oil pastels

A Storm of a Process

Madras curtains


Week ten as a recovering creative and I’ve slipped big time.  I’ve taken a hold of every “deadly” there is to creativity — alcohol, white sugar, a big bed in an air-conditioned room with full and complete control of the TV remote.  My body feels about as heavy as my spirit. I beat myself up about it, and just as I was lifting a leg to get back on the horse, I was toppled again — this time by a storm.   We became pioneer people this weekend, helping a neighbor take down a fallen tree and washing out unmentionables in a bucket on the back porch.  No time for my little corner studio.

The cool marble of the Corcoran Gallery of Art beckoned to me Sunday with the beautiful Ocean Park paintings by Richard Diebenkorn. I know that my creative recovery stipulates that I am to do artist’s dates by myself, but I took pity on my 17 year old and took her too.  As we sat contemplating a monumental canvas in the series, we were in a peaceful, light-filled, sacred space.  The cigar box paintings, lovingly crafted and given to friends and family, are full of joy, wisdom and personality — like a blessing at wedding by a favorite rabbi or pastor.

But it is what I learned about Deibenkorn’s artistic process that is really a gift to me as I struggle to make sense of what I am to be doing artistically.  He said “I can never accomplish what I want — only what I would have wanted had I thought about it beforehand.”  And all at once I was ashamed that I had spent not just the last week, but indeed weeks and weeks beforehand planning, scheming, thinking too much about what I am to do, rather than just doing it and sitting with it and being with it.

A few Sundays ago I had experimented with water-soluble oil pastels — I had never liked them in class, but I just wanted to feel and use color for a moment before I had to start my week.  The doodles of bright squares reminded me of the madras curtains my mother hung in my room in Bangladesh.  After seeing the Deibenkorns, I wanted to add layers and light to these doodles and see where they would lead me. Another Diebenkorn thought propels me:  the artistic process is intention, intuition and improvisation. Discover something about layers, light.  Follow my gut.  Play.