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Posts Tagged ‘Mystery’

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is ocean.

Twelve years ago, I took a long break from making literal, well-planned images and experimented with abstract painting. I fully indulged my love of color, layering and texture, and put aside for a while the need to make something identifiable. To say that it was freeing would be putting it mildly, but it was nerve-wracking as well. It was surprisingly uncomfortable to answer the usual conversational question, “What do you paint…?” I had not realized until then how important it was to me to know what I was painting and where I fit as an artist.

I thought about my discomfort, but continued to paint abstracts. I realized that I had grown tired of making ‘serious’ and meaningful art that could be explained and talked about at length, and that I did not enjoy having to ‘usher people into the experience,’ as one of my gallery-owner friends likes to put it. I was now looking for a way to make imagery that people would respond to on a visceral level, images that would inspire a viewer to make up her own story.

After a few years, imagery crept back in. (This painting is one of those.) I discovered that I still enjoyed making recognizable images, but was now also searching for a way to leave the Mystery in a representational painting…and a way to still leave lots of room for a viewer to respond in her own way.

This deep, mysterious ocean of Creativity…I suspect it will be a life-long journey of discovering how to let that move through my pencil and brush, unfettered by mental idea of how it should look. “Getting out of the way” is how it feels. Perhaps it is the right balance of “surrender and grabbing hold” as Matthew Wood  (Seven Herbs: Plants As Teachers) puts it. I’m reaching for an even deeper way to start with an idea or story, but allow the imagery to come to life in its own way…an intuitive approach to creating. But it’s also my way of combining art and spirituality, exploring the mystery of everything that is, in fact, spirit and matter.

I’ve found some very helpful books that talk about this delicate, passionate process of dancing with creativity, as well as what gets in the way of that. Maybe you’ll find some inspiration and food for contemplation here too…

Life, Paint and Passion: Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression by Michele Cassou and Stewart Cubley, Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff,  Fearless Creating: A Step-By-Step Guide to Starting and Completing Your Work of Art by Eric Maisel, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg (written for writers, but every bit as applicable to creativity in other mediums), Break Writer’s Block Now! (also very helpful to artists) by Richard Munster, Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland, The War of Art: Break Through the Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron and Point Zero: Creativity Without Limits by Michele Cassou

“Ocean”   (oil on canvas)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is beneath.

I have always been fascinated by the inner workings of other people. What are their thoughts, their motivations, their history… their reality? What makes them tick? Perhaps it is only morbid curiosity, but I prefer to think that it is a healthy contemplation of the many ways a person can walk through this adventure called “life in a human body.” What lies beneath the confident facade of the hero, or the wrinkled face of an old woman? Why does one person act this way, while another does something quite different with the same circumstances? Why does the larger flow of events go this way, instead of that way?

Humans have always attempted to understand the patterns behind the mysteries of life. Astrologers, scientists, historians, the makers of oracles, philosophers and religious contemplatives of all persuasions have all attempted to create a system that would explain and predict the inner workings of what is, essentially, unknowable. But we humans, even at our most profound, have only a limited perspective. We are really no closer to understanding the Meaning of Life in this twenty-first century than we were before history began. Through no fault of our own, the inner workings, the larger cause-and-effects and the purposes of it all continue to elude us. Maybe our awareness and intelligence is meant to be used differently?

It is only my personal opinion, but it does seem that the Nature of Reality, the Meaning of Life, and any name one might use to describe ‘God’… will always be an unsolvable Mystery. And perhaps the only reasonable approach to a Mystery is wonder and awe? This mysterious thing which is the pattern behind everything and everyone, has been around a lot longer than humans have. Surely it knows what it is doing…

“Make-Believe” (watercolor, pen and ink, pencil)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

This week’s Illustration Friday topic is linked.

I may well lose half of my reading audience after this, but today I want to talk about the dreaded G– word!

Quickly, so as not to lose all of those folks, I assure you that my point of view here–really, that’s all it is–is much, much broader than any particular religious stand… It’s more of a philosophical view, more of a perspective on the nature of ‘reality.’ Being neither physicist nor religious person, my view has formed from a lifetime of wide reading, an observation of nature, and much contemplation. It is most closely allied with eastern, ancient and native cultural thought.

In the arts world, the work of the Impressionist ‘pointillist’ painter, Georges Seurat (1859-1891) comes closest to depicting my feeling of God. In his paintings, there are no lines, no boundaries. Points of color comprise everything, overlapping but staying distinctly themselves too. His depicts a fluid, interconnected world.

Which brings me back to this week’s Illustration Friday topic linked. Simply stated, my feeling is that ‘God’ is everywhere, knows everything, sees everything, IS everything. In this world view, we and everything we can see, taste, and touch are the substance of this thing called God. This definition of God is indeed mind-numbing, unknowable, a profound Mystery… a subject worthy of a lifetime of contemplation. And the implications of such a belief are far-reaching… Isn’t that so much more Soul-satisfying than a belief in the white-bearded man on a cloud, keeping score? The story teller in me, and the Inner Child who still believes in magic, really likes to think so…

And so, I leave you with my painting “Everywhere” (watercolor, gouache). A God that (benevolently) sees all, knows all, is linked to all, IS all… and there,right in the middle of IT, is this thing called Little Me. I haven’t worked out the details on that last bit yet.

(I had a feeling that, eventually, “just making art” would lead to wild controversy…)

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