Today's entry comes from my friend Cynda Valle Rogers, a fine painter, in response to her reading of Slow Looking. It's a marvelous description of her painting process, and one that I think many artists share. It echoes my own writing process which, as I often say, honors this familiar adage: How do I know what I think 'till I see what I say. Since Cynda wrote this as a comment to be published on TBD, I'm assuming she won't mind to see it featured on the blog itself. Here she is:
I recently got my copy of “Slow Looking” and was surprised and delighted to hear you describe a process that is very like the way many painters see.
Everyday, when I am done painting I bring the current painting home and spend hours looking at it. My family has often teased me about my “infatuation” with my paintings, not realizing how important it is to spend time looking rather than actively painting, …. Ideally this “slow looking” evolves into a painting that tells me something about myself that I didn’t already know and moves me in directions much more interesting then where I THOUGHT I was going... When this starts to happen I experience the most wonderful sensation of becoming the medium, rather than the author of the work. The painting starts to direct me, rather than the other way around. This is a truly heady sensation, one that, more than any other, feeds my soul and gives me the reason to paint. In order to be willing to spend the time “just looking” I have had to develop faith that the process will work, and that faith gives me the tenacity and patience I need to sit and simply look, no matter how long it takes for the “Muse” to speak.
The process reminds me of those old lava lamps from the 60’s; The subliminal (unconscious) mind bubbles at the base of the lamp. Given time and a quiet mind, (“unhindered,by preconceptions or mind sets”) and influenced only by the colors, shapes, textures, and images in the painting in front of me, a bubble of an idea will detach from the base of the lamp (subliminal mind) and slowly rise through the viscous liquid to pop into the conscious mind (top of the lamp) complete and fully formed and presenting such an obvious and simple direction for the painting to move that I am always surprised that it took so much time looking to discover it. I get that magical sensation that I didn’t think it up myself, merely grabbed it when it popped into my consciousness.
The Quakers too, understand this phenomenon. “The still small voice within” requires the quieting of your conscious mind and sufficient time to focus in and hear the voice. Even so we often try to deny the voice, it is so subtle, and we can easily drown it out… But over time it will bubble up again and again, quietly burst ing into our consciousness until we “see.”
Thanks to Cynda for this wise, insightful piece!