The Voice of Creativity does not come from the outside world.
Much is being said today about the origins of creativity. There is no shortage of ways to get “in touch” with your personal creativity, make your creativity thrive, bring out your creativity, etc., etc., and on it goes. Until it is recognized that the Source of all creativity is not outside of ourselves but within, we are probably not going to bring it out or get in touch or whatever. It’s a difficult concept to grasp. It has taken me a long time to gain this understanding. Sometimes I forget it. When I do forget, that is when I have to take a step back out of the rat race, turn down all the noise and other constant static that fills up all our lives. With so much outside static battering our senses, the Voice we need to hear cannot get through.
Many people when asked can quickly conjure up the image of a “happy place” that symbolizes peace and serenity. Mine has always been Reelfoot Lake in West Tennessee. The reflections of sunlight on still water, turtles sunning themselves on a log, herons and egrets quietly watching for their evening meal to swim by are remembrances I can quickly go to to gain peace in the midst of the constant stimuli of daily life. The memories instantly cause me to take a deep breath and lean back savoring those peaceful moments. That is when I can get in touch with the Source of creativity. That’s when I can hear the still quiet voice inside. That is when I recognize that the Voice is inside. Not outside.
When I pay attention to that voice from within, I recognize that it is the voice of the Creator, the Source of all creativity. The images in my memories remind me that it is the Great Creator who created, Reelfoot Lake, the lake that gives me so much peace. When I stop to listen, I know that it is that same Creator that creates all works of art. When I listen, I can hear the whispers of how and what to create. I don’t always listen because I get caught up in the noise of daily life. The art reveals when that is happening. I get frustrated. I keep trying but not getting anywhere. I look at the paintings and I want to cry because I can’t figure out what’s wrong. Sometimes the reminder comes from someone out there reminding me to look within. Sometimes I realize it myself. It’s when the reminder says, “Stop, Listen.” Then I can hear the Voice within say, “try some purple and see what happens.” The whispered Voice of True Creativity has broken through the static and that is a beautiful thing. Now I can breath again.
One of the most rewarding things about teaching art workshops is the wonder of how unique artistic talent is to each individual. I don’t teach workshops where everybody expects to paint the same thing and have them all come out looking like a row of cookie cutter canvases. The freedom for each artist to express what is inside themselves makes for constant surprises. It is truly rewarding to watch personal expression reveal itself through art. It is like a window into the soul what might otherwise stay hidden from the outside world. The cookie cutter can’t unmask the heart. The heart of all art is in the freedom of allowing each individual to bring out their own personal inner light.
Changeable artistic expression is a great way to experiment with what is inside working its way out. One day the feeling may be one of quiet, of solitude and the art that is made will reflect that. A maple leaf painted with slow, painstaking detail comes from the still quiet heart. Another day when the fall wind is crisp but the sun is breaking through the clouds bringing a light heartedness depicted with a few quick swishes of bright color on the page. Instantly, joy pops out for the world to see. (Let’s Make Art can show you how to do these!) There are as many ways to depict maple leaves as there are artists ready to depict. And as many maple leaves as there are ways to capture their essence through art.
One artist chooses the softness and gentle color changes of a sweet gum leaf with its starfish-like structure. She expresses silence and an inner choice of order and attention to structure. God’s amazing creation in fine detail. While another artist decides to go for bold bright color in a “larger than life” oak leaf hydrangea. Two different artists, two different leaves, two different approaches. We would never see this beautiful expression of uniqueness if we were all painting the same exact thing, exactly alike.
Last Saturday at Watkins College of Art at Belmont University, in Nashville, Tennessee, our workshop focused on painting fall leaves and flowers. We decided to go foraging around the campus to see what sparked our imaginations. Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying, “You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.” Giving artists the freedom to let the sparks be lit is a wondrous thing. You never know what might be expressed. Every little bit of expressed light means that much less darkness. While I am there to give direction and impart knowledge of skills to use, my biggest job is to stand back out of the way when the light starts shining! And that is a thing of beauty!
Botanical Style painting is what I return to over and over when I’m in need of soothing and stress relief. Even painting broccoli can be soothing.
Me? I started with broccoli. Yep! That’s the first Botanical Style watercolor I did in the first week of Botanical painting at The Corcoran College of Art of George Washington University. I was really getting into those little florets, painting every little circle when the teacher stopped by my desk and asked if I wasn’t getting tired of the repetition. I wasn’t until she burst my little bubble. It was very soothing progressing slowly through each meticulous green sprig on each bigger sprig. I made a discovery that day with my friend, the stalk of broccoli. This botanical style painting thing was very soothing. I couldn’t wait to get to the next painting. At the time I was in need of some serious soothing and this type of painting was doing it for me. I did progress beyond the broccoli fairly quickly and moved on to tulip bulbs, then tulips and beyond. I shoved the broccoli painting into a file in the filing cabinet and forgot about it until this week.
I the found the broccoli painting while cleaning out old files. The memories came flooding back. That particular class was held at The Corcoran’s Georgetown campus in a beautiful old restored school house building similar to the elementary school I went to in Dyersburg, TN. The building had big old pane glass windows that went to the top of the high ceilinged classroom flooding the room with light. The downtown Washington campus was in the basement of the museum with only fluorescent lighting and a few stingy windows at sidewalk level so we could see feet going by outside. I loved the Georgetown campus even though it meant longer travel time and a bus ride on top of the usual train ride to get to campus. The botanical painting class got me started in what has become a teaching passion. I love to see other people discover how soothing this style of painting is. My final painting in that class was of a tulip through the stages of growth from bulb to flower. That painting hangs over my fireplace to this day.
Most of my oil paintings are completely different from the botanical style paintings. I love those too. The oil paintings provoke more emotion and energetic feelings. The botanical style paintings are calming and comforting, invoking memories of quiet garden walks and the smell of flowers. That was the last broccoli I painted. Even though it was soothing, it did not remind me of the smell of flowers! But those little florets gave me time to stop, take a breath and do something slow and methodical. Botanical Style painting is something I return to over and over when I’m in need of stress relief. It is the perfect antidote to the crazy world out there. Now I’m more likely to paint an iris than broccoli. But Hey! Gotta start somewhere! And we can all use a little stress relief.