Yesterday, Bela Fidel of Scottsdale, Arizona wrote, “For the past few years I have been literally squeezing work out of myself. Ideas don’t come and, hence, don’t flow. I “tear” them away from wherever they are. Connection with the work is a luxury. I have even asked my spiritual guides for help. I don’t take much time to quiet down. I don’t trust my inner juices. How can I sit and quiet down if I need that time to squeeze work out? How can I relax if my brain is busy trying to cook the next painting, and the next?”
Thanks, Bela. I’d say you’re an idealist in a self-examining and seeking mode — eager to connect and provide value to a fragile world. Congratulations.
Bela paints in a range of experimental styles and directions which she makes into reproductions and offers on the Internet. Her work includes oils and encaustics, abstracts and dream-like fantasies as well as tributes to flight, endangered species, and spiritual motifs drawn from Jewish and other mythologies.
Evolving artists often encounter a “crisis of belief.” This means a failure of belief in the possibility of one’s art connecting and being worthwhile, as well as belief in oneself as a creative dynamo. This crisis, which can lead to inertia and outright failure, is the penalty that comes with knowledge and understanding. It was ever thus, and it’s part of the evolution of cultures.
To get those juices back artists need to reinstate a kind of blind faith in their mission and their capabilities. This may require some modification of goals and a shot of self-deception. While self-managed relaxation and re-centering may be necessary, more than anything it requires a resorting of priorities. Some artists opt for the maximum joy they can attain from the work itself, rather than trying to save the world.
If all else fails there is always beauty. There’s something to be said for beauty. Other artists see shallowness in beauty manufacture, and try to put more meaning and purpose into their work. We humans are marked by our capability of reinventing ourselves, and time and time again we evolve by these decisions.
PS: “I’m in constant search for my truest expression. Each painting takes me to roads traveled and worlds unknown and provides challenges for growth and humility.” (Bela Fidel)
Esoterica: It’s been my observation that the cooking of idea-driven art turns out either over-cooked or half-baked. I’m not sure why this is, except that themes can be too much in your face. Take, for example, the commendable passion that many of us have for the fate of endangered species. Did you ever stop to wonder whether a realistic rendering of a beluga whale might work as well as a bloody picture of people cutting one up? These are the sorts of questions we need to ask, and they don’t always lead to the sorts of answers we want to hear.
Inspiration through photos
by Cathy Harville, Gambrills, MD, USA
With respect to finding juice, I have an endless supply of reference material. As my work evolves, I find myself looking at my photos, and asking, “What is it about this photo that makes me want to paint it”? Sometimes, it is the light, sometimes the composition, but most often it is what I can do with the color. If I can’t answer that question, then I put the photo away, until I know what attracts me to that particular scene. Otherwise, I am painting blind, with no idea of where I am going. True, my emphasis may change, or something new will creep up, but at least I have a starting point. In order to change direction, we need to have a direction to begin.
by Jan Blencowe, Clinton, CT, USA
First, I’d like to say that Bela Fidel’s work is beautiful! There is a lot to be said for beauty, and in the end it might be that beauty is what saves the world. Beauty in many ways is akin to love, and I think that the power of love/beauty to overcome the ugly, the unjust, and the evil is limitless if we would tap into it. I’m not talking pretty here, I’m talking Beauty. True Beauty, rooted in love, love of nature, love of humanity, love of God, never shies away from depicting the difficult.
Fear means huge step forward
by Robin Baratta, Belmont, ON, Canada
This was exactly what I needed this morning. Over the last few months I’ve been finding it harder and harder to be productive, I’ve been doing busy work, making papers, making new printing blocks, taking reference photos… whatever excuse I could use to keep from actually creating. Ironically, the few pieces I’ve done were quickly sold. I’m one of those ‘idea-driven’ artists. I felt that it was my sacred mission to bring awareness to those who view my art. The ideas came thick and fast, I couldn’t keep up. Then I made the leap to full time art. Suddenly art was my job, and I was afraid of it. Afraid that my message wouldn’t be received, or if received, that it wouldn’t be appreciated, failure. Crisis of faith? Hugely so. In the twenty years I spent as a dancer, I learnt that every time I felt like this I was about to take a huge step forward in my skill set. There is no doubt that’s what’s happening, thank you for the reminder. On your mark, get set, evolve!
