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Wailing Good

My son & I were watching American Idol the other night discussing our different opinions about who we thought would ‘go to the top’. Then he, a trained singer, noted that one of his voice coaches told the class that the great singers had a ‘wail’ or ‘cry’ to their voices.

I got to thinking about how this relates to fine art…the conceiving of it, the making of it & the viewing or enjoyment of it. It’s a huge topic. Literally, hundreds of books have been written about art as ‘knowing’, art as ‘right brain’, art as ‘reflecting values’, art as ‘reflection of history’. Yet, none of that speaks the ‘wail’. The closest to a ‘wail’ or the ‘cry’ lies in the availability of the artists feelings drawn upon in the making of art. It’s so easy to bypass this pivotal piece of the whole of creativity challenge; there is so much to think (rather than feel) about. Riveted on getting “it” right, the “it” being design, concept, color, materials, relevancy of topic, whether or not the artist’s ‘message’ is getting across. No wonder it’s difficult to remember what ‘feeling’ you, as the artist, are conveying. Yet, that is the crux of the matter, the ‘core’ of great art.

There are two common creative blocks that repeatedly occur as we initiate making a new piece of art or a series, and those are self-doubt & perfectionism. In a close 3rd place is the demon ‘comparing’ ourselves to others. I don’t know an artist who at one time or another hasn’t felt at least one of these road blocks. Some artists hide behind a solid clad armor of a well constructed self-confidence veiling, well, the same stuff: self-doubt, perfectionism & comparison devils. A goodly number of these well-meaning folks disguise their own creative demons with very articulate dialogue about art, sometimes noting how one or several artworks are in the manner of or influenced by some other great living or dead artist. As if we couldn’t come up with our own unique version of anything.

An interesting complexity about this is: there isn’t much new in the way of design or use of color or even materials that hasn’t been done before. We (artists) could just dive into our work without referencing other artists at all, and the influence of the past would come tumbling through us. I have been told, as an example, that my work resembles one or more contemporary artists – sometimes artists I haven’t even heard of! I take that as a compliment & an accident of history. In other words, somehow, I am being influenced in a similar way as my contemporary whose work resembles mine (or vice versa; whichever way you are seeing it).

Which brings me to this idea of being ‘authentic’ and/or of making ‘authentic art’. What makes our art unique (yes, we’re back to the ‘wail’) is the feeling that is driving the art. Because I am well-educated & well-traveled and lean toward the intellect, I do sometimes bypass my own feelings. That’s big considering I am an experienced psychotherapist & pretty well known, having taught other therapists throughout the world. Even that is no insurance against skipping over ‘feeling’ in favor of ‘thinking’. The only advantage to my psychological training is that I do know when I'm in a thinking state & know how to switch to access my feelings.

The next question is: which feeling or set of feelings do I want to express in any given piece of art? Oh boy! Another conundrum! Isn’t it enough we are taught to consider our ‘artistic voice’, what we want to express & how it is relevant to the world we live in? Too much, too much. So, I’ve simplified it for myself. I’m not saying this is ‘the answer’, only ‘an answer’ – for me. I have decided to meditate daily & especially just before diving into a new series, for the sole purpose of harnessing the energy of the feeling I wish to capture. Otherwise, what you will see is whatever feeling of the moment is passing through me… And if you’ve ever sat still with yourself for any period of time, you will notice your feelings change rapidly along with random thoughts that shoot through you. So, given that, how do I capture the ‘wail’, which is ‘soul’.

That’s my goal: through meditative practice, locate the ‘wail’ & translate it visually. We’ll see how I do. . . How about you? Do you resonate with this idea?

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