"Be faithful to that which exists within yourself.” - André Gide
Over the past weeks we've been gathering inspirations and ideas, compiling notions and marks, building color, image and story; this week I'd like to discuss moving forward with all this goodness into the work of your hands. One of the questions that often arrises as we begin moving from idea development into the final piece is "how much does this need to look exactly like my idea/inspiration/dream/original concept" as was written and sketched in my book? I find this to be an especially pertinent question as we continue to check in with our intuition, to keep our hands loose and easy, and to keep our hearts full with the work we want to bring forth - as well as a question that we may answer differently at any time in our trajectory of creating! While that answer is as highly individual as we are, there are a few ways that I like to look at things in order to both answer that question and keep a spirit of play and freshness in the work.
A question I'll play with in my own work is does this need/want to be Realistic, Recognizable, Abstract, or some combination of all three? Now this can run similar lines to creating work from life, from photographs or from memory, but I find consciously recognizing these differences to be immensely liberating when I sit down to work.
Working with Realism
When I think on Realism, I imagine an image that looks like the "thing" that is being portrayed - noting that looks like is not the same as photo realism (if your work and your vision require exact photo realism, then it is Important and certain do carry on! However, if your work only requires that a certain thing look like what it is, then I see that as an invitation to some artistic liberty). For me, realism holds many specific details; I may study the shapes, lines, colors and patterns, I may want to render it in such a way that it reads very precisely as the "thing" in question - even if it does not look like a photograph! One of the beautiful things about working with our hands, is that ALL of our work takes on our unique handprint. All those specifics and imagery you create are from your hand, and when we work with realism, one of the most fabulous parts is that there is STILL your individual fingerprint in the lines and marks you create.
Working with Recognizable
I think the difference between Realism and Recognizable can be vast! When I think on Recognizable, I imagine an image that references the thing being portrayed. Rather than being tied to specifics and details, it may be highly inventive, supremely stylized, utterly loose or so simplified that it just hints at the original "thing." When we work with Recognizable, there is a huge amount of liberty to invent as feels good - and to realize that nothing ever needs to look exactly like the real, tangible, physical thing we're referencing. This is your art, your creation, and there is not a soul on the earth who can tell you what it is "supposed" to look like.
Working with Abstraction
I think of Abstraction as the releasing of recognizable imagery. If we think of Realism as engaging the cognitive, literal, conscious thinking part of the brain, then Abstraction engages the pre-verbal, purely sensory part of the brain (and we can think of Recognizable as the wild child who plays with both). For me, Abstraction is a way to connect deeply with intuition. While we may not recognize what is being referenced in Abstraction, we can certainly key into the way it makes us feel, the movement it portrays, the emotions it evokes. It may look like pure color fields, it may look like wild doodles and marks, it may be slick and sharp, or it may be full of drips and graduating hues.
I like referencing these three styles of approaching our work as we begin to look forward to the work we're now creating. By acknowledging each one as valid and acknowledging that they can coexist quite beautifully, we can give ourself a giant permission slip to create from a place of freedom. No one piece of work needs to be all Realistic, or all Abstract, but rather, these are just tools to be utilized as you see fit.
Now I'm aware for some these distinctions may seem like something you covered in art school long ago, but I like to give a little refresher for a few reasons. As humans we naturally fall into labels quite easily: I'm an abstract painter, I'm a stone-setting silversmith, I'm a western leather-tooler, the list goes on. I'm here to say that we are Creative Beings, and that at any point we can shift or even remove the labels we have worn. As a Creative Being we are always learning, always in full agency to create the type of work we wish, in the medium and style we want to pursue. When we step back for a moment and ask "what do I want to create and how do I want to create it," we open up the pathway forward. When we consider the options of Realism, Recognizable, Abstraction and how we might combine them, we gift ourselves with the ability to choose what feels exactly right, right now. And what could be fresher, truer than that?
Last week we ended our time of storytelling work by really engaging with and developing the narratives we hold within. This week, as we move forward with translating all those ideas and inspirations into our current body of work (i.e. developing the idea phase to the research and development phase to the final piece phase), I'd like you to take a look at the concepts you're working with, WITH an eye to your medium of choice. When you work with your inspirations, ideas, stories, ask yourself how you can show them in your chosen medium in a Realistic way. What if you were to drop realism and move towards them in a Recognizable way? Is there a way you can develop them in an Abstract way? Every medium we take on offers us new strengths; if you work in multiple mediums, is there one that feels like it lends itself well to one of these methods? Is there anyway for you to combine the strengths of each by combining multiple mediums in one piece? Play with all these questions, and remember that above all, you get to create exactly the right work for you and your path at any given moment in time.
To you, my Creative Beings,