspects of story. Some expressions can be half a page of dialog while some can be a whole book, or series…especially the bigger and longer paintings. There’s understandings along the way that offer me new insights into both personal processes and ways to reveal the surfacing image.
The image always ends up different than I imagine – that’s just how it goes. We might have an idea about where we are going on our journey, but we never really know what we are going to see along the way there. I often feel I know where I am going with a painting, what I want to get out of it, what I am hoping for it to look like, but it always turns out differently along the way. There is, however, a definite evolution taking place. If I don’t flow with the transitions, remain open to the conversation, I feel like I am trying to force it into something it does not naturally want to be.
The painting, “The Glass Onion”, is a really good example of a shifting of my understanding occurring while working on a piece. I had been delving into it with the intention it would be about identities – the different aspects of ourselves that push us in one direction or another and the fact that they all come from and return to the same space in the end. I was going through a deep process in my life at that time, looking through my motivations and what might cause me to choose one path over another. We all work with these identities in ourselves, the extreme case perhaps being perhaps multiple personality disorder. But all of us grapple with this search for the voice of truth within ourselves – one part of us wants to go play, one part of us wants to go work, one part of us is hungry and everyone else can go suck it! It’s just how we are! And there is nothing wrong with that at all…it’s just about getting our different parts to find compromises and work in harmony for the greatest good – our own health and happiness as well as that of others.
So I was working on this painting thinking about the implications as I was painting…and I ran across this interview with John Lennon when he was talking about the motivations for his music. The interviewer was asking where that came from and, to paraphrase, John Lennon said, – “Well I look at all my motivations, my frustrations, desires, and dreams…and I try and see my way through it all.” –
And the interviewer said, – “Like Looking through a Glass Onion?” – And John smiled and said – “Yeah it’s much like that…”
Well, we all have these layers that we talk about but the more that I thought about this while I was painting, driving, walking around reflecting on the piece, this notion began to feel inconsistent with other things I understood. There truly is no path to our process, it is just us within this system of creation. We are acting out based on our perceptions…color, light, shapes, objects, tastes, feelings – we relate with the world based on our experiences – on all that interacting and unfolding. And there are other creatures we share this world with who don’t see this world that way at all. There are animals who see completely different color spectrums, have more acute sense of smell, etc and they perceive the world in their own way. You know – we see the world in the way that we’re made to see it.
So we talk about having to work through these layers to get to the true nature of something. According to that idea, there is seemingly this huge separation between us and everything else, but really that’s not how it is at all. That ends up being a subtle Ego game…there is I in here and this I that has to work through these layers of the proverbial onion to get to the true “Me”… There is no separation between the self and true self… The self is everything, and in that dance there is sort of this coming into form and going out of form all the time. We can perceive things as they are before we label them but eventually, we begin to give them properties – they are red, yellow, hard, or soft. But the minute we start saying these things we confine it into certain experiences… and we are not letting things just be as they are… as energy. The minute we confine and define an object – we begin to encapsulate our world.
That table is red. And you have a perception of what a red table means to you. Maybe you don’t like red tables. Maybe you have experiences of trauma with red tables. So when you see red tables it’s a completely different object to you than say a passerby who celebrated their 5th birthday jumping up and down on a red table. And you don’t let an object just be as it is…you create attachment. You create a world around it. When you let it just be – when you can just let the world be as it is, you remove all the ideas of layers. It’s really just dissolving in and out all the time – coming into focus and going out of focus… the more we create stories and forms, the more that the Ego is strengthened in its identity because it is only an idea that exists based on the reflection back from all those stories and ideas. When the perceiver allows themselves and the story to dissolve…and things to be just are as they are… there can be a great freedom and letting go. In those moments – when things come back together again it allows us to create universal stories that speak toward a deeper truth of our experience here.
We are ultimately just energy interacting in time all the time. Life is a grand interaction. So we have to find ways to agree on things and communicate with each other harmoniously. When we dissolve our expectations, we are able to create new stories. “Maybe I shouldn’t be angry about that thing or have anxiety… Maybe I shouldn’t be attached to this Object or that person” …the more we can let go and just be…the happier our lives are. Then we can finally cut to the chase and be a healthier more peaceful people.
So, really, there is no onion at all.. There are no layers, no anything – it’s just life, forming and unforming.
Every moment is that dissolved completelt and, yet, completely formed moment…there is no “When I get through this moment, it’s going to be a better One…And there will be another layer and I’ll get through that and they’ll be another layer and I’ll get through that…” Ultimately, it’s really just being present and never taking for granted the blessing of the perpetual now. It’s really quite beautiful.
