I've been busy....(aka, the creative funk!) (Copyright 2012 Lesley Humphrey)

...Obviously not tending to my Artful Life Blog.  I confess.... I admit.... I've been hiding.  In a 'creative funk'.

After all the pageantry, wonder, and excitement of the Kentucky Derby commission, I became... in the words of Piccasso "Empty" in just about every way that could be described.  I turned down a host of commissions, workshop requests (from all over the world), and all manner of painting opportunities because I simply could not face 'painting' at all!  Instead, I squirelled myself away into corners, drawing and creating on my little sketch pad, iphone or ipad, blending into any environment as I joined the millions of people completely disconnected from the flow of life, noses buried in smart phones and all manner of electronic devices. I, however, was capturing gestures, not only of people, but of landscapes, rooftops, hotel rooms... Any situation that enabled me to sit for a while became a simple act of enjoying shapes:

From sitting, waiting in the car observing the shapes and colors from an Oklahoma gas station, last December ...

iPhone art by Lesley Humphrey - Brushes app - Waiting at Oklahoma Gas Station

To responding to feelings and shapes of the Paddock, Keeneland in Spring this year...

iphone art - Keeneland, April 2012 by Lesley Humphrey

Anyway, I continued to think about, read about and 'delve creatively' with gestures and expressions like the ones above, but I just couldn't paint.

I now understand that part of it was that I had fallen out of love with 'process' because 'product' and obligations had been so large and all consuming.  Also, travel and other obligations took their toll.  I'd like to share how I found my creative feet again, because if we're creative, and we're living in a world that sees, requires, sells, buys, and judges or efforts, we just might find ourselves retreating into our shell, as I did.  This is how I found my way out:

  • I decided to do something creative, for free, and for anyone who wants it.  We redesigned my website, to make it more robust and able to handle the content of my online 'Lessons With Lesley'.  (See page)  Thanks to years of journal writing, playing with cameras and computers, I can easily communicate those things that have learned, so I decided to pass it on, devoting my time and my art to an act of service.  In them I am sharing my workshop processes and content, and I have about 20 uploaded now.
  • I revisited my treasured book "The Artist's Way" for the 4th time in 20 years.  Nothing, and I mean nothing you can do as a creative soul can be better for you than doing all that is required in this remarkable book, written by Julia Cameron.  It's my creative Bible and I have bought it for many people over the years, from all walks of life.
  • As soon as my lessons began to be published on my website, I began to want to paint again.  Strangely, to revisit the ideas and lessons that I once held so dear.

In future, I will try not to let product overwhelm my love of the process.

Question: "Why do you paint?" (Copyright 2012 Lesley Humphrey)

Time to Believe 24 x 20 Oil

L asked: "Why do people spend countless hours painting or pursuing art? Seems so selfish and self-indulgent. What's the point?"

These days, at least for me, it is a connection to Spirit that drives me on. I only feel connected to life, fully alive, when I have the chance to connect in some way with art or the artistic process. Sometimes that involves writing about art, sometimes teaching, sometimes painting; Sometimes reading or discovering my own insights in other art forms… Sometimes revelations occur constantly when visiting a new city or museum….the list is endless. I am in love with discovery, both of an external and internal nature. It is a permanent unfolding, this love.

L deals with the materialistic world, and has been exposed to many experts; the world’s finest and most influential; A place where critics and experts reign supreme, and only if you are a product of the system, educated by that system, validated by that system, can you be considered a 'worthy artist'. (Worthy of patronage, collecting or being considered "serious" I suppose.) Whilst I do not have the benefit of their formal education, I have to say that, in my (by comparison very lacking) experience, the opposite feels true: Only if the work originated "not of this material world", beyond the artist, could it possibly contain 'Art'.

For me, Art is the essence, the Creative Spirit behind and beyond all things. It can be found caught up in poetry and literature that remakes the mold of men who encounter it. It can be found present in the exquisite line of the Shodo master, or caught forever in great paintings... paintings that bypass the mind entirely, yet burn you with a Presence words cannot describe. I've heard it in monastic chants whose words are unintelligible to me, and I’ve heard it in the piercing note of Miles Davis contrapuntal to Marcus Miller's beautiful baseline. All portray the 'essence of life' not dependent upon sight or sound, and not containable or explainable by critics, or those who purport to be 'in the know'.

  • It is indefinable
  • It is unquantifiable
  • It defies understanding or definition
  • It can only be felt by those who encounter it
  • It feels like a beautiful remembering...

It requires that the 'artist' refine himself as an instrument, for he is not a source of It, but a conduit for It. He molds his life, his body and his mind, refines his skill, (into which he probably puts in at least 10,000 hours) then yields his egoic mind, and responds to It. That artist can become a poet, painter, musician, teacher, doctor, scientist… The point is, It is different for everyone. The best way I have found to find one’s path is to follow the advice of Joseph Campbell when he said “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where none existed before”. In other words, follow your calling. After a certain point, one must go without the need for approval of peers, society or expert opinion. It takes courage to leave the ‘group’, but sometimes one must...

A 'good artist' in my opinion, is simply a person who has agreed to do 'the work', in body, mind and spirit. Agreed to become a conduit for life. Its direction is fleeting; It is instantaneous and does not appear to occur in linear time or as a result of thought. (Rather, 'insight' is it's preferred communication). Like a bolt out of the blue, the ideas come whole and almost fully formed.

If you ask me if I have created 'Art' yet, I would have to say that I have only perhaps seen/felt glimmerings of it within certain works (usually from a powerful intent to serve or help someone or something greater than myself). Some of the works are unfinished, left in precisely that condition because I am afraid that that one, powerful mark may be "the Thing" that moves me, (rather than my skill, or any image that may have occurred). I could never say I have created Art. As part of my process, I always attempt to paint some ingredient that connects us all; Perhaps some reassurance, some human condition that is common to us all... Reminders that 'you, the viewer are not alone'. My hope is that my viewer feels something 'beside' me, rather than being enthralled with any masterful element... that he/she is reassured and comforted, then ultimately, hopefully left with a desire to discover and recover the Art within themselves. That's where my lessons come in… To give them a way to access Art in their own lives could be my greatest gift and my greatest art form. I just know it's something I'm powerfully led to do.

I merely respond to the call. Everything I do, when I'm at my best, is just so that I can hear (feel) It. It is beautiful when it happens and I am powerless to refuse... For me, the morning journal, the reading, the walks are only preparations, but necessary preparations. They're how I 'tune my instrument'; Tune-in to my highest self. All are ways I have discovered to put my ego aside so I can 'let the music come through'... When it does... Oh, what a feeling! When it does I am left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. Art is a privilege. I am merely a servant to the dictates of the Creative Spirit... the closest thing to God that I know.

And that’s why I paint.