I am simply conscious of the forces I am using and I am driven on by an idea that I really only grasp as it grows with the picture.
I attended a painting demonstration on Sunday, October 11, at the Lieper’s Creek Gallery in Lieper’s Fork, just outside of Nashville. It was a perfect blue sky autumn day. The sun warmed my back, the crisp air kept the temperature refreshing. This gorgeous gallery was filled with people and out in the back the stage in the outdoor theater was set with a giant canvas, a workman’s table, and an artist ready to paint. It was a wonderful opportunity to view master abstractionist Anton Weiss, sharing his expertise as he worked with a large canvas during the afternoon. Until I saw Anton at work and heard him discuss his artistic process and philosophy, I had never really understood the lure of abstract art. By the end of the afternoon I not only had a greater appreciation for abstract expressionism, but I saw how much the man’s art reflects his life. I have talked since with an artist who says that Anton’s paintings never fail to move him. Now I understand why.
Anton’s presentation became a classroom, teaching me about the freedom and bravery of creation—a lesson in the art of living. As he worked with the canvas, following the energies of color and light, Anton would share brief observations: Be fearless. There are no mistakes. Master your canvas. Innovate. Experiment. Allow chaos, knowing that order will eventually emerge. Give depth to a flat canvas with contrasts of cool and warm, dark and light. Trust your instincts. Release criticism and perfectionism. Surrender to the process. Follow the energy and keep adding to the energy of your canvas.
As a classically trained artist, Anton stated that he felt too limited by expensive brushes and the rules of traditional art. He made magic with pieces of cardboard, layering the paint, scraping the paint, and even attaching pieces of dried paint torn from old palettes. He was unafraid to paint over something or to scratch out what he had just painted to create interesting layers. Every step of the process was perfect in and of itself.
Now, a month later, I have thought about Anton’s words and how they apply to my own life. I’ve been thinking about his admonition to “master your canvas.” That’s a bold statement. For all the years that I have been writing and for all the “successful” (read: published) projects I have done, something in me has still been afraid of life, afraid of the canvas. I have chosen a smaller, more limited canvas so many times. Writing to please a client, to not offend gatekeepers who say, “You can’t use that word, quote that person, question that belief system. You can’t say that.” But now I use those words, quote those people, and have expanded my boundaries far beyond the limitations of my old belief systems. Yet still, I play small. I struggle with financial debts, but I also wrestle with debts owed to the past, and wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough to own all that I can be, to master a larger canvas. I’m stretching and growing, learning to be less afraid, more courageous. My ventures into art and photography are part of the expanded canvas of my creative expression. I’m creating a richer palette and a larger life using art as well as words to speak the deeper truths from my heart.
I’m learning that mastering the canvas is not about having total control. It’s about being willing to take risks, to embrace life, and follow the energy where it wants to go. It is about being large enough in yourself to meet the challenges and changes that life throws at you. It is about being unafraid to reach for your own inner greatness, brave enough to believe you deserve to have this, do this, be this—whatever it is you really desire to have, do, or be in life, without playing small because of your own fears or the judgments of others. It’s being strong enough to open to the unknown, to ask the questions that you have not been willing to ask before.
As I watched Anton reach out to the canvas and make his mark on it, I saw that he was allowing the energies of life itself to flow through him without confining definitions or limiting pre-conditions. Big broad strokes are allowed. There is no fiddling little perfectionism. Perfection emerges from the freedom of the ever changing and evolving layers of painting, scraping, adding, subtracting, exploring and feeling the way the painting wants to emerge. Everything adds to the energy and the point is to create something that expresses the essence of life itself. It is larger than the ego that brags and controls, whines and cowers. It is a form of surrender to God, to whatever you define as the Transcendent, as life expresses through you in new ways. It is like watching life itself unfold onto the canvas. By refusing to play small, you give the best of yourself in the moment when paint marries canvas.
An abstract artist who is sincerely working with his whole heart is on a mission that in its own way mirrors the spiritual work of yogis and saints who have dedicated themselves to spiritual awakening. The artist reaches for ways to amplify and illumine what is beyond, that deep Eternal Wholeness, Harmony, and Sacredness that calls to us from behind the windows and lattices of creation. Something new is being birthed. Something is coming into being through the unique gifts and experience of the artist. His art reflects what we all go through to bring our own unique work to fruition. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin calls it the opus that we are all co-creating—that creative work that demands to be born on the page, canvas, recording, or even simply the homes we are making, the families we are raising, and the community we are contributing to. It doesn’t matter if you give it a religious name or a secular definition, for it is Mystery beyond all forms and names and definitions. It is the aliveness of Life itself expressing in, through, and for us as we labor.
