Painting and defecating are two sides of the same coin. Resisting the urge to do either results in much suffering and is ultimately futile. Give in and you are rewarded with a sense of blessed, ecstatic release. Anyone who has desperately dashed to the can knows the sensation. Painting and defecating are consequences of unavoidable digestive processes. Go with the flow and you are rewarded with a satisfaction that transcends beauty.
Defecation is an honest metaphor that describes my experience of the so called “creative process”. It is not a tool for ridiculing art or those compelled to create it. Instead the comparison helps communicate the experience as well as the underlying goal of both processes. Charles Bukowski – the greatest poet in the universe — has eloquently described the similarity in the satisfaction of pecking out a good poem and depositing a good sized sausage in the can.
My experience of painting makes it feel like the consequence of a digestive process. The inputs are the experiences of being alive. It triggers unfathomable internal processes (in contrast to the well documented human digestive process). The processes that digests the experience of living (how ever dully) into the compulsion to paint, write, sign etc. are inscrutable mysteries. Attempts to explain them in specifics dissolve into hopeless babble. The physical end product is a piece of paper slathered with paint and other pigment. As with the gastric digestive process the output hardly bares any resemblance to the inputs that created them.
Unlike the regularity of our gastric machinery the painting process is quite chaotic. The output can be erratic. The most recent painting will influence the creation of the next. Trends develop in an arc of variation to a chaos point where something totally different is born in a moment of so called inspiration. Yet even that new arc I feel contains minute traces of what came before.
Whether the results are beautiful or not is in the eye of the beholder. The only question I use to evaluate the results is “was it satisfying to produce? (how was it for you)?”. Instinctively there’s a point in every painting when you know. I call it the point of no return. Where you know when a painting is done or its dead.
This realisation is not always pleasant. Sometimes you produce constricted constipated crap. Other times it is focus-less diarrhetic splatter that says all is not well. Yet I only remember the good ones. They may vary in shape, colour and texture but the sense of blissful relief, or quite indescribably satisfying achievement is sublimely familiar.
I find a similar sense of satisfaction from a “good” painting, sculpture, photograph, play, film, or text. The Morning and evening sunlight painting clouds, walls, leaves, flowers, animals have a similar effect. I feel energised, inspired, nourished.
Lately the flow of life has not left time for putting colour to paper. Which can be suffocating but it has got me thinking about what painting means to me. Now, while stuck somewhere in line, I can out my phone and blog about it. You just finished reading the result.