Saturday, 18 June 2011
All my little spiggots have been blocked up for the last week or so. I've been trying to see how this works. I began to realise that it was probably something to do with the mind intefering in whatever it is that's going on. You can't see it when it's happening; how ideas about what 'it' is, what it's about, where it's going, start to take shape, like little parasites silently adhering to your insides.
I looked at the sketchbook I used to use for private playing, and I suddenly saw that the playing had stopped, replaced by worthy little colour exercises. It was partly about material constraints, as I'd discovered oil pastels, and while they were working on a large scale on black paper, in the sketchbook they were just gumming up the small white pages. But the free play had stopped. And because the free play had stopped, and some largish 'paintings' had started to appear, everything eventually ground to a halt. As if the accidental discovery of the possibility of a larger painting had shocked the flow of free exploration, which was feeding the whole process.
We were listening to an interview with Betty Edwards in the creativity group yesterday. She talked about the capacity to draw being a shift in perception which can happen in an instant, as opposed to the normal view of drawing being something that a) you have to have a gift for, and b) something that takes years to learn. She pointed out that drawing isn't like maths or other academic subjects that require a systematic building of knowledge over time - the tools you need to do it are right there in your hand and your perception, right now. The results of her courses that teach people to draw in a few days show that this isn't just a theoretical idea.
This makes me think of something I've discussed before about change, learning, and maps; that the minute you see that you've been running your life according to a map you picked up somewhere along the way, everything changes in that moment. You can't ever go back to running your life unconsciously by that map again, because you've seen it ('I can't draw' seems to be that kind of map). An example of a map I suddenly saw in my own life recently is 'normal people are out and about all the time'. I suddenly realised that because I used to be 'out and about' all the time, and because everyone around me is 'out and about' all the time, I was unconsciously assuming that I should be too. At that moment I realised that I've always hated running around, and that I've always needed large amounts of solitude and quiet. The minute I saw the map everything became easy, as I took the unconscious pressure off myself and saw what was simple and comfortable. With the painting, as soon as I saw that I had stopped playing, I picked up a beautiful, responsive watercolour brush and started to play. And everything started to move again, with the greatest of ease.
Kenny Werner talks about this a lot in Effortless Mastery. He talks about how self-consciouness and the desire to sound good (he's talking about playing music) result in an impossible constriction that prevents the flow of connection between self and sound that is necessary to play spontaneously and well. The situation is driven by the ego, with the person's self of self-worth being hopelessly tied up with their capacity to impress others, and this in turn leads to an endless cycle of worry, fear, and an inability to play to their true capacity. Worrying about sounding good, wanting to play well, or, in my case, perhaps, starting to think about 'making paintings', he suggests, works to block a person's capacity to operate from the place where things are simple and easy.