It appears you are saying the undercurrent of sacred art creates an emotional sensation that can assist one in returning to a place of presence. To really experience the gift of the opportunity we have to make choices, reflect on our dreams, and forge deeper connections with each other, this world, and the greater universe. One thing that I was thinking of when you were explaining your experience with the “Glass Onion,” is how many of us as we are moving through a process of transitioning from a society based upon laws, perceptions, principles, guidelines, and rules to a more of a choice based reality. That which we are willing to embrace, that which moves us in an emotional, mental, and spiritual way becomes a unique experience of a reality for us. An acceptance of our greater truth can happen to everyone in a way that is still harmonious for the whole.
As we are moving toward this more conscious and compassionate lifestyle, that is a little more patient and aware of what we are connected to and what we can do together, Visionary art, sacred art, and art in general in many ways is leading the charge. Guiding us to a space where we are embracing the beauty of transforming and changing the way things used to be that no longer resonate with our core into new dynamic potentials. Art is showing us new liberated opportunities of expression and experience. What are your thoughts on the role of visionary art in assisting in the greater conversation of our transforming world? How is visionary art pioneering new insight into where we can go if we begin being present and connected…and start dreaming together?
I think the role of the artist, in general, is to be the eyes of the culture. Kandinsky wrote a book, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” and he talks about the artist being at the peak of this pyramid. Not the peak in a hierarchical sense, just the ability to see further. I think about this in two senses. If you think about it as two pyramids – one as inverted and one as pointed upwards – and their peaks are meeting – and they look like sort of an hour glass shape. The artist is at the peak looking into this formless space, translating what they see beyond the veil, and sharing it with the masses. In a sense, helping to bring the masses to new levels of experience.
The second way to see this notion is say the artist is on the mast of a ship. He can see a little further, he can see where we are going or better yet where it is possible for us to go. The masses truly direct the course for the whole…but the artist has the ability to hopefully add some harmonious intention into the course. They can’t direct us because one person usually can’t sway the will of hundreds, millions, billions of people. However, they give us an idea. It gives us a vision of something that is possible. When we see great art, or hear great music, we see what is possible for our human experience – What is possible for our human heart and mind to create. It helps inspire people in their own lives toward discovering what they can do. Within the pyramid idea, there are many smaller pyramids. A huge pyramid may be like a Buddha or Jesus, who offered a message that is so universal that it inspired an enormous amount of people. Or in the artist realm we can look at, say, Mozart, who has sort of stood the test of time at this point. Mozart brought something incredibly beautiful and sublime to the human consciousness. Then there are much smaller pyramids that effect much smaller groups of people, who have had less of an ability to reach others or their messages are more obscure or work toward a certain type of person or perception…like lets say the Marilyn Mansons of the world.
You speak about the importance of discovering and offering open hearted dreams and potentials, allowing us the freedom to open ourselves up into new space – not having to follow the “old ways” if they no longer speak to our core. A lot of people are finding this in their own lives – Whether its art, music, crafting, or working with the Earth…it’s really about “Following our Bliss” as Joseph Campbell often spoke of. Finding it within ourselves to shape and hone our world through what genuinely makes us feel good…what makes us care about ourselves and each other more deeply. Translating that into the art medium, with the momentum moving forward and society looking toward threshold dates such as 12/21/2012 – How have you found a way to honor and cultivate your process as you’re developing without that sense of urgency that many people are feeling at this time? Many people feel there is a real strong urge to get their stuff out there and make a difference now! But in alignment with what you have been revealing, this mindset can be really detracting from their ability to remain present with what they love to do right now. What’s important for us to keep our focus on during these powerful transformational times?
I hate to say it, but I think patience comes with age. As more time passes, the less I feel the urge to run to keep up with anything and care more about my present moments – life, happiness, health, community. I’ve been to a million parties and events… I love parties and festivals and all that and they are great and beautiful…but the fear of missing out eventually subsides. And the sense of, – “If I keep running I am just going to wear myself out” – really starts to settle in. There was a time in my life perhaps in my mid 20’s, when I had this experience that there was no transcendence. There was never anything to transcend to…everything was just leading to something else and was here. Now…and I couldn’t last in that constant transcending thing. I always wanted the experience something real, a peak, a great and momentous ending – rising celestial mountaintops! But alas that may not be how things are. – “How can everything be just as it is?!…This is just crazy!” – I thought.
