The Journey that is Creating Art / by Jeannine Cook

As any artist quickly finds out, creating is a journey fulls of twists and turns.  No matter how clearly the artist envisages the work ahead of time, things never work out exactly as planned.  Perhaps that is the addictive, enriching part, or maybe the maddening, humbling part!

There is always the wise advice of doing quick - or detailed - preparatory sketches, whatever the medium in which the artist is working.  That is fine, but I personally find that nothing ever quite correlates in the finished work, even if you go to the lengths of griding out the preparatory drawing, or even tracing the outlines. Something, somewhere, changes, even subtly, and so you are dealing, in essence, with a different creation. It does not seem to matter, either, that you might have done something very similar before.  Each time, you will create something unique, because you have altered a little or a lot, the time and circumstances are different and thus the creative journey is changed. ("Don't bother trying to look for something new: you won't find novelty in the subject matter, but in the way you express it", counselled Pissaro in a letter to his son, Lucien.)

Flexibility, serendipity and a blind confidence that the work will turn out alright in the end seem to be necessary ingredients in creating art.  The journey can be an anguishing one, full of hiccups, misgivings and general doubts.  Or else, like any journey to another land or a new city, you can view the whole process as a challenge full of interesting wrinkles, a learning process and an opportunity to do something new and exciting that could enrich not only your own life, but also, In sha'Allah, that of someone else.

I was reminded of this aspect of an uncertain journey in art-making when I read of Louisa Gillie's approach to creating beautiful works of art in glass. This young English glass artist was featured in a 2006 book on Fifty Distinguished Contemporary Artists in Glass, with examples of her kiln-cast glass that are then polished and textured.  As she works with the glass sculpture, the process becomes her inspiration.  I quote: "Nothing is ever straightforward with glass and it is this unpredictability that she loves. She never quite knows how a piece will look until it is totally finished.  The titles of many of the pieces often refer to the journey it has taken from drawing and original idea to finished piece."

Cosmos, Louisa Gillie, glass, (Image courtesy of the artist)
Labyrinth, Louisa Gillie, glass (Image courtesy of the artist)

Andrew Lambirth, the wonderful art critic in The Spectator, wrote an interesting comment about the Tate Modern exhibition in July 2012, Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye".  He remarked, "But painting is not just about ideas - unless it be that poor relation, conceptual art - it is also about the materials: the canvas and the coloured mud and the marks made with them." To me, that remark is a way of saying that the creative journey is full of twists and turns.  How you  conceive of a work, how the actual execution of it turns out when you are dealing with the materials, your sureness of  hand-eye coordination, your state of mind... so many factors that enter into the creative equation.

Ultimately, nonetheless, as artist all know, that journey, however challenging, is addictive - we all go on trying to create more art!