“The Vital Obstacles in the Creative Process” – These words definitely caught my attention when I recently saw them posted on the FB Page of On Being with Krista Tippett! http://www.onbeing.org/blog/the-vital-obstacles-in-the-creative-process/6311#comment-add-form
It is counter-intuitive to associate obstacles with any kind of positive light, yet it can be. I know that, deep down. And I learned that early on in my art practice. As a matter of fact, reading the following quote by Wendel Berry really brought my creative journey into view and made me pause and reflect about the energizing role obstacles have in my creative journey.
“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.”
I came to creating art from that point very point of not knowing what to do! As a new transplant to Montreal, Canada, I was looking for something to do. That’s when I came across the description of a course about creativity that caught my eye. Little did I know at the time that signing onto this class would lead to a journey of cultivating creativity on many different levels.
I knew very little beyond some high school art class about art, materials. So I was definitely stepping into unknown territory at the time, with little to no expectation but one, to try and see. And try and see I did, over a few months, then year, then years and I have kept going ever since.
Try and see. That’s my motto. And in the process what really I got trained in is the art of founding my way around obstacles and into new territories. I learned that early on. When I started painting, using brushes felt awkward in my hand, so one day I stopped. And I started using socks instead! The socks really did it for me! I had a more immediate contact with my painting surface. As a result, I felt freer with my gestures. I found an ease and it made my creative explorations fun and liberating.
I see my creative explorations as encounters where obstacles turned out to be catalyst for change, and stepping stones for new found partners in materials, techniques. Early on, I found that using canvas was getting in my way, so I switched to paper. That was a very happy change for me. I found a whole new range of gestures and mark making. I could draw on it, paint on it, collage, stitch, print. It is a material that really took me, and still does take me, on many creative explorations. And I love that.
In the process, I find what works, often because of what doesn’t. When I signed up for dry point printmaking, I discovered that doing quick gestural work is hard. Making a mark with the etching needle on copper plate requires a stronger touch and one that involves friction. Both went against the grain for me and that made me realize how much I cherish fluidity in material and process! It challenged me to find my way. And I did, with chine collé. The first time I dutifully went by the rules of keeping the thin rice paper within the confine of my printing plate. After that I took a certain pleasure of picking paper larger than my printing plate. I also started using different types of paper, including paper I had painted on before.
The best discovery in playing outside the box was the star-filled-evening-sky effect I got from using cyanotype paper for chine collé!
I have to say at the time I felt a great sense of having overcame a challenge. And with it came a sense of having stayed true to myself. That was a great learning moment and one that became a compass for me. I learned to flow around the obstacle, I learned to find my way. I consider that a very valuable skill -in art and life.