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No more beating around the bush, hiding in esoteric language, or making obscure references. I am going to talk about creativity! And it is going to be really, really fun. It is time to dive deeper into the sublime nature of artmaking, into how something comes from nothing, and into the magic trick of making beauty, a trick you can't perform as much as accept that it happens.
I want to start slowly, well, what I really want is to set a comfortable pace for a journey that never ends. So there will be pauses in the writing, gaps, starts and stops, digressions, ruminations, sudden closures, and breakthroughs that will keep creativity in proper perspective and always on our minds.
But what does it mean to write toward a pinnacle that can never be reached, never be described; like a heroic journey to the source of creativity? It means every path, every variation, every possibility must be traversed, mapped, explored, laid out, looked at, colored, and transformed.
Writing about creativity means the journey and the goal are the same thing.
Opening my mind, typing, sketching, and resonating with the world around me, I try to translate, like a bump in the road translates to a person in a car, the forces I feel, unnameable forces that want to change matter, that are themselves being pushed, the forces that drive my arm like a piston; I give them permission to speak as if I had a choice in the matter.
The point is to experiment and discover, take pause, be surprised and occasionally delighted, to root out the ruts, to dive in deeply, to be unafraid, to love the process or quit. The point is to practice opening, to remove blocks, to leave a record of change and experimentation, to break open the head, and to find things inside that you never put there but are there nonetheless.
|It is too bad that I don't have the right sound to add to the writing, the sound I hear when I look at this pattern. Insert a sound here in your mind and forget about these words.|
|A tightening feeling; movement caught in pattern.|
|Have you heard about the muse? She's just a myth, okay? The muse doesn't appear in dreams, or suggest colors, or whisper words in your ear to write down frantically, slipping you beginning lines of poems stolen from the gods, brilliant insights, gestalts, revelations, or genius ideas. The muse is not a being that comes to inspire or exhort you to cut something up or paint something big that really has no business being in the world. No such spirit exists independently, appearing on her whims but never when you call. In fact, you never see a muse at all. I think overly active imagination accounts for most muse encounters and the wind probably covers the rest. I don't believe in her no matter how many times she saves my ass with last minute ideas that totally pull work together. I would have thought of those things anyway, in fact, I'm sure I did.|
My stereotypical image of the muse seems to come from the ancient Greeks. They recognized at least nine muses; each with a speciality like poetry, song, dance, and even astronomy. Looking over the pictures of muses in Google Images certainly inspires something in me. It makes me want to go back to when mythology was current, or if time travel is not an option, I wish that I was lucky enough to get a sexy muse to visit my studio here. I imagine I would find her dancing and teasing out my inspiration while dressed in a diaphanous toga. That would be too cool; but I know that kind of inspiration would not lead to much work getting done.
Alas, my case is different. My muse doesn't spring from the Greek worldview but from the world we live in today on twenty first century Earth. She's a multi-tasker, which is no surprise, there are many more subjects to cover and people to inspire. And her image is also much less concrete; so everything I find out about her keeps changing.
I remember one clear vision where my muse appeared as a Higgs Boson, a kind of attractor whose presence causes things to exist; or maybe she was the whole Higgs field whose presence creates matter through subtle influences that break symmetries. For that visionary moment I saw how she structured nature, coalesced forces to hold together a single tiny wisp of air from a butterfly's wings, her body was the substrate for a slight breeze, a breeze that touched my cheek, that pushed me into thought, a daydream, I fell into an attention eddy focused on pencil and paper.
When I draw, she draws near.
|How much of a caterpillar does a butterfly remember?|
More notes on the mythical muse:
I consider the muse as a kind of force, like the force of gravity or weak nuclear forces.
The muse is a make-believe force that tries to push around my daily goings-on. If my emotions are too noisy, she gets blocked.
Some forces that counteract the muse: family responsibilities, ego, desire, social status, hunger, boredom, email, facebook, netflix, etc. Any vision of success scares the muse. She demands all the attention.
Whatever art gets made is marked with the forces that created it. The muse will let other forces carry the load if they are stronger. She only appears when welcome. Her signs are obvious to the careful observer. You can see her in artwork that resonates, pieces that are congruent in form and content, equal in motivation and presentation, or balanced in intention and reception. Those pieces reveal the gentle pressure of the muse.
One of the hardest studio tasks is waiting for non-muse forces to dissipate; making room for her to be present.
|For example, today, after many frustrating, wasted hours of doodling, unguided, and alone in the studio, I gave up trying. Shortly thereafter, a quiet and soft pressure crept over my resigned attitude without any prompting on my part. The muse's vision, as unexpected as it was clear, "Chrysanthemums!"|
|Chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemums.|
Hello. Excuse me. Are you there? Have you got a minute? By the way, I hope you've been enjoying the last couple of days of flower drawings. They have been really fun to make. Anyway. Okay. So. This is the story. The muse is asking me to get you to help her with an experiment; a kind of cosmic roll call. I hope you will help me out. I think you will find that your part is really easy.
