Feeling a mood, a beat of a heart, a tap of a foot. Feeling a touching the sky, a holding the keys or a glinting of an eye. Feelings: they come and they go. Arising… falling… A painting captures a moment, never stationary, never static. Example: Each painting of the Evolution triptych is one part of a path but neither is ending or beginning or middle. The glouriousness of Illumination (III) is only labeled as III because that is the natural progression, but the display of the images is what break them out of that progression.
As an artist, when I take on this feat of creating “art”, whatever that may be, I am, one way or another, illustrating a mood, a feeling, a moment in time that will pass and, quite often while in the midst of creation, has passed already. I may feel it in moments. Perhaps if the piece took only a few moments: was a great splash of paint on the canvas, was merely a conflagration of color or shape that took an hour, that mood can be held but what I awas working towards isn’t “holding” a mood at all. Moods are fickle and, like the wind or the river, are never the same mood twice. So, to catch a wind and hold it, shape it, pause with it, understand it, listen to it, is a feat of patience and care. It is a mastery of diligence.
The art of being an artist is finding those moments, grasping them for long enough to follow them, explore them. In finding those moments: even if the painting you paint is “an expression of the dialectical balance of the war machine to the height of the nearest tree” there is a mood that underlies that (a mood that you can only decide for yourself.) Is it anger? A desire for Justice? Peace? Where does that mood come from? It may not even have a word yet but, still, it is something tangible, something you can taste it on the tip of your tongue like that last golden ray of afternoon sun or the perfect soft snowflake on a crisp winter day. Or like that heart wrenching pain of realization of a sense of abandonment as a child, the suddenness and silence that follows a gunshot. It is through this “mood exploration” that the meat of the painting can be coaxed forth and brought to it’s most realized conclusion.
I may want to paint a painting based on a vision but regardless of what that vision symbolizes, the intricate meanings within the objects presented, or what it explores theoretically, the important aspect is the underlying mood. Sometimes, I look back through my sketchbooks and I see a drawing that captures a mood, a sense of place in a certain moment of time. I could have been sitting in the woods, in a cafe, angry, excited, happy, anticipatory… I could have been anything. The funny thing is how, even now, the mood can change. So i think to msyelf: what is the mood I am after in what i want to create?
Think of “mood” as the under painting of the under painting. Under the Tower of Babel is a wash of dirty gold/green/purple/brown done with a sponge and wiped and textured and pushed. It is a dirty mood setting the tone for a dirty painting. That is how the Tower of Babel makes me feel. That is the ultimate mood that I am trying to work with and explore: this thing, this Tower, this money balancing game, is a dirty thing and how can we clean it up? To look at the painting for too long conjures up a sense of revulsion in me.
Likewise, under Passage to the Infinite, there is a soft wash of a light terra cotta color that allowed for the blues to warm up. The colors were to be soft, exploratory, transparent. The mood I was going for was one of lightness and softness within the darkness, a dreamy kind of place.
Patience and awareness are required for maintaining the ability to pay attention to the mood and intention, to be able to be present with it for a long time; to be able to hold the vision and see it through to it’s conclusion. There was a quote in some book of essays I read once by David Mamet about artists bending over their tattered canvases like washer woman tending to their chores. Sometimes, after all the initial inspiration and vision, the great outpourings, there is only this space left in us and a confusion of color, unfinished forms, discordnant lines on the canvas. Here is where the work begins… We may feel inclined to leave it. To move on to something else. Why did we even begin in the first place? What will be the fully realized vision? It is, it feels, for me, imperative to my being that the vision be seen through to it’s totality, to it’s most stunning conclusion.
The place to stop with a painting is the place beyond where you say “yes. that’s it. I see it.” At that point others will say: “I see…” But we are not painting to please others, they are merely a litmus test for our vision, have we brought it forth fully and completely?
So we paint til we say “Yes!” And others, they say: Yeah. I get it.
All well and good but still…. When others are willing to grit their teeth just as we did when we got it.. then, then we’re getting somewhere.
So when others can step before the painting we said “YES!!” to, and say “Yes!” then, then we’ve gotten somewhere. If we really want to go all the way, then maybe making the public say “YES!!” would be great but you never know: one persons “YES!!” is another persons “wtf?” (lowercase letters intended…) Everyone from Michelangelo to Alex Grey has had this happen. So we keep at our work. Patient. Diligent. Aware. Engaged.
Someone may never understand your happiness, your sadness, your raging joy. The best you can do is to express it fully in whatever is your chosen form of expression to the point of trancedence of that feeling, breaking beyond the feeler and the feeling into the underlying root causes of those feelings. Then, push artistically further until “further” only complicates things (as in the work you are creating, not the realization) and then, at that point, sep back, call it done and start something new.
While the river may never be the same river twice, once it is unleashed, it flows endlessly.