Saturday, February 11, 2017

Returning From Within

by Vanessa Lemen

“When the noise of the external world is muting the sound of the internal world, our intuition pays the price.”
~Malidoma Somé

Jerome Witkin

I've been hibernating for a few weeks now, which for me, is basically pretty similar to a long form of meditation and reflecting, usually spawned from bouts of unrest and uncertainty. I do that every once in a while, and use that time and space to dig deep and just be quiet and listen. For me, those times are a must, and I always come out a better version of myself afterwards. Just prior to this recent hibernation, I was feeling a resounding collective disconnect. I had been finding myself feeling lost creatively, and it was in large part due to feeling disconnected from my own self, but also feeling fragmented by the disparity that's been happening all around me. I've always been pretty good at going with the flow, but when the flow feels more disparate and like an upheaval, I find it's more akin to swimming against the current.

Jerome Witkin - The German Girl

The heaviness that I'd found myself in recent days with all the constant battle of things surrounding the windows of time spent painting had put me in somewhat of a cloudy state when it came to getting to that place when I did find myself at that window. Every once in a while, I'd put my feelers out, and was finding that many of my artist friends were also feeling the same way. I suppose it's nice to know I'm not the only one, but not always such a great feeling when this is the thing we all have in common.

Isaac Cordal - Waiting For Climate Change

I've been here many times before in some way or another, but I'm usually able to push through or have enough time to stay pushed through a while longer than I have been recently. I've felt incredibly consumed by these recent goings on, and by allowing that feeling to overtake me, I've been stifling and stunting the process of making art and what that creative process should feel like. To be in this cloudy place, in a haze, struggling to eek out some kind of something is like standing outside myself watching myself break into little fragments, when all the while I was actually just confined to the interior of my own head. It all becomes an internal vicious circle and it's then that I get so tempted to lock myself in a cave indefinitely, cozy up to some soft fuzzy canvas, and jump into that unconscious pool of unreality – just leave this place and feign ignorance.. But that's definitely not me.

Isaac Cordal - Politicians Discussing Global Warming

These are the moments when it's a good time to hibernate.

Hibernation, for me, isn't necessarily about sleeping, but it's a going within. It's a way to quiet the battles and noise and turmoil so that it isn't given a single chance at becoming 'the norm'. It's a way of making sure that the evolution and discovery doesn't get whittled down to the scrawling of meaningless jargon during the chance few minutes when a deflated monkey with a heavy heart and her canvas might intersect. Or that the intersecting of voice and imagery should ever get neglected, or left catatonic in the purgatory because we're allotted mere brief windows to throw pebbles at the other from down below hoping there's a chance meeting between artist's voice and image that might transpire.

Andrew Wyeth - Spring

When I see myself being swallowed into that, I have to go within, and try to stay there for a while. I go there knowing that at some point, I can return to the chaos with clarity and an understanding of how to move through it again. And this is where the truest art always comes from.

Barron Storey - They Shall Be Released / With This Pain I Thee Feel

From craziness and adversity, my art itself, in so many ways, has taken wonderful twists and turns, and has evolved and changed and bloomed into incredible visages of realized discovery. This, I wouldn't change for the life of me. And I look forward to more and more of it, in all of the stages it feels like presenting itself.

Vachagan Narazyan

It's important to consider that no matter what may be happening around us – and many times because of what may be happening around us – an image that comes from that place can speak volumes. Our art has the potential to become larger than ourselves – most likely in many ways we may not expect.

Norman Rockwell - The Golden Rule

We all are capable of great and amazing things, and some of the greatest and most powerful things come from what seems like the smallest of things – the intimate moments that mean so much to us as individuals. Right now is one of those windows of time when I am reminded of that once again.

Tim Lowly - Temma On Earth

There is a vast world within us, and it has infinitely more power than the chaos outside of ourselves has.  But it doesn't have to be more chaotic in order to be more powerful.  It's a quiet field we lie in and listen to the wind, or a calm ocean in which we can send out a ripple from just one small drop – much like the first mark is to a blank canvas. One mark, and we're off to discover a new world within.

Tim Lowly - Beloved

I wanted to say thank you for joining me as we hurtle through this uncertain abyss, and for sharing and meeting with me in that space where imagination thrives and mindfulness prevails. Thanks to all the artists out there who, by sharing their vision, are answering our call out for hope when we might feel lost. And most of all, thank you in advance for joining me on this journey into the future. Who knows what else is to come, but I do feel better knowing we can go there together.

Andrew Wyeth - Wind From The Sea


  1. That was an intense read! Thanks you!

    After each piece, I fall into this lull, like a paralysis that prevents a new piece being started and even enjoying the just-completed (ie. Tim Lowly - Temma On Earth). "You've just done one, which means you can do it! Start a new one, simply force yourself!" ... those kind of voices just make everything worse.

    Only when I remove that (self-induced) pressure, creativity returns :-)

    Hope color returns to your world, too, Vanessa!

    1. I understand all of that, and I think so many artists do. I would also add that without that time we put ourselves through - the making of the piece, the feeling when it's finished, the insecurity of whether we can make another that taxed us in the ways that the previous one did - all of that is what's put into the next pieces we make. But that forcing ourselves part can sure be a doozy when we're caught up in it. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, as always. :) Whether there's color or not, we move forward through it! Thanks for sharing your experience too.

    2. Yes, that's a natural feeling I guess (what Nicolay mentions). I actually had a period of three years after publishing my (only) art book where I couldn't feel any progress. I kept painting and illustrating but I felt stuck. I guess one can really run out of creative juices.
      Sometimes there isn't even a reason to it, just that the recharging of "batteries" takes time.

      I still can't really say what is so daunting about "simply" making marks on a piece of paper or canvas. In my case it's mostly not wanting to loose the motivation to go to work the next day (I could get used to painting all the time but I can't afford to) and similarly the feeling of not having the time (and headspace) to get immersed in painting because there is money to be earned at the other jobs. I am constantly fighting this feeling of "it's not worth the effort and energy since I have to give it up tomorrow and go to work". And I am lucky that I love all my jobs but it's still a weight.

      I think I am more relaxed about things now that I am older, but this can happen at any age. My mum had a short period like this a while ago, in her 70's.

      I hope you find your tracks again soon, quoting loosely: if it was easy everyone would be doing it"

    3. Thanks for sharing your experience, dragonladych! I actually am not so sure that everyone would be doing it if it were easy. ;) Glad to hear you are feeling more relaxed in your recent years. Thanks again for sharing!

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  3. Most of the paintings, by other artists, that you're displaying seem to be about isolation, abuse, fairness and intimacy with like mindedness. "The feeling" it's not worth the effort and energy, is what's holding me back. And any discouragement that feeds into that concept only strengthens it. Like any concept, art is meant to strengthen the mind and express those challenges.


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