“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”-Klee
An artist is continually making decisions – decisions about subject matter, themes, materials, size. Does one do pre-planning with preliminary drawings are just dive right in? Once those decisions are made then one gets into the nitty-gritty of all the decisions needed to bring a particular piece to completion. But what is the best approach to use in making those decisions – logic or intuition?
I have always described my own process as a painter as one of maintaining a fine balance between control (logic) and letting go (intuition). Until about ten years ago there was a lot more “letting go” in my process than control. I never pre-planned anything – often working from a feeling, other times from a story or myth. There was so much “letting go” involved that some of my pieces, like Inanna’s Return which was destroyed and re-found many times, end up weighing 20 – 25 lbs because of all the paint on the canvas. All of the figures in Inanna’s Return were discovered mysteriously in the process of painting. But logic was involved also as I kept the elements of the story foremost in my mind. Inanna had descended to the Underworld and was reborn but “No one ascends from the underworld unmarked”* – someone must take her place. For this reason she was accompanied by the “galla.” This logical understanding of the story fed my intuition throughout the painting’s creation, leading to my “finding” of the images in the process of applying paint to canvas.
Yet art, which has a fundamental structure that is often logic-related, remains an essentially irrational expression of the unfathomable. While some believe that there is an inherent conflict between art and logic I believe that an artist works with them both to arrive at a conclusion which allows the viewer to take meaning beyond rationality and logic into the sublime.
This truth was brought home to me again recently while working on my painting, Crow Spirit Animal. I began the piece using my logical mind – studying images of crow, learning their habits and symbolism and working on preliminary drawings. Once into the actual painting intuition took over as color and form flowed onto the paper.
Finally the piece was almost done, lacking only that which would lend it a feeling of magic and mystery which is one of the main elements to crow symbolism. I looked to the sky in the painting, knowing intuitively that was the spot to indicate magic and mystery. After deciding with my rational mind that a pattern of some type etched into the sky would be that indicator I set out separate paper to work on what that pattern should be. I spent the whole afternoon working on various drawings, using sacred geometry, mandalas, and Celtic designs. Nothing really seemed to be quite right. By the end of that work session I was feeling very frustrated as my deadline for publication was near and I had not found my solution. It felt like a wasted day.
Here are some of the designs I worked on with no success.
Later that evening I gave myself a good talking to – reminding myself that it was limited thinking to be so attached to accomplishment, that truth is not determined by the clock, that I needed to let that feeling of frustration go and accept the moment of “still searching” in which I found myself.
The next morning the magic of intuition happened. While washing my face and thinking of nothing I closed my eyes to splash water on my face. Then came a flash of inspiration – a vision of touching concentric circles appeared in my mind’s eye. There was the answer I had been seeking the day before, the design to indicate the magic and mystery associated with crow. But I believe that the vision of concentric circles only came to me as a result of all the logical approaches I had taken the day before – the simple fact of working on what ultimately became failed ideas primed the pump for the correct answer to appear intuitively.
Here’s the finished painting with the concentric circles embedded in the sky.
An interesting side-note to this experience is that other experiences with water seem to trigger intuitive visions in my mind’s eye. Many times after having spent a day at my easel and then taking a shower, the water running over my head opens up a symphony of color and form behind my closed eyes. In another way swimming underwater also releases visions of color and form. I wonder why water seems to trigger these experiences for me. I haven’t been able to find any research which connects up the opening of the mind’s eye with water. Has anyone else had similar experiences when immersed in or splashed with water?
If you are interested in developing your own third eye here’s an interesting article I found with a good scientific explanation of the pineal gland and practices for activating the mind’s eye. Click here
Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck from Judith’s Etsy Shop. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. In recent years Judith became very interested in the Goddesses of her own ancestors, the Celts, resulting in her deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle cards. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Spirit Guides. Originally from New Orleans, Judith makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.