Getting high, creatively speaking

Salt, detail, Suzanne Edminster, original acrylic on canvas, 48" x 60"
Detail from “Salt”

I’m reading a book about getting high without drugs or alcohol.  Ironic, because I live in the heartland of  hedonistic, exquisite,  gourmet highs, sipped, smoked, or tasted: Sonoma County. In the midst of an opiate epidemic– understandable within our current mutated, obscene American political climate– I think we have lost our ways of enjoying the old ways of getting high, all on our own, in our own brains and bodies.

The Book of Highs, from my library, with four charming blue eggs, from my Coturnix quail.

The Book of Highs: 255 Ways to Alter Your Consciousness Without Drugs, by Edward Rosenfeld, is an likeable little compendium and pretty fun to read.  Written as a list, and illustrated with pop psychedelic-toned graphics, I immediately turned to the segment “Creativity: Reach into yourself, find and make something new.”  The quotes are all from this book.

“Creativity is something new, something fresh, something that arises out of the absence of preconceived ideas.  Intuition— ideas that spring from the untapped, unpredictable parts of the self– results in creativity.”

I found this striking.  In trying to teach students to paint intuitively this summer, I found that the concept is very hard to explain.  It doesn’t mean that there is no selected form, no restrictions.  It also doesn’t mean that you can’t alter it, edit it, find it wanting, or judge it.  If it exists in the physical universe,  there is always something that restrains and limits the painting:  the canvas and brushes, perhaps a chosen color palette or emotional feeling.

I think you have to paint first to have something emerge.  You have to make a random act on the canvas of some kind, because intuition wants a little springboard.  One mark… one spatter… one line…

Saltworktudio abstract class
My demo painting with initial intuitive marks

 

It’s this act of intuition that gets you high.  It is exhilarating to watch forms appear from nowhere.

“To observe the unexpected, the unknown, and then use what one finds there in a new, unique way: that is creativity.”

One thing to note is that you have to use it, not just observe it.  It isn’t a movie, and it’s not an opium dream.  If Coleridge hadn’t written down the lines of Kubla Khan before the “man from Porlock” had knocked at his door, we would not have an amazingly strange and evocative poem, but just another lost drug hallucination.  We tend to focus on the lost world, the longer poem or epic that vanished when Coleridge was interrupted.  Why not celebrate what he did manage to capture?

 

I was talking to a novelist who recently visited my studio about characters in his novels who seem to live their own lives,  independent of his best writerly plans for them.  He said that a master writer once told him something to the effect of “give the construction of your novel to your characters.  They’ll do it for you.”  I try to give the construction of the painting to the intuitive impulses that manifest:  shapes, lines, colors, sometimes spirits or ideas.

Salt, detail, Suzanne Edminster, acrylic on canvas
Salt, another detail.

This intuitive painting process makes me high.  It’s a problem.  I can’t drive when I’m painting; ask my husband.  It also makes me useless for a while for everyday life and chores.  It takes a lot of energy as well, and there can be a big low after the high of creation.

Salt, far left, Suzanne Edminster, acrylic on canvas, 4 feet by 6 feet,
Salt, the final painting, to the far right.

But I’m now an addict.  I couldn’t live without the creative high.

Creativity is the ability to bring something into existence from nothing. That is, from chaos comes a meaningful, organized whole.”

Creation is our agency to make change, and it gives us back unimaginable pleasure in return, if the risk is taken.

Leaning Into Twenty Fifteen

lanterns by lisa
I am leaning into the curve of 2015. In November I dressed up my studio to honor lights in the darkness by decorating paper lanterns for Winterblast, solstice, and Christmas. I respond strongly to the annual winter darkness, and I’ve heard many other artists say this too. It’s a time of a lot of inspiration seeds or acorns stored to use later in the year. (Don’t hide them so well you can’t find them, though.) I chose two themes, Cave and Matisse. One is glowing in the dark recesses of the past, and one is jumping with color into the future. There’s a link to my instructions for making them at the end.

I did a lot of family things this year. It’s easy to overvalue the things that “show” and are visible. Visual artists do this all the time. Home, family, the elders, and ancestors are the deep roots that feed us, invisibly. I cooked a goose and that was very complicated indeed, but was delicious. It was called “roast beef” in the past because the sliced goose is brown and really does taste like beef. And why not? Geese are land grazers, the cows of the bird world. I did this as an edible metaphor to kick off my work on my new series for 2015, The Goose Game. The Christmas goose is eaten, though wishbone, stock and fat are left– the old ways. Come on over and I’ll roast potatoes in goose fat for you– I got that hint from a 1940s James Beard cookbook and they are amazing.

My Goose is Cooked and a Cat Likes It Just Fine
My Goose is Cooked and a Cat Likes It Just Fine

I’ll be starting a Goose Game monotype series soon, using Akua soy inks and etching press. You can come along for the ride: I’ll be posting process photos and blogs. January is coming to an end and a new year is unfurling like a fern frond. Lean into that spiral. Here are Saltworkstudio’s lantern instructions. Enjoy.

On the March

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Turkeys strutting it along the boulevard in front of my urban studio! I’m a lark, an early riser.  I swear that you see the most interesting sights in any city in the morning.  This fellow was preening, opening his tail, and doing a mating dance for a stopped car  as I went early to the studio to prep for my art class.

In Bodrum, Turkey, I saw sheep being driven into the surf at the beach at dawn to wash them off, baaa-ing in the foam.  In Naples, Italy at dawn, the gentle sound of sweeping of the stoops and streets in front of the stores fills the air. This meditative cleanup of ancient byways readies space and soul  for a new day of commerce.  Later in the day this vanishes, filled with shouts, songs, scooters, and swearing. Continue reading → On the March

2013: New Saltworkstudio, New Classes starting January 27, and a New Start

Hubbub club in studio

A big tuba shout out to you, friends, readers, and painters, for 2013!  The Hubbub Club drove out all the creative heebie-jeebies during my new studio warming in the Uribe Gallery in the SOFA  arts district in Santa Rosa during Winterblast 2012.  It reminded me of the ruckus of a shivaree, and felt like an early New Year’s Eve party.  Thanks to all my friends who came bearing gifts, good wishes, and their presence to the new incarnation of Saltworkstudio.

How to begin?  I’ve been creating in fits and starts.  I like this time of year for brainstorming and planting seeds. In 2013 I’m thinking of the Caerus Artist Residency,  my studio classes, gallery shows, and more large mythological paintings.  What’s on your docket?

In 2013, there are a lot of open studio doors, more than usual.  I’m looking forward to showing regularly during Third Thursdays and the SOFA Strolls starting Thursday,  January 17, 6-8 PM.  These are fun, informal drop-in open studios, where you can wander around SOFA, catch up with friends, get a snack.

Sofa Stroll Poster

Come on over to my studio and visit.  I have a biiiiiig SOFA sofa to lounge on.

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On January 27 my Sunday Studio painting classes begin.  You can take all 3 monthly Sunday Studios for $150 if you register in advance.  I’m also doing a Spontaneous Construction  whole-weekend intensive class in April, for the springtime.  In the new neighborhood it will be easy to get a lunch out or stroll in the park between paintings. There’s room in the classes right now- send in the registration form or contact me to sign up.

On a personal note, it’s fun but challenging to be open so much.  It requires an open heart and the ability to go with the flow.  My introverted self squirms a bit. I just want to hide in the woods with my deer antlers.

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Antlers, because they are created and shed annually, are a symbol of renewal. I wish the best to you in your renewal  for the New Year.