The other day, I found myself talking to another writer who follows me here. We were talking about how I bring together my artwork and writing. Our conversation touched on how skill and craftsmanship can affect the ability to communicate in such a way. I shared some thoughts in the conversation that I thought was worth revisiting for my own nourishment as much as that of all the lovely people who follow me here on WordPress.
I ended an earlier post with a few lines that I believe will help me add a lot more depth to what I am about to do because the post is about something relevant to the discussion.
The only way to ground myself is to dig in, into myself. This is why I try. This is why I make art. Because I am alone in the genius.
I wrote this about two months back (link to the post: https://thefourthdimensionoflife.wordpress.com/2021/08/04/why-i-even-try/ ). At the time, I felt that this was a sentiment that was mine alone. However, yesterday night I was reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (which was recommended to me by one of my professors) and I found myself sharing in the above sentiment with another writer, a brilliant one. Rilke talks about how personal and lonely the journey of an artist is. He writes:
You are looking outwards, and of all things that is what you must now not do. Nobody can advise and help you, nobody. There is only one single means. Go inside yourself.
In the final paragraphs of the earlier post of mine that I mentioned above, this is exactly what I was trying to say. Art, for me, is born out of necessity, and as such the function that it serves is essential and perhaps existential. I look inside for answers. It has not been long since I have found a space to create such art. At the moment, it is a barren land, the loneliest of places, where trees do not hide birds and water moves no rock. But I know that I belong here, whatever season awaits me.
Now that I have touched upon my understanding of the space in which artistic creation takes place, let us return to the main intention of this post which I mentioned in the beginning. In the conversation I had with this person on skill and craftsmanship, I shared my thoughts on why proficiency in a skill should not stand in the way of artistic creation.
One thing is obvious: a painting does not captivate the eye by virtue of its resemblance to what the world actually looks like. Some of the greatest painters of all time have earned their place by distorting reality. I believe it is the obvious consistency, decorum, and evidence of conscious decision that comes across that people think warrants admiration. What is interesting here is that a painting only has to come across as the result of these things, it doesn’t really have to be.
I have noticed that if I sit down and watch a toddler scribbling on a wall with a crayon for more than 15 minutes, I can find a certain consistency in the way they draw. This probably has nothing to do with calculated decisions informed by thousands of years of art history but probably more to do with their muscle memory and the way they hold a crayon. Whatever the reason be, consistency can be discovered by those who are willing/gifted to look for it in all kinds of places. To a certain degree, that’s why I think the artist finds art everywhere. It is also why when I enter that lonely space that I mentioned earlier, I plug my ears. No matter what people say, and a lot of it may even be worth listening to, the recognition of art is a mediocre by-product resulting from a system of measurement that is highly dependent on a person’s ability to see. The artist truly doesn’t matter in the exercise if you ask me. Of course, that’s just one way to look at things. I choose to look at it this way because the art that I create in the void is a reflection of parts of me that all the light in the world cannot bring forth.
I am not very proficient at putting words together or making colors speak. If there is some classical way of measuring how steady my brushstrokes are, I’m pretty sure I’ll be very below par when compared to a lot of people I know. However, it does not discourage me from making art because I do not make art by taking into consideration how others see the world but by being aware of how I see it. Because, for me, art is a way for me to paint myself. I believe that the true joy of artistic creation lies not in other people seeing you but in you seeing yourself, especially the parts of you that have always remained hidden.
To do this, I must let go. When I make art, I allow myself to be a toddler scribbling on a wall. And the more I do it, the more I am made aware of the consistencies, patterns, and rules that I follow without intending to. And as I stare at them, I am made aware of my muscle memory, which is a metaphor for so many things. I am made aware of how I hold my crayon and why I hold it so. I believe deeply that this is what Rilke was talking about. To dig into oneself is truly the only exercise that will make art necessary for the artist. And art that is not born out of necessity, I think, will destroy the artist.
Sometimes, by virtue of us being humans and living in the same world together, another person’s art can make sense to us. Over time, it is even possible that the brilliance of an artist who is able to beautifully traverse those fine lines between the important extremes will bring people together. If that happens, it is the most beautiful of by-products. But that is all it is- a by-product.
Dig deep into yourself, find ways to be deeply aware of why artistic creation is at its heart a journey into the void. Be excited about reaching out into nothing and retrieving something. Be okay with flailing around aimlessly in the dark. In such exercise is the birth of all the rules and consistency this world seems to be hooked on. No matter how bad or good you are at drawing or painting, you will find that these things exist regardless when you look inside yourself. But even more importantly, it is in such habit that you truly see yourself.
About the artwork:
I continue to draw on mountains and gyres, my fancy for which you’ve witnessed in the previous posts. What the colours mean can also be found in my previous posts. It is an illustration of where I am at the moment, discovering the depressing yellow underneath as I truly see how I wear my skin. I’m leaving a lot of skin behind on this journey. I am also running away from a lot of things, which I’ve made clear with the outstretched hands and the running towards something at the same time. I’ve represented the latter by bringing the legs together as a person would if they were to firmly place themselves somewhere.
6 thoughts on “In a lonely barren land”
One of the greatest posts I’ve ever read. I needed to hear this – every artist needs to hear this. Thank you so much for sharing. You’ve truly inspired me with your reflections.
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That’s very kind, man. I really appreciate it!
You are VERY proficient at expressing your thoughts on paper. How you can be gifted to do this in art (pictures) and words both amazes me. I know from where I speak. I am not a writer, but as a writing teacher, I KNOW good writing when I see it and have seen it in all your posts. Take this as the high praise it is intended to be.
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Thank you, Rae. I was having a pretty hard day today thinking about how I might not have it in me. I did not get into the literature programmes I wanted to get into this year. The year ahead seems daunting. Although I rarely believe other people when they give me compliments, I thank you from the bottom of my heart
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You just made my day with your reply!
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