Art making and growth as a professional creative has at times reminded me of mountain climbing. The constant effort against both the elements and one’s own physical limitations as you trudge forward to a peak that looms endlessly in the distance. And then, once you arrive, set up a makeshift base camp and relax for a few moments, as soon as you open your eyes you notice that you have hardly begun the climb. Before you are at least 4 or 5 higher peaks raised in a seemingly endless wall of treacherous ice and snow before you.
In many ways that represents the unending struggle of trying to paint, make art and constantly improve. But lately it has been feeling incomplete.
Peaks, it seems to me are odd formations. They are only a dramatic element when you are at the bottom looking up. When you arrive at one you experience the elation of recognizing where you have been and the journey it took, but from the vantage point of the peak where are you exactly. Still on the planet, still in the universe and still just standing.
Linear views of ups, downs and journeys start to fall apart for me these days. At some point journeys become not the basis of starts and finishes, but the lines we connect between flowing streams of experiences. Every moment is categorize-able as both a beginning and an end. Each choice we make defines the moment at hand by adding and subtracting choices. Whats left is not a mountain of struggle from peak to peak, but a cosmic ocean without definable ups and downs – only momentum and inertia.
There are always more and competing directions to head, and that thought can be overwhelming. I have learned to believe that there are only 3 actions to take to meet the demands of the environment.
First, I set goals. Lifelong goals, yearly, monthly daily. I see this as thrusting my ship in specific directions. Setting sail towards the shores on which I wish to live. But then there is all this cosmos in between through which to float or swim.
Second, I choose to swim. As I see it swimming entails constant study and learning. Devoting myself to improve my craft as a draughtsman, painter, digital artist forms a kind of propellant around my activities. This allows my energies to be channeled toward the directions I want to go and for a constant refinement of all that I am as an artist and person to take root.
And third, I cultivate flexibility.
When I look back at the directions my life has taken in the past 5 to 10 years, I am grateful for how many goals I have achieved. But its also curious and exciting to see how taking actions toward those goals opened huge pathways to other experiences and newer goals. Along the way even those goals that I did not achieve directly, morphed and took on new forms.
What remains feels not like a linear journey full of valleys and peaks, but moments that collect and disperse in fits of conscious absorption and dream-state release. Standing becomes less important than movement and direction.
Like sitting before a painting and moving your brush not from one direction to another, but across multiple points at once. Racing to stay ahead of the mind that might sit still – even if it is at the summit of a peak.