For many years, I experimented with the morning pages from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” as a means to open a dialog with the muse. There was really something there – writing, by hand, three pages first thing in the morning was so artistically freeing. Brain dump at its finest. Somewhere within those three pages, usually a couple of pages in, the voice would change. “I” would disappear, and “you” would appear. It was as if my subconscious mind took over my writing hand and started doling out advice. Ideas and solutions would appear from the blank page. The muse is in there somewhere, but can’t speak to me directly. I need to open up a conduit whereby she can convey her ideas.
One thing always bothered me about the morning pages. They always seemed more appropriate to writers, which is of course Julia Cameron’s world. What about us visual artists? It’s not that words can’t work for us. Yes, we can listen to that muse talk to us and guide us through creative issues. I find the wordy morning pages helpful. But I keep thinking that there’s more. What if I approached sketching new ideas in a similar way? Let the subconscious draw me a picture instead of write me directions?
So, I’ve been experimenting with the sketchbook version of morning pages. I haven’t gotten into a good flow yet. I can’t say that I’ve been as dedicated to it as I would like. But on the days when I actually vacate my studio, wander into the bedroom where I have a cushy armchair with ottoman for my feet, with a nice iced coffee in tow (it’s Austin in spring, and warm already!), and sit down and work, something happens.
Often, I’m just drawing variations on a theme. Say I need a new design for a bracelet, with a bezel set stone, suitable for a workshop (current issue) — then I just start working it through. The first design is inevitably not right. It might be too difficult for students, too large for the limits of butane torches in a nontraditional jewelry studio setting, or just plain unattractive in design. But the second and third and fourth designs might move in the right direction. One idea leads to more ideas. The freedom to just draw it out, without any expectation that I actually will make this particular design, is just that – freeing. I’m just talking to myself in pictures. And if I don’t find the solution on that particular day, I may find it on a subsequent day. It’s as if the muse worked on it while I was off rounding up the falling live oak leaves or repotting the water lilies while chatting with the goldfish. More ideas pop out of the ether.
Dialog with the muse is what’s missing when we get creative block. Figuring out a way to reopen the dialog is key to opening up the artistic floodgates. I’ve been attacking this in multiple directions, including working with ceramic clay. Block is part of the process, but I have to keep working it through. Every aide I can get, I’ll take. Even writing this blog.