“Be fearless.” I set aside my nagging doubts and condemning inner voices to spread my wings, trying something never before attempted, daring to be more honest in my self-expression.
“Master your canvas.” A tough one for someone who often feels overwhelmed and oversensitive. Yet I learn to take more responsibility for my own choices. I learn my craft and practice it. I choose to be courageous as I open my heart to life itself. I take responsibility for my own destiny instead of allowing myself to be tossed to and fro by the forces and energies that attempt to master me. I become more myself, tapping into the power to move and make a malleable world; a power that is my birthright as a daughter of the Creator.
“There are no mistakes.” I no longer need to judge myself, or others. I can trust the process and appreciate the journey. I can take risks that perfectionism would never allow. I follow the energy and surrender to Something larger wanting to express through me. I flow with the fierce urge to create, to make, to work with what is and make it express what could be.
The painting rises from the brush strokes as the poem rises from the words. The meaning comes later.
The craftsman does not always build toward a prior vision. Often images come in the process of working. The material, his hands—together they beget.
All great art is the work of the whole living creature, body and soul, and chiefly the soul.
Only as much of life enters into us as we can conceive, and we conceive of life—in the larger sense—only when there is a complete abandonment to it. Let the one who is sad, depressed, or unhappy find some altruistic purpose into which he may pour his whole being and he will find a new inflow of life of which he has never dreamed.
Concentrate on the Eternal life, the source of all lives… Express the glory of that immortality in all interactions with the world.
In all true works of art wilt thou discern eternity looking through time, the god-like rendered visible.
In the creative state, a man is taken out of himself. He lets down as it were a bucket into his subconscious, and draws up something which is normally beyond his reach. He mixes this thing with his normal experience and out of the mixture he makes his work of art.
In each soul, God loves and partly saves the whole world which the soul sums up in an incommunicable and particular way… By his fidelity he must build—starting with the most natural territory of his own self—a work, an opus, into which something enters from all the elements of the earth. He makes his own soul throughout his earthly days; and at the same time he collaborates in another work, in another opus, which infinitely transcends, while at the same time it narrowly determines, the perspectives of his individual achievement: the completing of the world.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Art, although produced by man’s hands, is something not created by hands alone, but something which wells up from a deeper source out of our soul.
Vincent van Gogh
It is only when we can believe that we are creating the soul that life has any meaning, but when we can believe it—and I do and always have—then there is nothing we do that is without meaning and nothing that we suffer that does not hold the seed of creation in it.
We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A pile of rocks ceases to be rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Humans cannot create matter. We can, however, create value. Creating value is, in fact, our very humanity. When we praise people for their strength of character, we are actually acknowledging their ability to create value.
In essence, man is not a slave to himself, nor to the world; he is a lover. His freedom and accomplishments are in love, which is another name for perfect understanding.
Divine Spirit is the limitless potential of human life.
God does not ask anything else except that you let yourself go and let God be God in you.
We lie open on one side to the deeps of spiritual nature, to the attributes of God. Justice we see and know Love, Freedom, Power.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Within me is the light of life, the image of God. I have unlimited potential, and I commit to express the Perfection, Truth, and Beauty of God’s nature in all I do. As an expression and reflection of the Creator’s creativity, I use my own creative powers. I work without fear and enter into a freedom greater than I have yet known. I set aside all petty and negative thinking, allow a more expansive way of being to flower in, through, and for me. I accomplish my work with ease and effortless grace, knowing that it is not I, but the Greater Wholeness within me that works and wills a more glorious outcome than I can yet imagine. I surrender to this loving Energy and trust the process, knowing it is perfect at each stage of its unfolding. I claim my power to create and enjoy the act of creation in each moment. It is my nature and my calling to create, bringing beauty, order, and harmony out of chaos. All conditions and situations are transformed for the highest good. I am inspired and the fruit of my labors inspires others to embrace their own gifts, talents, and inner calling to create. I am centered in love and I share that love with others through my creations. I serve with joy, knowing that Love enfolds and sustains me, and heals our world. Thank you, God, for the joy of being your creative child.
If you want to know more about Anton Weiss and his work, here are some links to explore:
Lieper’s Creek Gallery website
An interview with Anton Weiss in Nashville Arts Magazine
Nov 6 thru 28, 2009 Show featuring Anton Weiss, Lisa Jennings, and Robin Surber Bennett Galleries Knoxville
November 20, 2009 4:37 PM CST
I really enjoyed reading this blog entry. Great job!
- Susan Stovall