by Caroline Simmill, Morayshire, Scotland
Creating art that has meaning can be hard work, especially if the artist is struggling to find inspiration and meaning in a complex world. It is important to work hard and at a regular basis at your painting but this can be achieved by working for a few hours a day and if there is a struggle to find inspiration then simply draw. If that is too difficult then go for a walk, write a poem, drive into some lovely countryside or stroll around the city. I find taking photos very helpful during creative dry spells — it is another way of self-expression. If your art is not flowing or enjoyable then take a break away from the easel and look to other things for a while. The breakaway can really be very beneficial as you return to the canvas with a fresh eye. What you see and absorb during time away from the canvas will eventually pour out onto your canvas, so when we are not painting we are still seeing the world creatively.
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by Jennie Rosenbaum, Springvale, Australia
I agree that the zone is a very real place, and some of my best work comes out of it. I think it is interesting, reading through all the comments, that music, or the lack of it, plays a big part in achieving that state. For me it seems critical. I cannot go into the Zone without my music, often it will be the same album over and over again (some albums work better than others and if I vary it everything goes to pot). For me it needs to have words and a cohesive linkage. Something I can sing to, something complex. Then I find that my front brain is occupied with singing and listening to the meaning behind the music and the lizard brain is the one that does the painting. I think that my singing may be like the humming, something to focus on and surrender to. It doesn’t hurt that the current album I’m listening to is very repetitive and inspirational.
I completed a piece recently entirely in the Zone. When I came out I had no memory of painting it. Unfortunately I also have no feelings about the piece. I think it is a bit of a breakthrough, I try to look at it objectively but my forebrain sees the mistakes rather than the whole. The blackout sessions are rare, and leave me mostly feeling uncomfortable. Usually while in the Zone I watch myself painting or drawing somewhat bemusedly like a bystander while my hand does it all itself. Both times are to be treasured though; I almost always produce my best work that way.
by Jeri Lynn Ing, Red Deer, AB, Canada
I am an evolving artist who lives by the motto — “Just Paint” — Words of wisdom passed to me from a dear friend who is very brave and faces every day with candor and a sense of energy and love of life.
If I then am faced with a crisis of ego, spirit, or belief in myself, I have found that the one thing that keeps me going is the one reason I do this — I love to paint.
Does the world need another artist? You bet. Do I have something unique to say? Yes — there is only one me. Will I always be optimistic? Probably not — but when faced with doubt I will do what I always do- Just Paint.
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Connecting with the ‘wave’
by Joseph Yos Tany
Unlike in the past, and because Bela is trying to ride on and be part of what some would call the global expanding of consciousness, she is doing the right thing when she is crying out and connecting with the ‘wave’ and be empowered by others — because this is a mutual or the one wave. So first: don’t take it personally and remember that the real action is ‘out-there’ — and that your struggle is in fact not ‘yours.’
The struggle is the message
by Pepper Hume, Spring, TX, USA
I have two responses to Bela’s predicament, both of which sound superficial, but hear me out. When your muse (creativity) simply won’t come out and play, you may be pushing on a pull door. It opens toward you and you must back up, relax and let it come open to you. I know — easy to say. But, the time “wasted” on quiet may well pay off in increased productivity.
The samples of Bela’s work elicited my second response. Sorry, girl, the struggle IS your message. It’s what puts the power and angst in those paintings. Given the subject matter you tackle and your treatment of it, how could it come easily? You are one of those artists chosen to wrestle with the cosmos and it isn’t easy out there. I have now looked at Bela’s web site and confirmed my diagnosis. Please ignore the first paragraph above. I suspect that quiet time would be detrimental to your work, but your inner juices seem quite strong. Trust them.
Paint what you adore
by Linda Blondheim, Gainesville, FL, USA
I think it is right in front of us. We paint well what we really have a passion for. Often it is right under our noses. Many artists spend too much time trying to think up esoteric, deep, and spiritual themes when they really should simply paint what they adore. Paint what you know and understand and you will be filled with joy in your painting journey.
