Stumbled on my old art journals tonight–especially the big one that took me all the way through my MFA program.
It’s interesting. I’m still processing, not sure how I feel when I look through these pages. Endless scribbles, notes, half-written journal entires, notes from critiques, names of artists & movements, and lists and lists of fragmented ideas. It’s impressive! So many ideas!
I’m just now (as I approach my 38th trip around the sun) truly delving into one of my greatest strengths from that Briggs-Myers personality test, trying to understand it better and see it for what is really is: a strength. It is called “IDEATION.”
Ideation is defined in this context by people who are “fascinated by ideas.” Folks who are able to “find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena,” and “relish free-thinking experiences such as brainstorming and discussion groups.”
I’ve always vaguely been aware that for some reason I love to sit down with a good friend and chat for hours on . . . well. . . anything and everything. And when a particular conversation is enlightening or provides more profound insights, I walk away completely energized and free.
But I honestly thought that was just fun. And that everyone does this!
I didn’t realize how much I would miss that part of me and that it actually needs be consistently nourished if it doesn’t just happen naturally in my environment. Until relatively recently, looking back at this unique experience, such as going through my Masters program, it was such an intensely intellectual period of my life. These pages were written well over 9 years ago now, and tonight as I flip through them, I’m . . . amazed?
Who IS this girl? For sure I feel a rush of memories assail me, flooding back as if I was sitting in those critiques, jotting down notes in lectures, gathering interesting information in the library and trying to reflect on my process in the studio. All essential things to be doing during the program.
But it seems so far away now. As I flip through reading bullet points and messy scribbles of hard to read handwriting, it was like I couldn’t capture the ideas fast enough.
And that’s exactly what I remember. The feeling of utter frustration that while I had access to all these juicy ideas either from material I read or the professors themselves, at the same time, I was completely over-stimulated and bombarded constantly. I had almost no time to process, digest, shift through, pause, absorb or reflect.
I loved the intellectual stimulation though, and even in that arena at that time I was aware at how unique that academic experience provides. But as I came back down from that experience of being constantly overstuffed and overfed to . . . nothing after graduation, it was quite a shock. Back to the real world where obligations of work and family were once again the priority. I had a reprieve but because my husband had little interest in the world that I was consumed in for over two years, it felt very isolating and lonely.
No wonder I failed to engage back into routine life.
Fast forward to today, almost a decade after this journal was written, I look through it with a completely new perspective. Perhaps this is good timing. I am a totally different person now. I am also very much detached from the experience, I would say in a healthy way. Perhaps it is time to revisit and re-engage with some of these ideas, make them my own and internalize them.
The total wilderness of constant info, prompted responses, reflections, insight and just plain thrashing of your artwork and the constant demand to defend it in your own right, completely took a tole on my emotional and intellectual psyche. What was actually me, what did I actually think? What did I believe? Why did I believe it?
In the end, the experience completely intellectualized the entire creative process. This is not abnormal when trying to fit any creative and innovative thinking into some kind of structure, and academia certainly one of the most challenging areas simply because how can you “grade” a piece of artwork?
That is why I do remember people advised me not to go back to MFA program and just keep painting. But a part of me wanted this intellectual stimulus that jolted me out of my everyday life and exposed me to so many new ideas. But, at what cost?
There certainly is a place for critical thinking in art. But, as I’ve come to work on my own again, for me, that place is after the art has been created. When I’m in the middle of creating, it’s in my opinion, that’s when the critical thinking part of our brains need to be turned OFF and the gut and intuitive decisions need to be turned ON.
I’m amazed I have a complete record written down in front of me that I can just jump back in a flip through - like a time warp. It is now, thankfully, stripped of all that EGO (mine & the professors), all the ulterior motives and selfish guiding instead of heart-felt mentoring.
Sadly, that’s what I most remember being particularly painful at the end. I made it through this rigorous experience but I still had very little trust that the instructors truly had my overall well being in mind. My creative journey, my art, was an instrument for their personal ego to manifest whatever intentions or motivations they deemed the “best.” I’ve never been before or since then, around such brazen ego in my life!
And as much as I truly wanted to respect them and their work, most often, I was face-to-face with some really nasty and pettish people! People that I did not even like or would want to be around or get to know in my normal life. The politics to me were unbelievable and it wasn’t even in a top #1 program like Yale!
So perhaps it is time. Time to bury the negative and look for the gems of the positive in my journals. Gleam any nuggets of information or insight that might be valuable to me here and now. Honoring the freedom of brainstorming and thinking of new ideas and how that makes me feel - stimulating, energizing, life-giving.
But above all, the entire experience once again reminds me that any person, (but especially artists), ultimately we must all listen to our own inner voice. If our motivations are true, then our hearts will align with our Higher Purpose and listening to our voice is the only way to move forward. And this apply to all great artists - whatever art you are creating in your daily life!