So I put down what I was working on, and I had to just sit with that experience for a while. Because I had realized my whole being was wildly running after something that wasn’t real. It was the great ice cream cone in the sky… We are already perfect and complete…we’re only ever just learning to realize and live with this truth more clearly.
To be fair, I, as much as the next person, love to share my work. In truth, I probably don’t do it nearly as much as I should. I could have a bigger fan base and sell more paintings…but this all takes time and energy away from doing my work, having fun and enjoying my life. If my basic needs are met, I feel happy. I feel nourished. I feel blessed to have opportunities to share my work with my community. I’m not rushing as much to do things or to be a part of events or even give too much thought to the supposed big cycles of time and space – because it’s just a lot of energy and more stories that we tell ourselves…its time consuming and ultimately it feels forced. And I feel that as an artist my time is better spent making art then sharing my art the best I can while staying centered.
Years ago when I chose not to go to art school, I had learned that there was a lot of pressure and competition to get your work out there. And I really didn’t have any work! There was a ton of pressure to get a body of work done, get recognized, get published in a fine museum. But I wouldn’t end up with anything great if I worked like that, so I decided to just set out on my own at my own pace. Then five or six years down the road, I began to create some paintings I truly cherished – that really began to convey the story in my heart. Much later down the road I had a body of work that I was very happy with.
This is a system that has worked for me. I mean it could always work better, I could be a little more motivated to do stuff perhaps. Everything that has ever happened in my life just guides me back to painting from my heart. Everything else will fall into place as it should when you engage in your passion.
What I admire about older artists, is that it takes a while to get to that point to have the patience to really engage with your paintings from your center. It’s best to paint without a time frame or expectation. The artist has a different career arch then most professions, who might be making a lot of money by the time they are in their mid 20s or 30s. The artist has to be involved for a long time, so by the time you are in your late 30s or 40s people will finally say “Ok so you have proven yourself!” You get the recognition of having “stuck through it” and are now creating truly magnificent work.
So really, in answer to your question – what’s the important thing to focus on, it’s the refinement of one’s vision and working from the heart. In doing so, the work we do will become more refined and beautiful. If you put the work into your own maturation – the laws of progression will allow the blossoming of your work to be a mirror of that hard earned effort.
This speaks toward a major challenge many of the young visionary artists face today. They want to dive right into the world of really complex visions, sacred geometries, and very complicated techniques. When interviewing Adam Scott Miller this year past, one of the foundational messages he had to share with young artists is that before delving into the nexus of esotericism, “They need to understand how to draw the perfect circle, create depth and shadowing, master singular colors, learn to speak with the emotions of your reds, oranges, and blues…”
As you speak toward the long term career path of refining and honing your skill, where the artist is finally honored with a reputation of integrity and ultimately mastery – What do you feel is important for aspiring young artists to keep in their hearts and minds at a foundational level when they are diving headlong into the realms of wanting to create extraordinary visions?
Understanding color, light, and shadow and how to create those things are extremely important. But I also believe it is perhaps even more important to find your own visual language. Sacred geometries although universally meaningful, have been culturally translated for generations. Make sure you’re not using them as an easy way out. They are fun to play with, beautiful, and perhaps universal in their significance, but they’re not a personal visual language. It’s important to root around inside to find symbols or ways of relating to things – to the greater universal truth that are uniquely yours. It is not saying that you need to do something completely fresh every time, but it is important to at least find your own voice through your own archetypal language. We can create things that are more beautiful, universal, and authentic when it comes from our own hearts then when we borrow from other cultures. Although sacred geometries are universal forms, just ensure that you are not stopping yourself short from discovering what symbols lie within yourself if you traverse into the depths of your own spirit.
I once heard this doctor teaching about early psychedelic experiences he had. He was talking about his own guided studies on entheogens. He explained, “I got to this point where I was in pure bliss and Jesus and Buddha are ahead of me on this stage both waving, welcoming me – they were congratulating me – I’d made it! And I approached them but didn’t feel ‘finished’, and then I moved passed them…and I turned around and there they were these glowing cardboard cutouts!”
That story reminds me of these ways our mind throws old symbols in there and the way we hold onto the ideas of others that stop us short sometimes of discovering our own truths It’s important to allow the stream of consciousness in creativity to continue onward beyond known symbols into the emotional dialog beneath those symbols and then, more deeply into our own personal dialogue with spirit.
