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Your Career in Art – The Creative Power of Silence

October 3, 2014

angels bearing ideas

Art is made in silence and in solitude. If your attention is contantly distracted by people or devices, your creative Muse will go offline.

Upfront, I should clarify what I mean by the word 'Muse.' It's commonly mistaken as 'channelling' innovative concepts from some mystical space 'out there.' A painting by Rembrandt is thought to illustrate this fallacy. It shows one of the Gospel writers, pen poised above his scroll, listening as an angel whispers into his ear.

Like everyone, your creative Muse is already present. It resides in your mind, the product of your memory plus your imagination.

Your mind makes connections between facts and experiences that may seem unrelated to a purely logical entity like a robot. Imagination connects the dots and comes up with an 'Aha moment' we call inspiration.

  • Here's the thing: the Muse of creativity will have a hard job getting through to your concious mind while you're engaged in phone chat, e-mail or social media, watching cat-videos or having sex. Leave it all outside when you open the studio door.

Remember the famous quote from A.A.Milne. 'Sometimes I sit and think and sometimes I just sits.'

  • Allow yourself to enter a bubble of creative silence when you begin your work session. A routine is key to professionals in fields as unalike as Medicine, Sports or the Arts. You'll work out a way that suits your circumstances and personality but do consider a regular period in which you sit down in silence, to meditate, contemplate or  'just sits.'

For me, the method resembles being in the audience at a cinema house of times past.

  • I sit in my 'thinking' chair, staring at the blank canvas on the easel. Without concious effort, snippets of a painting I'm planning flicker across the movie screen of my mind. Around me, vague shapes whisper and fidget in their seats. I hear rustling as snacks are torn open. Then silence falls on the darkened theatre as the projection room window snaps open. A prolonged exhalation of breath gushes from the audience as a beam of white light spreads across the blank screen. The magic begins.

From my chair, I visualise the components of the painting to come, fitting bits from my sketches and photos of models, landscapes and items of equipment into the proportions of the canvas. It seems the sounds of hoof beats drum in my ears, the calls of birds float from the trees and wind ruffles my hair as it scribbles its way over the grass plains.

  • So strong is this illusion that one day, when my assistant left her desk and crossed between me and the easel to fetch something, I lurched from my chair as if hit by an electric shock. The effect was like the break in a film when someone walks between the projector and the movie-house screen.

Magic doesn't happen without a magician. You, as the artist, need to work at getting at those ideas already in your mind and then using them to best effect on the canvas. Your job – your purpose in being an artist – is to make visible for your audience what is rolled up in your imagination.©Dorothy Gauvin

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