The experience of each painting is very like a journey, of a kind measurable neither in distance nor in time. And no matter the artist’s initial plans, expectations or intention, there is neither a charted course available nor any means of ascertaining how the experience will take you wherever-it-is you might find yourself at painting’s end. Not necessarily at all a comfortable or safe process, but beyond doubt one of real value. Maps are traded for leaps of faith, and smaller conceptions happily die, clearing (at least to some extent) the existential clutter, allowing new room to breathe, and the birth of visions larger and more fresh.
So I remind myself: the only way I can lose, is by not painting. I appreciate the philosophical conception that no painting is a failure, yet in taking stock, must confess that part of what drives me so recklessly forward into always-uncharted waters is that voice inside me that whispers, so insistently and with such insidious intent, “Aww, bullshit. Such bullshit.”
Yet even in the time spent before the canvas (or plywood, or what-have-you), success and failure are neither relevant terms, nor particularly important. They are both external and highly abstract, and generally bespeak classification and distance, neither of which have the first thing to do with the vision (and re-vision), or creation (or re-creation) at the heart of the artistic process. In fact, I can think of few experiences more immediate, personal, and from the source than undertaking to splash on the paint in the service of some unknowable greater vision, exactly as if I were a free man! And in the aftermath of that ungovernable process, I am somehow left with “the gold” of seeing for the first time, as new beauty, that which has been right in front of me all along. Resplendent, and awaiting.
And I share the paintings because I believe they might be, in form both pure and tangible, the summation of all of those grand, multi-layered, and utterly mysterious experiences. Paintings that are worth a damn remain to some extent verb rather than noun, always. As do we. And over the years, I have observed that something in them touches people in ways and in places that words, or really anything else, cannot.
Deep into the journey that was this painting, quite lost in the process and thus utterly at home, I had a simple but powerful experience that I feel to share because its spirit infuses and runs all through the painting. (It is, however, much less “caption” than invitation to greater mystery.) An idea came to me of the kind that I describe to myself as a “completed thought.”
The experiences I call “complete thoughts” arise inside my mind, sort of like the million and one ideas, notions, fantasies, judgments, conceptions of reality, etc. that keep furiously bubbling up in our consciousness, that and keep us so thoroughly occupied going nowhere. And yet they are completely different. They come from elsewhere: either from “the outside and above,” or so deep within that they might as well have come from a different planet. They are quite rare, showing up always “out of the blue,” unheralded and completely unbidden, with an unmistakeable power and resonance despite their spirit of gentle quietude. The majesty of the burning sun requires neither proclamation nor editorial emphasis.
Who knows where they come from? Suddenly, they just are. And without exception each feels quite clearly to be both message and gift. I personally think of them as partaking somehow of the angelic, which I feel less distant, than too close to see.
It said: “After the last nightfall, there will be a most glorious sunrise.”
With the realization, something dawned quietly within me, and I observed a definite shift in my perception. Had I experienced the answer to a prayer within, too deep for voice, or perhaps received the answer to someone else’s? I paused just for a moment, taking a deep breath, stilling for the moment my madly dancing paintbrush, and scanned slowly my surroundings. Not one single thing had changed from the moments before, and yet the view was so different.
So I focused once again upon the painting becoming, nodded just slightly, and proceeded to dip the brush in my hand into a pool of deepest blue upon the palette, and get back to it. Do not ask me to explain, message or painting. I cannot. Both are now for you.
Your friendship, loyalty, and kind support mean the world to me. More than you might ever realize. May you feel in the painting, my gratitude.