Here is all you have to do: At whatever time, no matter how far in the future that you happen to be reading these words, just say out loud,
"I'm here and I'm listening"
That's all you have to do.
This exercise has something to do with tracking collapsing waveforms in the time space continuum. I couldn't follow all the explanation. I got lost in the part about someone's cat. It doesn't matter.
What I do know for sure is that in order for the test to work, the air molecules around your mouth have to vibrate. That is why it is so very important that you speak the words and not just read them silently. You may speak softly if there are other people around but the words must be clearly vocalized.
Okay? So, if you are ready? Please start on 3. Here we go...1...2...3
YOU SAY THIS: "I'm here and I'm listening"
Great! Thank you so much for your help. We'll get back to you with the results as soon as possible.
At one point many years ago I found myself in a totally desperate state, needing more than anything to be in touch with my creative self. I had to meet my muse face to face, to have a conversation about the meaning of the art, to celebrate our collaborations, to know I had been accepted by her as an artist. And so, in that state of mind, I searched the web for answers and discovered a recording of a guided meditation, a very new age product from Sedona, the kind you listen to it in a relaxed place with headphones, spacey music plays while a soft female voice directs your thoughts, and at the peak of it, so the blurb on the website promised, you would meet your muse. I downloaded it. I wanted a quicker path to art, a philosopher's stone that would constantly reveal to me the novel, I wanted to control my own source of creativity, and of course get rich and famous doing it.
So on a quiet afternoon in the studio, leaning back in my comfy office chair, big headphones, I prepared to be taken into the arms of my muse. I drifted, I cleared, and I released. I visualized a stairway leading up and I saw myself climbing (a higher self must be up, right?) and there was the door, at the top of the stairs, right where it was supposed to be. An elegant, rich door, mahogany, gold fittings, it swung open, flooding me with light.
I found I was sitting comfortably outdoors, in warm sunlight, on a park bench. I became aware that sitting next to me was something enormous and very insect-like, eight to ten feet tall, almost as wide as the bench, an iridescent shell, folded wings, and many jointed appendages; also sitting in a relaxed way. Both of us were just barely holding it together, practicing controlled relaxation, keeping down our fears and shocked emotional rationalizations about what exactly was going on and just who this other entity really was. On one hand, we rode a high induced by weirdness and surprise; but panic was very close to the surface. It lasted a moment. There was only time for impressions of one another, intuitive feelings, and some sense of each others presence; then the music, the unnoticed soundtrack to this scene, began to fade, and soon the meditation recording was over.
That encounter confirmed my suspicions, I don't have the sexy kind of muse.
|When I think back about my visit with the insect muse, I always seem to remember more details, long sequences of forgotten dialog exchange, new ideas and facts that are relevant to my life today. How much was compacted into that short visit? Was it a kind of holographic moment that is open to study from other angles? Or perhaps some part of me is inhabiting the dimension beyond the big door, siting on the park bench and still visiting.|
|We sat and talked, the insect muse and I, our fears of each other, kept just below the surface, were finally overcome by mutual curiosity. We visited, we were present with each other, we were open, and it also felt, at the same time, like I was sitting alone on the park bench talking to myself.|
My discussions with the insect muse are truly bizarre. As if this enormous insect-like being is some projection of my subconscious mind, information can only be exchanged when we are in sync. In my clearest visualizations of the situation I see overlap in our fields, two beings speaking simultaneously, and a bose-einstein condensate of consciousness that forms a single presence. I am both the student and the teacher, the artist and the muse, the inquisitive mind and the knowing source.
Sometimes, when I am in conversation or lecturing to a class this phenomena reoccurs. As I speak I hear a disembodied voice. I simultaneously reflect on what I just heard and what I should say next. At these times I feel the strong presence of the insect muse returning to check on me; creating a new variation on deja-vu.
This insect creature, my newly recognized mentor, this so-called muse of mine, this big fat bug and I sit side by side on a park bench and communicate through mental telepathy. His talent for shaping mental activity is so good that he makes up my mind for me.
There must be an organ for telepathy in our brains, he conjectures, since we can read each other's, but this region of the brain has either evolved only primitively in humans or is, at best, atrophied from lack of use. I read his thoughts very clearly because, as he thinks, they are projected precisely at me. My thoughts, I learn, are chaotic and scattered, not sent in any specific direction. No surprise there.
|Trying to put the muse on a pedestal.|