Have you ever dreamt a painting? Some dreams can be so real that the details of locations and how people look, what they’re wearing and the light, temperature and weather can be clearly seen and felt. Dialogue can be memorable. I’ve had dreams in which I can clearly see fabulous artwork. Sometimes I’m in a gallery or a museum and sometimes it’s my studio or another artist’s studio, or even a restaurant. And sometimes paintings just float past while the plot unravels like Renee’ Magritte or Salvador Dali just stopped by. The artwork is never famous or familiar—never anything I’ve seen before—but it is strong and vibrant and sometimes I can almost remember what it looks like after waking. Instead of being exhilarated the feeling is often one of amazed disappointment– something like “why can’t I paint like that?” Then I realize—I did. Those colors and shapes and lines and that arrangement were all in me.
That’s the truth of it, I believe. The paintings are there to be discovered. But not like pre-packaged cereal on the grocery store shelf. They are in the raw ingredients, inside heart and mind and spirit. They result from gathering experience, recall and reaction. They are there in snippets and snags, sometimes they are rolling waves of idea and inspiration. Sometimes they hide like a tear caught in the throat that comes as a surprise. They can hang like over ripe fruit just ready for picking or skitter and scurry like a tiny mouse, almost impossible to snatch.
I like the grocery store metaphor. Some go shopping with a list and buy what’s needed to prepare the pre-planned menu for the week. Some concentrate on what’s on sale, acquiring bargains that hold little imagination. Some go shopping when they’re so hungry that everything quick regardless of nourishment gets chosen. But imagine going to the grocery store with plenty of time, plenty of money and a sense discovery, walking up and down the aisles wondering how flavors differ, how the chemistry works, what can be put with what —tasting possibility, willing to throw things in the cart and take risks making new combinations. See yourself as a chef, or a magician, willing and ready to use all that you know about everything and apply it to a cart full of ingredients which are both familiar and frightening. See yourself as a master, knowing not all experiments will work but who cares—you’re magic. You don’t need your ego to be protected with constant success. Eventually your unique skills—those that only you can possess—will prevail. Be willing to “see” that.
There was a story in the New York Times awhile back about Melanie Thersmtrom, author of The Pain Chronicles. She shares her experience of real-time functional neuroimaging that allows subjects to interact with the brain itself. (also part of a recent Radio-Lab story 8/27/14)
It’s bio feedback of sorts, but instead of imagining constant, burning pain as something positive like lying on a beach of warming sand, (which only temporarily helped) she instead found that if she could see herself see herself as the one at the switch of her brain functions she could make the pain go away. The proper brain state created a loop: watching herself thinking her thoughts, thinking her thoughts and watching herself watch herself, etc.. The longer she could watch her brain do what she wanted it to do the more it did just that. Like affirmations on steroids.
So try It. Try seeing yourself as a creator, the master of your “grocery cart” and “kitchen” and dreams. See yourself as one who has something to make, even though you may not be sure of what that is yet. Watch it. Watch yourself be creative watching yourself in your mind’s eye….. When the work looks like sludge, resist despair. Welcome your power to change it into something rich and wonderful as you watch yourself watch it unfold.
From a poem Derek Walcott—Love after Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.