Object Dar't

September 30, 2011

Does a good artist have to be crazy?

It's with both sadness and relief that I say my latest painting is finished. I've been doing this long enough now that I recognize the pattern; that the creative process is very much like giving birth. First comes the idea or inspiration, then the gestational period which THANKFULLY is not 9 months long but the feeling is very much the same. During the initial design and sketching stage, I experience bouts of excitement, anticipation and soooo much "thinking" about what it will look like when it's done. I even catch myself fretting at times about whether I'll do this right and I most certainly feel swollen and expectant with this "thing" which will come from me.
Gestation: the sketching phase

Once painting begins, it's full blown labor. I don't know why but the process is joyful, consuming, a struggle and sometimes horrifically uncomfortable emotionally. And when this thing is done, I let out a huge sigh of relief because at last, it is behind me.

Which is when the roughest patch hits; postpartum depression! LOL Every single time that I have finished a painting, I have experienced a small postpartum let down. A feeling of "now what?" My mind and soul are exhausted and still with a bout of emptiness - which I don't enjoy! It's as if I emptied my cup and there it sits on the table just waiting to be filled again. In the early days, my solution for this was to go on the hunt. To fill my eyes and mind with as much stimulation as possible so that I connected enough things to form an inspiration. But I look back now and see that my paintings lacked meaning and content because they were forced. In the past few months, I've been working hard to just BE empty for a time. Because truthfully, the whole experience of being an artist and creating is consuming.

I recently saw Lust for Life, the movie of Vincent Van Gogh and I have to tell you that I really became worried. Creating art is an obsession and it leads the mind and heart into uncharted territory where there are no inherent checks and balances. The reality is that I could sit in my studio for 90 days straight without eating or drinking or seeing another human being. And many of the great artists, including Vincent Van Gogh, have brought themselves to the point of madness as a result of that consumption.

There are scads of sites out there dedicated to the Creative Madness complex. It has for centuries been the accepted notion that creativity and madness do in fact go hand-in-hand. "Deviant behavior, whether in the form of eccentricity or worse, is not only associated with persons of genius or high-level creativity, but it is frequently expected of them." (Rothenberg, 1990, p.149) I've worked hard in my life to overcome my A.D.H.D. and other weaknesses. So seeing the movie gave me great pause and served as a reminder that I should be vigilant about remaining healthy.
Thankfully, my life have been built in such a way that there are some checks and balances outside of myself - my children and friends who by default provide the "must do's" that take me away from the studio and force me to live - not just create. But most importantly, from my concern came the strategy of using that empty time to my benefit after a painting was finished. It is a natural void that provides me with down time away from being creative and I now use it to my benefit to emerge from creating. It's a time to come back to being centered and balanced again and it's a MUST DO. But it really poses a question to me: if I ignored those checks and balances, would I become a better artist? And if I make a commitment to staying mentally healthy, does this mean that I am holding back my artistic abilities? I wonder. But I won't wonder too long because truthfully, there's no way I'd sacrifice my life and happiness simply to be a great artist. Great artists seem to have sad, tortured stories and who wants to wind up as a made-for-TV movie? ;)  

September 24, 2011

The Unseen Side of Creativity

There are some days that I wonder how it is that you can be 40-whatever-years-old and still be learning major life lessons. Somewhere in my brain, I imagined that by this age, experience would have taught me well enough that I would have figured life out for the most part. Ironic that it would continually prove me wrong. :)

One of my first "steps" with not much being said.

I've only been painting for a year and a half now. In the very beginning, I painted BADLY. Most of my friends thought I suffered from low self-esteem but in reality, it was simple honesty. I just knew that I was in my infancy and was sure I could do so much better. The same way a toddler instinctively knows that they don't walk well but are compelled to keep doing it until they can run. But to be quite honest, I saw the task of painting well at only its face value: painting well. But there's been SOOOOO much more to it which frankly at my age - shocks me. The process of becoming an artist - someone who receives inspiration and then sets about to express that inspiration - has in fact pervaded almost every area of my life and personality.

