The ART of not knowing why you IMPROVISE!!!
"Follow the golden path".
This is the message I repeat to myself, even though I don't mean a particular path. I keep the idea of gold as a pretty unspecified field of wonder/and wander, as a "mind flâneur" that I am .
Baudelaire wrote in depth about the flâneur in his 1863 essay, “The Painter of Modern Life”. The flâneur, he said, is like a “kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness”, a “passionate spectator”
So I am practically referring to many paths. Many paths at the same time. I big web of information with which I can travel from golden point A to B to C back to A, step away and see all the points at once, zoom back into one of them, and so on.
Sometimes this process feels completely targeted, as if there is a clear vision behind these jumps, and other moments it feels without any particular purpose. Both ways have been exciting to me, once I could undress them from any stress of productivity and purposeful outcome. In the first case, having the feeling that there was a clear vision behind, was not totally untrue. Everything starts from the point of exploring a theme, a topic, an idea, a concept. Having something to be curious about and start researching on it. For me, everything begins from the point of trying to understand my creativity patterns, what attracts my attention and why, as well as understand my creative working methodology.
For the last 7 years, I have been practicing several methods of improvisation and I have been working on developing my own, by realizing which are the path of other artists that I identify myself with and which new paths I have personally created with my own personal brain synapses. So, in this sense, I have a clear path to walk and my purpose seems pretty defined: explore and improvise, experiment, and reveal the outcomes of improvisation.
But at the same time, this same experience can be also seen as endless and purposeless: meaning that there is no particular outcome that I want or can predict and there are no limits to what that can be. This particular state, I know it seems chaotic and stressful to many people- it feels the same to me sometimes. But the same stressful can be the first case if the need to show results puts pressure on my shoulders, while I feel there is nothing to show other than the process itself.
So, I would like to share how I shift my balance between 'feeling the urge to present an outcome and how this can make me jump into my creative practice, and how- while being into the practice- I can lose the sense of purpose for the sake of the purpose of the practice itself. Sounds quite paradoxical but it's a beautiful and stress-releasing concept to carry while creating.
Let's take the example of “golden obsession” that I hold on to for about two years now. It's not that I have painted my whole life golden, but golden color keeps being an attraction to me, something I actively respond to and detect as a bodily reaction. While observing my responses to gold I have discovered many shadow parts of my self, beliefs and unresolved problems I keep holding on to.
Everything started with some metallic pens I discovered in 2019, and started drawing with them. I am really a pen person and I do have pen sensitivity, meaning: the pen I draw with needs to feel easy in my hand in order for my drawing to reflect my bodily inner rhythm and flow. So, that pen was perfect! Light and pretty liquid, letting the ink slide on the paper. ( of course, the paper has to be the right one too). I had no particular idea on what to draw, other than I did feel the excitement to let my hand move on the paper while holding that pen. I decided to work with sound and started an experiment of drawing improvisation. The sound plays one of the most important roles for me, in order to drive my body to the state of feeling relaxed and “floaty” on the waves of the sound. (More on movement and sound on another post).
The song I was listening at that moment was “The Space In between”, by Jan Blomqvist. I placed my hand over the paper and by following the sound I started making lines on the paper, which after a while of repetition turned into some kind of flowers and plant I had never seen before. This excitement of course is not individual to drawing or painting creation, is the art of letting go and observing where the body takes you without any pressure of creating something specific, something predefined.
I observed the feelings I had at that moment. I realized I said to myself “wow, these shapes were pretty unexpected and nothing I would see coming”. I even started judging them as not so special. “Ok, this is not anything spectacular”, I remember saying to myself. But my hand kept creating them. It really felt as if I have no control over the outcome. After reflecting on this experience, I realized how much I keep myself in my own boxes, even though I believe that I am pretty open to anything new and exciting. But this is not always true. I did saw that I do limit myself by the expectation of a certain outcome, which I consider to be interesting or special, and I put pressure on myself to produce something similar, not realizing immediately that these impressions come from the external world and are not entirely mine.
I also reflected on the judgments I gave to my drawings. Why did I see them as "not so special"? What was it that I didn't like? I had to face the contradiction here: My rational mind was telling me that this was not something special, while my body was giving me the signal “keep going!!! this feels great and you are expressing something deeply connected to yourself, to your inner state, something quite authentic from who you are in that very moment.” It seemed that my judgement was coming from a place of criticism from others, whether others would like them or not.
Whether we like or not what we do, is indeed a matter of where you will lean, on which side you will choose to stay. Do I choose to stay on the side of the criticism or the sensation? I chose to stay on the side of the sensation and become the observer of my own gardens growing. From that point on and by experimenting with other drawing media, I created many different flowers which I had never planned to grow. I loved what I was creating-even not always- and I saw them exploding into papers, on walls, even on the skin.
Although I am not very successful with real plants, I did realize what a friend had shared with me once about his obsession with planting cactus without knowing in advance which kind of cactus would appear. The short story here:
"he was buying the seeds and planted them, then waited until they grow in order to be surprised by what a single seed was holding for him."
To me, the experience of letting my hand move on the paper without having decided what I am about to paint was giving me the same excitement, going from a white paper to a full garden.
To come back to the beginning of the discussion, after I realized that I do like the plant drawings I was deliberately drawing them: with purpose. I had mastered the techniques of letting my hand go almost on autopilot, and I was trusting that what I will compose in real-time would be something satisfying as long as I could stay with a good sensation of my inner flow.
This process was powerful but it was not the first time I had this experience. I had been practicing this letting go and be purposeless for quite a while.
What is the important message for me in this process, is this constant balance between giving meaning to the process of letting go, moving purposelessly and observing what you have created until you turn it into purpose. No state can exist alone. Living always with a clear purpose, was for me a trap, a box I was creating for myself only to find after a while that I can't escape, that I am not flexible to let anything influence or alter my outcome.
On the other hand, whenever I was letting go for far too long, allowing new input into my practice up to a level where I could feel pretty lost, I had to take a pause and see what is it that I have made so far, focus and reset my practice.
My techniques is to take a moment to reflect whether “feeling lost” is indicated by fear or by too much unnecessary input to my system. If I detect fear, then I need to answer myself “what am I fearing”? Is it the unknown possibilities? Is it the fear of changing myself and becoming something I have no control over? Is it the fear of letting something behind and moving on, some other practice I am into? (sometimes we need to dig quite deep to find the roots of fear).
If I admit some kind of fear, I return to ask myself “what is my honest sensation while doing what I am doing? Is it a feeling of pure joy and timeless creativity? Then this is a valuable state to detect and gives us feedback on what kind of experiences we should be looking for. Do we feel like we are wondering aimlessly and that the actual activity doesn't really giving us satisfaction, other than doing it, because we are actually overwhelmed and don't know where else to go? Then better rest, let everything you do aside, even the purposeless activities. Cause they are not so creatively purposeless anymore, they are turned into a purposeful obstacle making it difficult for us to see clearly ahead.
Now, stop reading, take a step back, rest, and listen to how all these are resonating within yourself.
Answer the following questions to yourself:
What is it that you have discovered in your creative process?
What would you keep in your language and what practices don't serve you any longer?
What are the emotions arising during your current practices?
What are your limiting boxes and how do you chose to overcome feeling stuck?