Michael Divine

How to be a Painter IV

or… “What works and what doesn’t”

In art as in life, there is no right and wrong, good and bad, etc. There is only what works and what doesn’t. Just as in life, there is that which is incongruous to our spirits and that which is beneficial to a compositionally balanced life. Daily yoga works quite well. Daily drunkenness doesn’t work very well at all. So we choose what works within the rhythm of life to the degree that it creates something balanced and harmonically correct. When we choose to engage Life in that act of co-creation we are asking it to allow us to to participate in that compositional choice.

Nature is a perpetual ebb and flow of balance. Even the most seemingly incongruous actions are still within it’s own compositional boundaries, standing out more as contrast or flourish than incongruity. Consider the platypus or the Galapagos Islands or the insanely structured orchids of the Burmese rainforest or the proportions of the giraffe. Yet, incongruous tho they may seem, all of these are balanced in relation to their landscape (and their planet, and their solar system, and so on) and, at that, to the general laws of our natural world. As such, they are put together and placed quite nicely. Some of natures creations may seem to be on the extreme end of things but nature is a dance of extremes; it pushes the envelope. A sunset can go from intensely sublime to intensely powerful to intensely nothing at all in a matter of moments. The ocean may be a placid pool or a raging torrent of twenty story tidal waves. The only boundaries are the general laws of this physical world. However, we can only perceive that which is encountered by our five senses. Who knows what other levels of color, sensation and form there are beyond the boundaries of those sensations – even beyond the machinery and measuring devices we make which are simply extensions, to however fine a degree, of these senses. Who knows what dimensions, perceptions, spectrums we are missing out on. But who cares what we’re missing – let’s be where we ARE.

So, with nature, if we engage it as co-creator, we can create a more balanced flowing life and, in doing so, can create balanced, more beautiful artwork. Art is both a mirror and extension of that balance. The greatest works of art, no matter how compositionally insane – the madness of Jackson Pollock or the surrealist dreams of Salvador Dali, still possess a sense of balance and, whether beknownst to the artist or not, are an act of being in the process of co-creation with nature. The artist gives his or her mind over to that process and, in doing so, opens up to being a channel for spirit. By being a channel, I do not mean that something else is creating and simply passing through us. We are creating and, in so doing, are opening ourselves to the energy of creation. We are not separate from Spirit or anything else. When we become a channel, in it’ clearest sense, it is much like a prism taking the very white light of the sun and refracting multi-colored rainbows. When we approach our lives with this sense of clarity, the clear light of wisdom passes through us creating a visible harmony. The perspectives are correct. The colors work together. The shading and placement of objects are complimentary, even in their contrasts. We follow the creative process intuitively – the lines, the breaks, the color palate. We are the guides for the light that comes through us and we are asking it to trust us – we know what we are doing, even if, intellectually, we have no words for it.

When there is an ease and flow to our work, our arms and back are relaxed and our bodies move, ever so subtly with the brushstrokes. We shift our weight to allow for the relaxed movement of the brush the way that a plant ever so slowly turns towards the sun, not all at once or just with one leaf but with it’s entire body. Even our breathing must be even and steady for, whether we are painting the nipple of the divine mother or the muddied footprint in the corner of the canvas, it is all the same divine manifestation of Spirit and deserves the same focused attention, the same care of creation.

It is through a lack of awareness of this sort of co-creative process that we have gotten into the mess that we are in today. Art created in harmony with Spirit can, perhaps, have some deeper effect on those who see it as it brings up both a sense of harmony within the viewer and an understanding of where they don’t exist in harmony with the world around them. This isn’t to say that the clear cutting logger is going to suddenly drop his chain saw but that the rippling effect of living by example, of manifesting harmony into the world can, slowly but surely, help to bring it into balance.

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