My dear father-in-law had a saying about occasions when it seemed that a person was taking too much time to get somewhere or had deliberately made the trip longer than necessary or just seemed to be lost on the way or was telling some convoluted and long-winded story.
“That fellow went all the way around Robin Hood’s barn to get there.”
The phrase came to me again today as I thought about my progress as an artist. Or anybody’s progress as an artist – or a writer, dancer, actor, musician, anything that requires some creativity and imagination to find the place where one feels – I don’t know – a spiritual connection with one’s work.
That sounds pretty high-and-mighty, I know, and I’m not given to using such words easily, but let’s face it – if the spirit ain’t in it, it ain’t nuthin’. (I didn’t steal that from anybody. I just made it up.)
You can use your own definition of “spirit.” There are plenty to choose from or you, too, can make up one you like. But I think anybody who’s serious about the work will get what I’m trying to say.
When it comes to creativity, spirit can be elusive. I knew I was headed this direction when I realized after several moves that the two things I always packed first were my books and my art supplies. Art supplies I hadn’t used in years but could not bear to leave behind. Then I made a move and left most of my books behind, but not the art supplies. That was the clincher for me. I hadn’t found the spirit yet, but I knew there was joy in just being with those brushes and paints and pieces for collage. And when it came to living in my little studio apartment where space was beyond limited, I chose art instead of books/writing. Truth to tell, I chose art over just about everything but my bed!
Spirit watches and waits for our commitment.
I’ve been painting a lot of things over the past year and a half that I found satisfying and that other people liked, too. I’ve sold some pieces, but I knew I was not there yet; I was out of the fledgling nest, but still flying like Bob Dylan’s rolling stone, “no direction known.”
A couple of weeks ago I ran onto a Dutch abstract painter on the web, a painter and a jazz saxophonist as well. I watched and listened and especially paid attention to Jan van Oort’s lesson about painting tools for abstract art. Something resonated. Then I set my brushes aside and went to the art supply store and the hardware store where I picked up all kinds of things. For me, the tools were the key.
Not only do I love hardware stores, but I also now love the freedom to do what spirit has been calling me to do all along: Be brave, be bold, have fun, take risks, speak your own piece. Listen to the music. Color is an animal that not only wags its own tail, but also sings its own song.
I may have been around Robin Hood’s barn, but I made it home.
Here are the first results. All 20 x 24.