As an artist, I appreciate what writers and other creative spirits whom I admire have said about their creative process. One particular author, Marilyn Robinson, captures the essence of my creative process. To explain my “process,” I share her words below. Simply change her words, “writing” and “language” to “painting” and “art:”
Writing should always be exploratory. There shouldn’t be the assumption that you know ahead of time what you want to express. When you enter into the dance with language, you’ll begin to find that there’s something before, or behind, or more absolute than the thing you thought you wanted to express. And as you work, other kinds of meaning emerge than what you might have expected. It’s like wrestling with the angel: on the one hand, you feel constraints of what can be said, but on the other hand you feel the infinite potential. There’s nothing more interesting than language and the problem of trying to bend it to your will, which you can never quite do. You can only find what it contains, which is always a surprise.
In sum, as I work, meaning emerges that may follow or depart from my intended direction or approach. The result is unexpected. As Robinson states, it is like wrestling the angel: you are limited in what you can do, yet feel empowered by a beneficent source of power. Try as you might, using your own will and brush on canvas, you find yourself controlled, uplifted, bent, hastened, by the materials, and the tools. There is always a surprise at the end.
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