For those who have read my earlier blog posts, you know that I received my BFA and then apprenticed with a practicing artist in his studio. I have been drawing on this experience, long ago, to help explain the path my creativity has taken over the years.
As a young and starry-eyed apprentice, I was in awe of the technical prowess of my mentor. I also was moved by the symbols that he used to paint works that spoke to people. I learned to paint using his symbols, but, I realize now, that those paintings were pale imitations of his work. It may be that,in learning from a teacher, you adopt some of their tools and their symbols as part of the learning process. But, there comes a time when you must find your own symbols and your own technique.
I was once told: "Jo Ann, something must occur that will knock you to your knees and, in picking yourself up and learning to stand on your own, you will acquire your own symbols." At the time I didn't understand these words. Was I supposed to suffer for my art? That was the message I drew from the words. I came to the wrong conclusion. "Suffering" for art is like "suffering" for love. True love and true art aren't a form of suffering. That's a romantic and harmful myth. What is true, however, is that through the obstacles, the heartaches, the moments of crisis, that we all have as humans, we grow and our artistic vocabulary can expand.
As you live a life, there will be events that hurt you, that sadden you, that make you despair. The trick is to rise above those events and then incorporate them into your own consciousness as a means of expression. That is far different than "suffering" for art. It means to pour all the joys, the sorrows, the setbacks, the victories you have lived through and use them to spur your own creativity. You develop your own set of symbols. These symbols are powerful because they come from deep within your soul and your heart.
Some symbols are almost universal. Think of the idea of Jung's collective unconscious and you will realize that there are symbols that are archetypes for civilization. Each person has the power to find their own symbols and to use these symbols to convey emotion through their work.
I don't like to over-intellectualize art. That's the domain of pedants and pseudo-intellectuals. True art is something that flows freely and joyfully. It can be spontaneous. Sometimes you don't realize that you have used your symbols until you finish a piece of work. Then, it all becomes clear to you. But, it's my thought that these symbols that we allow to flow from our mind are powerful and allow an artist to express their own feelings and transform them into feelings that touch others as well.
Sometimes I think the best advice I can give a young person who is entering the world of art..whether it is music, drawing, painting, acting, collage or whatever, is this: Just do it!!! Sit down and do what you love over and over and over again. Do it when you don't feel you have anything to say. Do it when you are depressed. Do it when it seems impossible. Don't wait for the muse to hit you on the head. That will be a long wait. The muse lives within you. Open up your mind to your own stream of consciousness thoughts. Then, you will find your own symbols and you will be your true self as an artist.
I don't mean to sound like a know-it-all. The fact is that I am a person who is still learning, growing, and uncovering new ideas. In many ways I know nothing. I only know what I have learned from my time on earth. The jouney is the process. It's as simple as that. Just do it and listen to the sound that you hear in your mind. Never, ever, stop growing and questioning and seeking.
Ok, it's time for me to stop being so frigging philosophical. I am who I am. And I just get up out of bed each day and do the best I can.