Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Contradictions of Creation

In my last post I discussed how we artist “waste” time. In that post, I offered metaphors and symbols for a process that is more emotional than analytical, but there is room for analyzing the process and a place for explaining its mechanics.

On the whole, I do not believe that most of us are aware of how the creative process plays out. Some of us have been privileged enough to know those inspired moments, and they are so pristine and complete unto themselves that it almost feels violent to dissect such a sacred event. And yet, I think that it is because we do not understand the process that we are reluctant to submit to its needs. Maybe if we were better acquainted with the contradictions of creation we would be less inclined to discard the tools we need to achieve our desire.

I think that many of have this notion that great artists and writers simply sit down one day and begin to create. They may have had some training but once inspired they simply do so fully and completely with no flaws or defect. I will grant you that I have had those moments when it seems like my fingers race along the keyboard with no conscious thought or design, seeming to chase an idea of their own accord. There have been times when the paint seemed to dance upon the canvas to the proper place and adopt the proper shade with no assistance from me. Always these are my favorite pieces of work, pieces that I feel no arrogance or vulnerability in showing, because they seem to have to very little to do with me.

I wish that such times were always the case, but in truth they are rare. And yet, even in those times of almost spontaneous generation, I know the truth of the moment. The work before me, taking shape as if it had a life of its own, seeming to assert that my hands are but the hands of a barely needed midwife, is not something that was born on this day.

Throughout my life I have been an observer, picking apart every idea put before me. I can never remember a time when I could simply watch a movie or read a book. Constantly, I am grappling with the work demanding that it yield the idea that it cloaks, searching for its most elemental meaning. I blame this on my father who taught me that anyone who took the time to write a book, play, or movie, anyone who bothered to paint a picture or sculpt a form, had a fundamental belief that they believed so profoundly they were compelled to share it with the world.

I took him at his word, and I began to see the truth in what he had told me. To this day, I have yet to see any creative work that did not embody some ideology or dogma that had shaped the individual who created it. Some are easier to spot than others, but they are there.

Like grapes, I gather all of these bits of inspired thought and emotion. I pool them together in my mind, allowing them to sink deep within me, until I can distil the truth from what I have seen or heard. It may set untouched for years fermenting as a good wine, waiting until the proper day to be tasted. Some ideas may be taken out, reevaluated and judged as I mature only to be recasked and shelved yet again. At times I have been guilty of revealing an idea too soon when the flavor, while promising, has yet to gain the depth necessary for true greatness.

But then there are those ideas whose time has come, the image in my head is complete or the words have formed deep within my psyche and now it must be shared with my friends. If I have been sensitive to the nuances of its maturation I will produce a seductively simple yet bold creation whose complexities must be experienced to be known.

We work when we collect the bounty of the creation around us. We toil as crush the ideas beneath the weight of our scrutiny. We labor as allow them to foment within us, giving them room and space to find a new life under our care. With diligent patience we tend to the knowledge we have taken and wait for the pristine moment of clarity to bring it forth. These are the times when inspiration seems effortless. These are the moments when our art is at its finest, finding its form beneath our fingers, only after days, weeks, or even years of tireless exertion to insure that it is revealed in all the grandeur we can bestow upon it.

As artist we live lives of contradiction that perhaps on a good day can be seen as balance. We learn so that we may destroy and prefect, forget and rediscover. No step may be skipped or forgotten. Each one must be made with boldness and caution, or not taken at all. We create alone in the dark but creation without light or unshared is incomplete and not a creation at all. Perhaps the greatest contradiction is the illusion of spontaneity and the dedicated discipline that cannot supplant the instinctive response to inspiration.

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