More sure-footed with a single feeling expressed

In the beginning, I stupidly thought that I just "liked" drawing or painting the things that sprang from me. I had a few paintings which got the worry out of my brain but after that, it seemed that the inspiration was the liking part and I was simply putting that down on paper through line and color. The end result of creating something happy and loving was just a surprising perk. I have always believed that the happiness in my work was nothing more than a demonstration of my disposition; happy, optimistic and colorful. It has been through my last 3 paintings that I've had this NAGGING suspicion that something else was really going on. This last painting revealed to me that not only has something been going on, but it's profound.

The evolution I've gone through in becoming an artist has honed something. It is undefined, unseen and epicly exciting. I liken it to Sir Isaac Newton and his wacky gravity. The creative process is very much like that invisible force. It can't be described with words or even succinct thoughts - it can only be felt and experienced. And it's only through the experience of having an apple fall on your head that you come to "get it" on a visceral level. Which is great - I'm all for epiphanies. we've all had them before and will probably have them again. But once you have that epiphany, something strange happens without you even realizing it. On an instinctual or primordal level, you begin to play and practice with this invisible thing. You don't have a clue what you are doing. You don't know what it is, how it works and some days even though you question your own sanity about it - you definitely know you are doing something. And strangest of all, is that whatever you are doing - it completely circumvents your rational thinking mind. You are engaging in an exchange with something you can't see, touch or even name. I know it's wacko and no I didn't not just smoke crack. It's the truth. It is as real as gravity and engaging with it changes your life because suddenly the world is no longer flat. You know that if you sail your ship to the edge of the globe - you will not fall off as you once thought but instead will wind up somewhere new/exciting/fantastic. Suddenly all things are possible, which is a crazy, scary, exciting place to be!
There is whole "voice" here that is dialoguing!

And so, I'd like to encourage you to create. I can think of no greater acheivement in life than to open yourself up to the infinite possibilities that come from the creative process. Creativity is accessible to everyone and applicable to every human on the planet in the same way gravity applies to us all. It's there and it's working in your life in small ways but the true benefit comes from opening your life to it in big ways. It's simply a matter of being willing and committed to show up to "create" and allowing yourself to make complete garbage. Just remember the toddler learning to walk. :)

September 10, 2011

September 2nd "Name that Work" Contest Results!

©Denyse Dar, Serenity in Blue, 2011. 11x14 watercolor on 140lb Arches

WE HAVE A WINNER for the latest "NAME THAT WORK" contest. Thank you to everyone who participated!!! Your enthusiasm to participate in the creative process, makes what I do truly rewarding. I really get a kick out of the fact that my work makes others think and feel something good. There is no better purpose in life than "adding to others" so thank you all for adding back to me. I mean that sincerely. 

This particular painting sprang from my longing during a very busy summer to have a moment of calm. It is also representative of a goal I have; I intend to one day have a home on Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard, where I can wake up early some dewy summer morning and steal a forbidden cup of coffee on the porch looking out at the ocean while my babies slumber. 

I used what is known as a analogous color palette restricting my choices to greens and blues. This task was a challenge for me because my natural instinct is to run like a maniac with a full rainbow of colors. In addition, I used a very tense composition (laid out in an X formation) which was in direct conflict with the subject which was intended to be peaceful. To compound my frustration, I was judicious in using my "doodle" elements (the curly cues etc) and instead used my paint to create form on the beach areas. That was really hard for me because my approach to my paintings is always what I call "a coloring book approach." I sketch, outline and then use the outline to lock in my forms. This painting felt very much like walking a tightrope and you can't imagine my relief when it was completed!

I just want to say that the submissions on this painting were incredible. I would have been pleased with every single one! I was sad that only one could be chosen. Here are the submissions I received through the fan page:

Janet Sarro-Gonzalez Drift Away
Lisa Mendez Boutotte Afternoon Shower
Robert Wohlrab Living on the Edge
Michael Boulay Peaceful Retreat..
Jennifer Baum "Solace"
Lori Guenoun Blue Highlands
Allison Asaro Serenity in Blue
JoAnne Pryce Bedard The Changing Tide

And the winner (drawn randomly) is Allison Asaro with "Serenity in Blue" which turns out to be a perfect fit for the painting! Congratulations Allison, you have won a print of any one of my paintings. You can view the entire catalog of my work here (http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/objectdar.html) to make your selection. Please contact me with your choice and I'll deliver it hand signed with my thanks!

whimsical paintings