Creating Free Will

Click here for audio: 72615_Free_Will.mp3

Creating free will:

“An artist is forced by others to paint out of his own free will.” So said one of my favorite artists, Willem de Kooning.

Recently, I discovered a few old sketchbooks with drawings I had done between college and now. Then, I was compelled to keep a sketchbook, if only to compare notes with fellow art students while we relaxed after classes. I must say, I am liking these memories, and I also like using the images in new and interesting ways as digital files.

However, it strikes me that I can remember some of these discussions, and the thoughts behind the scribbles, memories that had lain silent for up to 40 years. Yes, I am lucky to have this opportunity to reform and refine my creativity, but another notion comes to mind. I am a victim of a creative urge, one that takes over my thoughts until I have put pen or image to paper or screen.

Since college, I haven’t given much thought to the idea of free will/determinism. But isn’t an artistic activity a way of exercising free will when I am choosing the time and the place to work? Or is it a part of my life formed by early experience and inherited trait? Since today, the excitement of creating art is still alive, I must imagine that there is something beyond the ordinary at work. Otherwise, how can I or anyone make sense of these so-called creative urges.

The prominent psychologist, Erich Fromm said, “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” I can definitely agree that there is something going on, something that can’t be defined simply. Is this the burden of creativity. Even though, with computerized images, I can experiment and travel in different directions as I please, yet I am at the beck and call of something that seems beyond my everyday life. The certainties are indeed left behind.

After all, Albert Einstein said “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” Free will is something that comes and goes. You see, as for those sketchbooks, there are many hidden meanings and references to my life at the time of the piece. I carefully dated each, and can recall what caused the piece to happen, what compulsion made me drop all else and draw. I can see that a theme would appear and reappear years later in another book, on another page. But the reasons are well-hidden, sometimes even to me.

There are times when I don’t feel creative. Other times, though, like an unbidden thought, it pushes through and takes control of my actions. Is this determinism, or is this simply a lack of free will?

There is no antidote for creativity. One is so overwhelmed by the need to stop and deal with the new drawing, or digital piece, that I can almost say it’s a lack of free will. The fear of making a mistake, of planning one thing and have another thing happen, is a part of creativity for me. As an artist, how do I know this piece or that piece will please others? I don’t. I must rely on and trust my own intuition, and trust that my free will has spoken.

It must be true, what the popular TV show artist Bob Ross said “There are no mistakes, only happy little accidents.”

So, past and future artists, what does free will mean to you?


Presented as part of a UUCMC summer service by SisterCircle, 7/15


If I Could Put Time in that Bottle…

And smash it against a brick wall!

All good things must come to any end and these past few months, as I look ahead to some improvements in lifestyle, and some successes and projects that take less time than in the past, I’m doing pretty well.

There is that matter of my computer club. After about four(?) years, there has been no improvement or time-saving progress whatsoever.

When I first joined the club, it was for a purpose. I had begun to work as a computer instructor, a totally inexperienced teacher, but a very experienced administrator and office technology user. So it was a logical step. For support, advice, mentoring and keeping abreast of the latest developments in technology as it related to workers and also to personal needs.

At that time, I was fighting a spinal issue, and as time moved on it became harder and harder to stand to give my lessons, until I discovered I had breast cancer in 2008 and my 11-year teaching career began to come to a screeching halt. It was a little like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

A few pounds of flesh lighter, and a painful back condition later, I found myself unable to work, and retired in 2009, after a respectable length of time for a career in mid-life. So what now about the computer users group?

Being a loyal to a fault person, I remained a member of the club, but in addition, became more involved in some of the duties of membership. I ran a couple of workshops, I ran a monthly workshop in word processing, I became the programs chair for a couple of years, wildly surpassing any past efforts and raising the bar on using my connections network to help that along.

Being that this is a short history of my efforts to retain my loyalty, I’ll put it this way. I became active in a couple of interest groups, especially the graphics group, which soon revealed itself to be a monthly sales pitch for some video software, and some irrelevant technologies such as 3-D printing and virtual reality software. Enough was enough.

I realized what I needed was to narrow my “causes” down to just a few essentials. So I picked and chose – my faith community; gardening; photography, and digital art. I redefined myself as a digital artist, and began to take day trips and network among some very creative people.

Albeit I found myself among younger, more vibrant, and actually people who used technology to create art. People who weren’t asking the same questions every month from the same seats in the same place. This was the opposite of the evening I presented a workshop in said video program, and nobody admitted to owning or using the program. That night was the last straw.

So, all this being said, it is the end of some things, time has been put in a bottle, stopped up with a used cork stopper, put on a shelf, and is already collecting the dust of ages.

Stanching the urge to crush and smash, I shall dust myself off and move on.

Antique Just Like Me!

There are almost a thousand old stained and faded drawings that I’ve managed to scan or photograph as my body of work from when I did this stuff. It serves as a jog to the memory, a legacy to my artwork and an inspiration to keep going. It doesn’t matter what I like to do. I still like what I did, and maybe I never have to do anything else. Meanwhile, I’ll get better at Photoshop Elements and Lightroom and all the other programs I can use to edit them.

Here’s how I’m setting up my art collection:

There are four folders under Original Artwork –

  1. Mixed Media is where I keep anything I pasted a cutout on, or made a collage.
  2. Pen & Ink is for my black & white work, where I only used that medium.
  3. Watercolors is for anything I put a spot of color on, but may have to be broken out if I used colored pencil.
  4. Other Stuff is for anything that doesn’t fit into any other category. This may be temporary.

I’m thinking of what to do about colored pencil drawings and charcoal sketches. For now they are hiding in Other Stuff.

Just saying.