Thursday, August 5, 2010

When is art finished?

Sometimes it seems we need an oracle to tell us when to stop working on a piece of art. Whether this be a painted drum or a special sauce for our salad, when do we stop adding and adjusting?

My paintings on deer hide
are created much like I painted the images on the Journey Oracle cards--I gaze into the surface of the dried drum skin and wait for something to appear. I usually look first for the eyes, and suddenly, out of a mottled but unmarked surface, someone is looking back at me. And yet the greatest skill seems to be knowing when to stop working.

Before I painted this drum I call "Keeper," the creature I saw was quite haunting and undefinable. Maybe it was a bear but also maybe a wolf or dog. Each of these has its own power and as I painted the creature came to be a bear to my eyes. And yet I was never satisfied with the eyes in the drum painting. They actually seemed to not be there. As if what I was seeing couldn't see me. This drum was even sold and then came back to me--as I have written about several of my other blogs. So I tried painting the eyes again and the creature became a wolf, yet this didn't fit either. And so in a moment of inspired risk, I took a damp cloth and started wiping off everything. Of course these raw earth pigments stain into the deer skin like a tattoo so only a little of the color moved--and suddenly there was that haunting, undefinable creature again--appearing when I stopped trying to make it appear. I believe all our work with the spirit world has this quality. When we stop trying to make something appear according to our vision--we are able to see with different eyes.