It’s late afternoon and I’ve just come in from devoting some hours to the neglected garden that was planted last Spring when life felt a little slower. The patch of Italian cherry tomatoes that gave so abundantly over the summer is now knee-high in weeds and I spent the better part of the day hand clearing what the goat had missed in his mowing duty [a win-win chore for both of us]. The tops of my shoulders have been kissed red by the midday sun and my hands dried and stained from our island soil. A cool rinse in the shower is this moment’s greatest simple pleasure, and after, I throw on my favorite linen house dress and slide open the windows to let the afternoon breeze blow through. A kit of earth pigments gifted to me several months back sits on my desk as a reminder to make time to enjoy them. And so, feeling inspired by the quiet house that I have to myself for the next hour, the air and birdsong filtering through the open windows, and the dappled shady light, I begin exploring the beauty of these natural pigments.
Rest can look a lot of different ways, and in this moment it was taking the shape of uninhibited creativity. The sensory experience of mixing oily medium into powdered pigment, palette knife gliding back and forth over the glass, feeling into that Goldilocks-“just right”-consistency. The ochre color is familiar of the iron-rich island soil of home and the painted buildings and tile rooftops of an ancestral home. My body, feeling tired from sun exposure and calmed by the cooling sanctuary of my kitchen table, couldn’t care to commit to creating perfection or conceptualizing something profound. So, I paint moons.
I paint ten of them, almost a dozen little ochre yellow moons spread out to cure across my wooden table. I’d entered a sort of restful rhythm, a moon meditative state, hypnotized by the slow, gentle therapy of painting circles. Each one is a little different from the last, learning this new medium as I go along, curious how many versions of moon portraits I can make. I’m disappointed when I realize that I’m out of handmade paper and then convince myself that a table-full of moon paintings might be quite enough when one isn’t even sure what they’re to do with them yet.
A neglected cup inside me feels refilled by the mess in front of me, a part of me that needed resting that I’d ignored because I’d been tending to the fountain of my creativity in other ways. I really can’t remember the last time I created art without an attachment to an outcome — no plan, no motive except authentic creative inspiration. For the past six years I’ve been guided by an intention for Hina Luna, and before and in between I was organizing collaborative and solo art shows, and some time before that I was making art to be critiqued in school. There is most always a vision to be manifested or a grade to receive.
The risk of running into production mode
Over the last couple weeks on the blog [Creative Over-Inspiration and Resisting Capitalism As a Creative Small Business] I’ve been unpacking the issues that can arise when we don’t grant ourselves this unattached style of creation. The demands of capitalism have trained us into believing that rest is only earned, productivity must be consistent, and perfection is the standard. Way to break the spirit of creativity! Creativity flows spontaneously, performs best when not forced, and is most magical when the results are unexpected.
[ochre orange powdered earth pigment is mixed with a medium of walnut oil to create paint.]
Imperfection is necessary
To unbridle the creative self, remove the filter, turn off the monetizing mind and create purely for the sake of process is necessary nourishment for any artist. It taps into the child soul within, the part that is most authentic, wildly curious, playful, unashamed, fearless, present. Giving ourselves the time and space to create unhindered, as a child would, is the recharge we need as creative individuals resisting burnout.
As Pablo Picasso once said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Once we learn how to create at the standard of “perfection” it can be challenging to allow ourselves to do anything less than. But for the wellbeing of your creative spirit, for the child within you who desires to just make a mess of the thing, for art’s sake, go paint some moons — [or your creative equivalent.]
Listening to: Erykah Badu “Orange Moon”
Tasting: Tangerine sparkling water
What creative acts do I practice?
How has my relationship to my creative practice changed over time? How did it feel when I first began/was most curious? What motivates my practice now?
How can I approach my creative practice in a way that opens up for some experimentation and play?
When/how often am I willing to commit to allowing myself to play more with my creativity?