The Intuitive Power of the Artist
[in-too-ish-uh n, -tyoo-]
Direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension
Intuition is one of those things that we always here about but it is rarely spoken of. Intuition hearkens back to witchcraft and arcane powers of the mind. It is the stuff of druids and mystics. It is not for the modern man.
Yet it is the power of intuition that often guides an artists hand. Our intuition tells us when we are creating something in the right way or the wrong way. We often listen to the voice of intuition when we agree with it, but many times we disregard that voice when we don't like what it has to say.
For artists just beginning their creative journey I hammer at them constantly to trust their intuition. If they are painting something and that tiny voice says "no no no", then listen to it. Hone your skills to hear that voice and let it guide your hand.
Let me give you an example. I once worked on a piece for several months, wasting time, fiddling around trying to get it right, when my intuition kept saying, "this one is a bust. Chock it up to experience and move on". Did I? Of course not, I kept messing around hoping to fall upon just the right combination to create a great piece of art. I did eventually give it up and set the piece aside, temporarily, in hopes that I'd come back to it. But before I could, most of the components I'd put upon it promptly fell off. This was early in my work on sculpted wall art. I was still inexperienced and experimenting and had used a glue that could not hold up to the weight I'd placed upon it. The canvas sagged under that weight and the glue began to stretch and eventually give out. If I'd listened to that voice early on I would have wasted a lot less time on it. And while I learned a valuable lesson about glue, I learned an even greater lesson about listening to my inner voice.
I started training myself to listen and take heed. When something doesn't feel right, I stop. It doesn't mean I won't return to it later with new skills, but I at least set the piece aside until it feels right again.
Another example. A year or so after the first example, I'd worked my ass off on a huge 5' x 5' canvas. The theme behind it was basically a murder mystery hidden in the snow. I'd crafted clues, including dead bodies, foot prints and a variety of other things and buried them under a opalescent white blanket of snow. I'd crafted crisscrossing scuds of snow across the whole canvas made from layered toilet paper (yes I said toilet paper). It was laid in rows and then gently misted with a spray bottle of water and glue. The misting caused the toilet paper to crinkle and the glue caused it to dry in place adhering to the canvas. Another brushed on glue layer assured it stayed in place permanently. The result was an intriguing pattern that looked like the wind was pushing the snow into rivulets.
You can see it here in its early stages
After a month or so of diligent work on the piece, I looked at it, very happy with the texture, but completely unhappy with it as a whole. My intuitive voice said quite loudly, "set it aside!" Of course my ego said "but but but I've worked so hard on it and its almost done!" Despite my protestations I set the piece aside and there it sat for 6 months, gathering dust. I came darned close to trashing the canvas and reusing the frame on several occasions, but I did as the voice demanded and let it lay.
About 5 months later I discovered a new technique. I'd begun using crayons. But not in the traditional sense. I would melt them down using a soldering iron into patterns of color on a canvas and then use a heat gun to merge the colors together to create patterns.
And one day while working with this new technique and watching the bright swirling colors that it suddenly hit me what was wrong with the piece I'd set aside 6 months before. It was the color. That stark white absolutely went against everything I loved about art. It wasn't the composition at all that was at fault, it was merely the fact that 95% of the canvas was white.
I set aside what I was working on and pulled the poor piece back out of storage and sat staring at it for an hour. If I added color it would take away from the mystery story of the deaths of the three people in the snow. But without color it wouldn't be a great piece of art anyway.
So I laid it flat on my work table and I began adding wax lines to a portion of it. To my delight the wax formed into the rivulets made by the toilet paper and created a completely new dimension to my wax work and to the piece itself. 14 hours later and several burns to my fingers, I'd waxed the whole piece. And I can safely say that its been one of my favorite and most popular pieces ever since.