I believe making art is what you do and who you are, and many of us are born with the muse. Art is an expression that arises out of an urge to put color and lines to a surface, to form a splat of clay into a some-thing, or to scrawl words into sentences. I believe you have to do this for your own self-preservation: explore, play, excavate, build, or just take your psyche’s temperature, if you are inclined.
I had ongoing discussions with Brugh Joy about what drives artists to create art. He thought all artists had to be in angst: depressed, addicts, a bit mad, unlucky in love. I don’t agree, and used to have at my fingertips names that dispelled his theory, including devotional artists. I would never say I won, but then the discussion always had other components.
Sobriety gave me clarity. Lack of drama from tempestuous relationships left more room to create. I will admit I wrote longer in my journal when I was working through my psychological problems; I was who I was talking to about the issues in my psyche! I don’t think I would call that a creative process.
I believe some THING needs to come forth, and sometimes, that need-to-come-forth can be a madness. Richard Bach said once he hated writing, but sometimes a story just grabbed him and would not let go of him until he wrote it down. Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her audiobook The Creative Fire speaks of the very real muse which may inhabit us, if we are lucky. I listened to her in 1993, and apologize for my paraphrasing, as it has become like a voice inside my own head! She suggests that one’s Muse is not symbolic, but real, and you have to honor the Muse knowing that s/he has no other agenda than the creative act! YOU have to find the balance, or lose yourself in sickness or madness or loneliness. I resonate deeply with this experience. My Muse would have me ignore work that will pay for the food on our table, ignore my husband who wants connection (as a greater part of me does also), and paint until I was bleary-eyed. I wake at 3am, often, and am pulled to paint when it is quiet and the world is asleep; I also know that now I haven’t the body to get 2-3 hours sleep anymore, which is exactly the agenda my Muse would push if he were to have his way.
Why do I call my Muse a him? Because I had many dreams when I first stepped into my adult artistic self, and always my Muse’s form in my dreams was a man who could be a native Mexican or Hopi: short and dark. And he has got his own agenda!
When I first painted, I gave no thought to selling my work. I simply enjoyed the wet paint slathered on large canvases, endlessly making rhythmic marks with my Pentalic Woodless Pencil, or spending hours with my hands in water making handmade paper from kozo, gampi, herbs, hay, and ginger. I worked series, and often my series told a story: Family, Sexuality, a dream sequence, the evolution of faith/spirituality. Sometimes I didn’t know the story I was telling until it exhausted itself.
Brugh and I talked about art needing to be made for oneself, with no thought to selling. This was the path of a true artist! At the time I agreed 100%. No one needs to see my journals or many of my paintings for my experience to be complete and fulfilling.
I have never had a gallery, online or otherwise, want to show my work. I’ve sent submissions, entered contests to show, and taken my art to weekend markets. I’ve sold a few images, and make my money elsewhere, but I have had a yearning with certain series to show them all in a room, share them all at once for even one night, invite people and overhear their conversations, and have them grok my story. I want to hear their experience, their story, as it pertains to what is awakened as a result of seeing my story. I want to listen to the dialogue. Then another set of stories may erupt, and i will see the colors of another’s story. It comes full circle, a full-fill-ment of the creative act.
It’s the tree-falling-in-the-forest question. And in mountain/no-mountain response, I think that it is important to get to the point where you are involved enough in your art that it is fulfilling to BE with your process, and then, there is the moment when you yearn to share so that your clan hears the tree falling!
With musicians, the interconnectedness of sharing their art is obvious, as the playing and listening or the playing together is a dance.
I believe that in art lays our personal stories, and these art stories contribute to a greater cosmic story. They need to be shared at some point for the work to go full circle, to inspire. There is that intake of breath when you see an image that moves your soul, then the outtake, “AH!” Once inspired, the wheel turns, and another artist tells their story through their art.
In not a small way, this ties in with the copyleft movement. If I can never see my art in a room full of people (my family portraits are scattered now) then at least I hope to in-spire another artist, to plant a quickness in their heart.
I urge you not only to create AND then find a way to share your work. Don’t let the naysayers talk you out of that gut feeling that you want your story seen.
My older work all says “©D.Katie Powell” and it is just too much work to change a hundred images. However, I am now agreeing to the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International License, which you can learn more about by visiting the site, or, visit my web page for a more user-friendly summary on my terms. My images/blog posts can be reposted; please link back to zenkatwrites.