01 August 2008

Engineering co-creation

It's the day of a Total Solar Eclipse, and I've been painting since about 5 a.m. I woke around 4:04, when the eclipse started (on the East Coast), and I tried to get back to sleep, but it was nothing-doing. So, I got up and went to my studio to see what was becoming of the pieces I've been working on.

I had given some thought to modeling some figures for friends of mine, to capture the spirit of the day, but I got caught up in painting.

I've been wanting to paint for some time -- with brushes, I mean. I do that type of work periodically, when I want to hone my brushwork. But honestly, it's just not me. I don't have that kind of dexterity to manipulate the brush pressure and direction, and my lines end up being more blobby than I want.

A whole lot more blobby.

Not good.

Now I'm presented with several choices that I can see:

Either keep at the brushwork and try like the dickens to sharpen that skill, running the risk of developing a skill that really isn't "me"... and losing valuable time in the meantime, when I could be creating works that are much more in line with what I'm like, and my orientation to the world. I figure I stand a pretty good chance of becoming a middlin' brush gal, if I keep at it.

Or I can cut my losses and limit my brushwork to occasions where I'm not as dependent on precision as my smaller works are... and develop ways to "engineer around" the blobbiness that tends to emerge from my attempts at straight lines. And let the paint do the actual work.

I choose the second option. Already, I'm coming up with ways I can not only have the precision that I want, but also work with the media I have in ways that are totally appropriate to them... and in ways that let them "do the work," using their very qualities to achieve the effects I'm seeking, rather than trying to impose my will on them.

It's an interesting concept I'm working with here -- how do I relate to my media? How do I work with them? How do I honor them as equal partners in the art I create, while still bringing my own vision through?

I think it's a new approach whose time has come -- a new approach for a new time.

The "standard issue" approach to creating art (and being respected as an artist) appears to be all about "mastering your medium/-ia"... putting in long years of work in your preferred media and then showing that you've got total control of it.

It seems (to me) to be the way folks go from art aspirations to art school to art vocation out in the world. And it seems to be what folks look for when they're considering the skills of artists in question.

But my approach is not to "master" the media, but collaborate with it. Learn its ways, its temperament, its moods, its inclinations... and then blend it with my own vision and bring forth something that is not all me, not all the paint/pastels/gouache/watercolor, but rather an amalgam of us all, equal partners in the creative process.

It sounds a little hokey to me, talking about "co-creating" artwork with the media themselves. A sort of "media animist" approach. But I am essentially an animist at heart, and I do believe that all things have spirit within them.

I'd much rather work with the media, as the media, and allow it to "do its thing" in the creative process.

Ultimately, what comes out of it is an exponentially greater expression than I could achieve on my own, by exerting my own "mastery" over the colors and textures I choose to work with.