Generally we think things have a beginning, middle and an end. Movies are like this, stories, instructions, cookbooks, the lives of our pets, and I guess our lives too. But lately I have been realizing that art making doesn’t always follow this pattern. Ideas, inspiration, and bursts of creativity manifest things that don’t necessarily make sense at first and often don’t come in any particular order.
At the last workshop I gave, I worked with an artist who decided to make a series of paintings that collectively, when they were all done, would tell a story. He started the week with a series of blank cigar box size wooden panels. He didn’t have a clue as to what the story would be but just set about painting. The idea would simply emerge by the making of the art. The first paintings he finished told the middle of the story and the last paintings he finished told the beginning. None of it really made sense till most of the paintings came closer to completion.
Creativity often comes to us in this piecemeal fashion. I have seen writers speak about getting an inspiration to write 10 pages of a story, but have no idea whether the portion is from the beginning, middle or end, only that it is just a part of an important story not yet formed.
It is odd that things we create come to us in parts and pieces and seemingly in no particular order. This is how it is for me when I make art. For years I tried to determine a predictable way of working and in some ways I have achieved this, but in the end, I had to just leave a big space in my process for things to happen and only when they were good and ready. I sometimes have to wait a long time, but when it comes – and it always does – it is usually better or more worthwhile than I could have imagined.
When we look back upon our lives we tend to summarize in anecdotal fashion the sequence of events that led to something that occurred. It just all makes sense looking back. It seems to fit, or maybe we fit it into a narrative that we can understand, a story that fits the movie of our life.
In actual fact, I think life unfolds more like the creative process. Things fall into place in no particular order, you meet people and at the time don’t understand the significance, events happen that seem random at first but later are construed as pivotal and essential to your journey.
Everything seems to just be happening all at once in a gigantic swirl of synchronic chance and wonder. Out of this we pull pieces or maybe they somehow drop into our lives. Much of this is what Art is made from – the bits and pieces of a perfect story still unfolding that curiously is not readily understandable looking forward and only becomes so when looking back.
Are we actually seeing more accurately in hindsight? What is your experience?
In anticipation, Nicholas
the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.