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A new spark
by Caroline Trippe, Durham, NC, USA
The search for ideas is part of being an artist; perhaps the very hardest part. I’ve experienced it; I think most artists do and that feeling of inner “disquiet” you describe. What is the point, or purpose, of a great technique, of beauty, if it doesn’t connect with something important and lasting? No matter what you paint — still life, landscape, figure — someone else has done it, thousands of others — it’s quite daunting, really, when you think about it. All you have is your unique approach or vision, and your daily struggle against your own limitations. Maybe it’s also time to ask yourself why you feel the need to push so hard. Whatever rings true to you is what you must finally paint. Where I have lately been finding my “juice” is in narrative: mythology is a rich source, and one I’ve loved since childhood. Certain narratives seem to spark my visual imagination; then, following that line puts my images in a whole other context. The narrative guides me; the images (and ideas) flow. But it’s not merely “illustration”: it’s mining for emotional content, but I still have to take from the world around me but I can use anything I like. This face, these leaves, that gesture. For me, the challenge is in making these paintings idiomatic. Maybe what you need is a new spark, something that can summon those ideas for you, so you don’t have to agonize. So you can relax and paint.
by Greta Stromberg, Middletown CT, USA
How to get beyond the physical demands of my body and go to my work is the effort of this life’s current dilemma. Once there, I am driven and go back again and again during the day, forgetting to eat, to take my medication. I find setting a timer is the only way to give my life the structure it now needs.
I enter local shows here in CT but can no longer put on a big one-person show as this is too exhausting for this aging body. I keep on keeping on, and have recently had some accolades around the opening of an especially beautiful art gallery here at the senior retirement home where I live. It was due to my insistence that I did indeed have the quality of work that was worth hanging somewhere that this now productive community showplace for local work is actively open to the public.
I allow outside influences to enter into my creative process and also use these as excuses for working. It is, perhaps, self discipline that I am lacking — again. I turn all this over to you, as I hear that you have a beautiful sense of extracting the meat of one’s issues and putting them forth in a sensitive, meaningful way.
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Creation and pain
by oliver, TX, USA
From what you describe and the quote in this email, perhaps Bella Fidel’s process has evolved differently. It did not sound to me like she was evolving at the moment, but that she was looking for an easier birth of ideas and creative execution. The quote you give indicates to me a mind not at rest and joy, but curious, demanding and seeking. The congratulations you give, sounded to me like weak comfort to someone driven by the need to create yet their internal process is inherently difficult and exhausting for them. Of course, your recognition of her work and struggles by devoting a letter to this, is in and of itself a significant recognition and should be of some comfort.
The work you showed of Bela Fidel seems to have the multiple levels — nice to look at but there may be other levels to explore — the message stuff. The balance is tough, especially when the subjects or message may be a little dark. I can understand and empathize with the burn out and the pain of the creation here. I too don’t have any magic bullets only empathy. Perhaps she can evolve into a place where the creation is not so difficult and painful. I don’t know — most messages can have a hope in them and not just the pain. Although, too much time on one cause and not enough progress can be difficult itself. Think of some of the environmentalists, or right-to-life types who get increasingly violent over time.
Mr Aadrian A Uyt Den Bogaard
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Maggie Parker of Middlesbrough, UK, who wrote, “That’s her problem, asking for outside help, there IS no-one except yourself to rely on. Get back to that truth and everything will flow.”
And also Sonja Donnelly of Lake Oswego, OR, USA, who wrote, “It is obvious to me that Bela loves color and working with her materials. My advice would be to just play and let her paint lead the way. Why does she have to say anything in particular? Her sense of color and design say volumes.”
And also Janet Powers of Brunswick, GA, USA, who wrote, “In my opinion, the process is more important than the product. For each artist there is probably a different reason to pick up the brush, but those who can paint for themselves and the process are truly blessed. On a practical side I have always felt it important to paint in series, thus giving the opportunity to become expert on the subject matter; and this alone could perhaps start the juices flowing.”
Enjoy the past comments below for Where’s the juice?…