Imagining Forth!

As both a poet and an artist, I tend to wander back and forth, crossing the invisible line between the two like a drunk on a bicycle.

I give many of my paintings poetic titles and I write poems about art.  I’m not the only one who does this.  One of my favorite books on the practice of writing is titled The Writer on His Own, and much of what’s here applies just as well to my painting.

Take this one, for instance, one of the many short bits of advice from author David Greenhood:

“Our main effort should be to imagine forth, rather than to be always backtracking.  Ruing. Picking up stuff that fell off because we were overloaded or so badly loaded that we couldn’t carry it.”

I like this thought a great deal – for art, for writing, for life.  “Imagining forth” strikes me as just the thing to keep the energy and excitement of the work, any work, going.  And in my head it goes nicely with the great line from one of the songs in A Chorus Line:  “Keep the best of you, do the rest of you.”

As we work in any creative arena, we learn new things all the time – at least we hope to if we’re creative and not robotic.  Our work builds on these new things, and we either figure how to incorporate the old with the new or we drop the old.  We “imagine forth” instead of backtracking.

It’s pretty simple, really.  We start with our ABCs, but once we can read poetry and novels, we don’t backtrack to saying our ABCs every morning.  Art, writing and life are about building, incorporating, imagining forth.

When I got back to my art a few years ago, I did collages.  I’ve liked collages since I first saw those done by Picasso and Braque, so it seemed a good place to start – tissue paper, recycled images, a little paint.  I gradually moved on to more paint and less paper, finally going full tilt with paint.

This week I decided to “imagine forth” about what would happen if I combined the paint with paper but in a new way, so I gave it a try.  At the top of the page are four images of the result from start to finish.  The piece looks nothing like my old collages or my newer paintings either.   And it sure doesn’t look like Picasso or Braque.  It was an experiment.  And every time I try a new experiment, I am a happy fledgling again!

I really want an “Imagine Forth!” tee-shirt now.




A Small Jump and then a Big Leap


A couple of weeks ago I made a small jump, which I’ll just call a segue, from my Frank Lloyd Wright series.

I used essentially the same format – vertical colors with the circle near the bottom – but this time I had no reference in mind for the colors and I ditched the horizontal panel on which the circle rested in the previous paintings.

As usual, I had a vague image in my head – colors I thought would work – and also as usual, I ended up with something quite different.  I’ve fallen for Golden’s Azurite Hue and have been using it a lot.  This time, it’s definitely the leader of the color pack.

See above. So much for the small jump.

The big leap happened today and is still a work in progress.  I’m still attracted to the vertical and the circle, but I went a few steps farther. I began with the vertical colors, then realized I was working with colors that didn’t feel like me. I had wandered away from the blues and lighter shades and found myself in an uncomfortable place with an 18 x 24 “something” I didn’t quite know what to do with.

I’m beginning to recognize this sense of discomfort.  In other parts of my life, I seek as little discomfort as possible. I want a comfy bed and not a plank on the floor.  I want a tasty meal and not porridge.  I want shelter from the storm and not holes in the roof on a rainy day.

But when it comes to the painting, I’m getting it. In fact, this is how the Frank Lloyd Wright series began.

I’m learning that the discomfort, the unfamiliarity is likely leading me to something worth doing.  So today, I pulled out the pastels and began to draw on the vertical acrylic colors.  Drawing has not been part of this so far. Today it is.  Swooping curves to pull in that circle shape I like so much.  And then I started messing. Messing with glazes and other colors and ideas.  If someone had walked in and asked me what I was doing, I would have had to shrug my shoulders and give them what a friend calls my pirate smile.  He describes it as kind of goofy but also kind of “I don’t know.”

There’s a quote from my favorite book about writing that goes like this:

“If we suppress our wackiness we’ll seal off the source of some of our most truing impulses. Our potential will dwindle. We’ll no longer feel the sweet daze and speed of the push of it…We’ll move only in straight, strait lines, turning only at right angles or in rigidly measured departures from them. No use to tell ourselves then that we are conservative, for we save nothing; or that we believe in classicism, if we don’t enliven its continuation. We’ll be conceitedly atrophic.” –David Greenhood, The Writer on his own

I’ll let you know next time how things turned out.  But I know for sure I like being wacky a lot more than atrophic.