Letting the Other Side Do the Work
I am one of those people who takes a personality test assuming I'll emerge as a confirmed arty type with a free-flowing thought process and devil-may-care approach to everything. That's the stereotype, isn't? Well, I often emerge from those things as some kind of a hybrid—I lean toward the arty type but also lean toward the control-every-move type, able to think and feel at the same time. Basically, I'm no hands on the wheel with one foot on the brake just in case.
So, when I recently approached a canvas (and by that, I mean a panel) that I had applied with just a base coat of neutral color, ready for what the day might bring to it, I was forced to exercise both sides of my complicated brain.
The thing had no particular direction, not destined for a landscape or a pear or a cup—everybody seems to be painting cups lately, right? I was working with shades of pinks and greens left over from another project, so I applied the shades willy nilly, using both a small squeegee and a brayer.
I kept going and kept going, wet on wet, with tissue paper and linen scraps applied now and then for some texture, and before I knew what was happening, I had something that I thought was actually lovely. The thing is, I didn't know what it was, and my rational side needed to identify it. So, I turned the thing upside down, which turned out, in the end, to be right side up. I had created a bouquet of flowers, loose at the stems with no ribbons or vase to hold them, and they were just fine that way.
I am occasionally a writer. In fact, I once wrote a novel. A novel, you say? Can I buy it on Amazon, or better yet, my local book store? No, because could I find an agent to give me a moment's time? I could not. But I wrote the thing just the same. I had read about authors who would slip into some kind of writer's trance, putting themselves in a room or situation and simply writing what they saw in that moment, and the idea seemed a bit nutty to me. But as I was writing my novel, I experienced that very thing, when some other being takes over the fingers at the keyboard and says, "Let me tell you what's going on, and you can read it when I'm finished with my story."
This same phenomenon can happen when you're painting, I believe. You are the body holding the tools and with access to the paint, but it's something else entirely that has a hold of your brain for a moment. That's not to say everything you paint—or write—while in that state will be a wonder, but sometimes, just sometimes, you come to and see that you've helped create something lovely.
Let me be bold here and say that I think my new flowers are lovely. I like them so much that I went to town on a paper work I had set aside as welll. See for yourself, and see if you can free up that free-wheeler inside now and then, hands off the wheel and foot off the brake.