Cycles of Expression


I hear a lot of artists talk about wanting to 'get loose'. I say it often myself. I think that looseness means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. My loose might be someone else's mess. My tight, detailed work might be someone's dream idea of free expression!

If this is something you hear yourself say, ask yourself what 'looseness' means to you. Is it a technical skill that you are wanting to add? This can be addressed with changes such as how you hold your brush, changing tools altogether, working with your non-dominant hand, timed studies just for a few examples. This is part of what I talk about when I say I need to 'loosen up'. I get into ruts and routines with materials, always picking up the same mark-making tools and colors, and it feels good when I remember to shake things up a bit.

But... I think that we are also talking about something else when we say 'get loose'. It's about freedom of expression. It addresses feeling more relaxed, less tense, more willing to experiment and play. An internal state vs. a technical skill. There's this thing that happens when we feel relaxed and 'in the flow' where beautiful surprises can happen on our paper or canvas. We're not forcing outcomes and it feels awesome and we wonder why can't it be like this all the time!

Because my sweet friends, that is not the human experience. When I look at my life outside the studio, I can see that there are times where I feel relaxed, open, free. And there are times where I am tense, anxious and closed up. Happy and joyous sometimes, sad or enraged another time. There is this rhythm of life, we open and we close. We dance with joy and we weep with grief.

When I look at the natural world, I see the same pattern. We have seasons, there is no such thing as eternal spring days. There are cycles and patterns and although I am tempted on occasion, I do not demand that nature stays in bloom and offer up only beautiful, sunny 72 degree days.

I want to stop demanding that everyday in the studio is one full of freedom, loose, wild abandoned creativity. I want to have a soft heart for tension, wrestling and tight. I am looking for both/and. Loose, free expression can be a beautiful thing. Details can add big impact. One is not always better than the other. Yes, sometimes we overwork a thing and it loses its freshness. Oops! Sometimes a small, thoughtful detail adds a big, impactful punch. Yes!

So here I am with this work in progress... it got too tight, I lost a bit of the soul of this painting and now I am working to bring back the raw edges. (this is why I am rabid about taking in progress pictures. I can see where I have been and how to get back) I know my tendencies to want to get everything tidied up and what it sometimes costs me in terms of the aliveness of my paintings. Meh. Back to it. I will get loose, and I will tighten up... it's all part of the cycle.