A lot of my ideas come from my sketch book. Whether I am sitting down having coffee, waiting for someone, or relaxing outside…I continually sketch the emotions, ideas, and forms of expression that emerge in my internal dialogue. I like finding ways to relate to the world that doesn’t include forms I’ve used before. So it is definitely important to play with color and basic techniques, But find your voice over and above what seems to be the dominant voice of the time! Have the courage to dive deeply and discover and offer your unique essence! Do not concern yourself with what seems to be popular, as popular is not always what is ‘great’ – Greatness comes from being authentic, weathering the storm of perception, and emerging with a beautiful interpretation of your story offered through your art.
The thing is, at 3am you’re up and you’re getting something to eat and maybe a drop to drink and you notice: the plane of the wall meets the plane of the ceiling and the busy-ness of the spice rack to the planar composition of the stove top sort of off sets the shifting perspectives and it’s so sublimely perfect that you really just want to go wake everyone up but you know that you and you alone might be the only one to ever have appreciated this corner of reality. Blue to burgundy to beige to gold and you can’t help but want to run to the type writer – the keyboard – the pen and the pencil – and get it down – that inspiration. Maybe you just study the lines and do your best to remember it.
To the casual observer that sounded like a lot of hokey artspeak. But you and I: we are not casual observers.
That’s the thing though. As you go about your life growing into the mindset, the framework, the vision, of being an artist and really living it, you find that you live in this constant aesthetic appreciation of everything around you and you see it everywhere. You live gradations. You feel lines. You breathe curves. When you see a fine version of some archetypal shape, you can’t help but mention it. When you see a fine composition of not so obvious forms you can’t help but admire it. The lines of the situation are juxtapositioning with the lines of the symmetrical metric and it’s all masterfully done…. it’s lovely and you love it.
That’s what it is to be an artist. You can’t help but every so often want to shout from the roof tops about just how beautiful the hue is right now or the color of the sky or the arch of a tree or the crack in the pavement. It’s a hundred million colors and angles all conjoining at once to create this composition so breath-takingly sublime that you wonder just how no one else stops to notice it.
After a while, you realize that everything is aesthetics. When we are talking about the good of the environment, or the health of another, or whatever the vision of the future is: it is that which looks most beautiful to us and satisfies our aesthetic sense in the way that a mathematician might speak of an equation as ‘elegant’. The best solutions often have a clean and elegant quality to them, no matter how complex. The things we find beautiful in nature have a similar quality, regardless of their complexity. Likewise, in our own lives, we seek out things which are beautiful or satisfy our vision thereof.
Cultures have different value systems around beauty and the styles of one group can completely contradict that of another. It’s as true to nations and societies as it is to cliques in high school. Yet. Yet, I feel that there are certain qualities that become truly and transcendentally beautiful. Things which lead to health. Watching someone move with a graceful awareness. Sweet smiles. Happiness. Peace.
As we tune ourselves to this appreciation we might find that, while the big things seem so obvious, the small things become more and more obvious too.
There: in the way that the angle of the wall meets the corner of the room where the buddha sits as a statue of bronze and is all the more pronounced due to the fact of the crown molding and nobody notices – no one pays it much mind – but you.
There: in the way that, while sitting at a stop light, you notice the dogwood tree blooming and it’s branches frame the hillside behind it like some kind of Japanese Zen painting. The blue of the sky to the pink of the flowers to the crisp lines of the branches make you sigh and your heart feels a sweetness.
There: in the rows of houses. There: in the lines of mountains. There: in the cavalcade of color which is the crashing ocean reflecting the sunset.
Love it. Love it. Love it.
I’ve sat in thousands of locations. I’ve been in cars and clubs and cafes and restaurants and dreams and bedrooms and offices and lobbies and alongside street side vendors. I’ve stood in front of urinals and wandered alleyways and knelt beside mossy mountain brooks and circumambulated stupas all white and gold and marveled at archways built to the glory of the heavens and through them all there have been these moments of appreciation of aesthetic quality, this beauty. In the things which have come about without the hand of man it can feel so natural, so sweet, so grand. In the things that we have created: it is one more marker on the road of humans reaching towards the highest expression of their most highest aim. Ground touching sky. Heaven meeting earth. Self and other recognizing the same and in that – in that space – where beauty is as natural as the breeze – It’s such a lovely thing. A most sacred thing.
We have such a strong desire to greet that which is unknowable and to touch that which is untouchable. In our art we can experience a bit of that. In the art of others, we hope to taste a little of what they have tasted. In the styles and forms that are given to us as popular and cool: we might even see it there as well.
Pay attention to the corners as much as the spotlights. Appreciate the alleyways, marvel at the pattern in the tree bark, marvel at the highway overpass.
Marvel at the beauty of your own dark demons.
Love it all.
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