Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What are sources for art?

When I think of sources for my artistic inspiration, I sometimes discover a source for art in the middle of a painting, rather than at the beginning. I have been reading 101 Things to Learn in Art School, by Kit White, while at the same time working on this new painting named ker dupa, the giant fish of the Siberian folk legend whose action of waking up eons ago turned the world upside down and so brought the arctic cold to the high north. The 46th thing Mr. White describes he names ‘the happy accident,’ and at the end of his paragraph he says, “If you see it, own it.”

I have been working to see the giant fish in this photo-based painting of twigs over a shallow fast-flowing stream, and for a time I saw a small dark eye—that I developed by emphasizing the shapes that looked ‘eye-like.’ Then I discovered a second much larger eye that made the first one seem a mistake. But are there mistakes in Art? Perhaps there are if we name them so. For a time I felt quite despairing of the giant fish having two eyes…and then I realized, “Of course! I see this and so I will own it. This fish has two eyes. One eye which sees the polar shift from tropical to arctic in the ancient past, and one eye that sees the next polar shift coming.”

When I was working on the Journey Oracle card deck this image was the second I painted, and I thought it was a mistake. I was going to discard the picture but then I tried scrubbing into the strong diagonal lines and in so doing, I discovered a way of creating a stone-like texture that fit exactly the source for my artistic inspiration, a small ammonite shell. It was during that experience that I decided that no oracle card image could be thrown away once begun—and so began my contract with the Oracle to own what I saw.