After letting it sit for several months, I finally have delved into Stephen Nachmanovitch's book Free play: Improvisation in life and art. I have underlined so many passages in the book that I need to index them (fortunately, my Kindle does so for me). With reference to my post-birthday post, the following was particularly apt:
The creative process is a spiritual path. This adventure is about us, about the deep self,
the composer in all of us, about originality, meaning not that which is all new, but that
which is fully and originally ourselves.
Nachmanovitch writes from the perspective of a violinist and writer, with frequent reference to the other fine arts. One reason that I have underlined so much is that when he isn't speaking to the painter in me, he is speaking to the cellist. (For example, "Artists play with color and space. Musicians play with sound and silence.") And, indeed, his remarks center on the characteristics of improvisation, independent of the art form. There is much to muse on here.
Part of the reason for reading Free play now is that it helps me focus on artistic issues that I want to address at the Oil & Cold Wax workshop in Wisconsin. I am now in Salt Lake, staying overnight before boarding a morning flight to Madison. I have been looking forward to this workshop for months. It is a "Level 2" presented by Rebecca Crowell, for artists who have attended her introductory workshop, which I did last year in Longmont, CO. We will continue to explore oil and cold wax, and I will have several days of contact not only with Rebecca but with other artists who attend.
Because opportunities like this workshop are so rare, I wanted to get my thoughts in order, if possible, before it begins. Hence the last few posts, and Free play. I also wanted to identify what I want to get out of the workshop (while still allowing for surprise and serendipity), and to address once again what I want to accomplish in my painting. I know that I have talked about it all before, in one way or another, but I hope to move the conversation ahead. My plan (such as it is) for the workshop is to try to stay focused on the issues that I have identified, and to try to paint in a disciplined yet spontaneous way, to try to break through the barriers that seem to have hemmed me in. I want to focus on using all I know about oil and cold wax materials and techniques to address the subject matter that means the most to me, which is the land that surrounds me in southern Utah.
There is one last dilemma that I have never openly addressed, one that is surely shared by other students of Rebecca's: many of us are studying Oil & Cold Wax with her simply because we want to paint like her. Yet we don't want to imitate her. Rather, we want to find our voices, as she has, through the same medium. So, this brings back me to The Question: Just how, exactly, am I going to use this medium and these techniques to express my own voice? What a silly question, now that it is asked. I have my palette and I have my passion for the land, and I even have some of my own techniques. I just need to hunker down and add the things I learn from Rebecca to that, without fear of being imitative. Because I won't be, because I don't want to say the same things that she does. My hope for the days in Wisconsin is that I will realize how to pull it all together and will begin do so.