The Artist's Journey by Tunizia Abdur-Raheem

Apologies to any of my subscribers who received this recent post twice... it mysteriously vanished from my blog and I had to republish it!

My post this week is an article written by fellow silk painter Tunizia Abdur-Raheem. Tunizia is the editor for the Silkworm, the magazine of Silk Painters International (SPIN), an organization dedicated to silk painting. This was one of the articles in a recent issue. I thought it had a great message for all us artists and I asked Tunizia's permission to re-publish it here.

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The Artist’s Journey by Tunizia Abdur-Raheem The other day, I walked into a young attorney's office. He had expressed an interest in buying some of my work. He had recently changed his office and on his walls was lots of new art.
I always notice the artwork or absence of artwork on the walls in the halls of commerce. Mostly, I see an absence of art. All that good wall going to waste. This particular gentleman, however, likes art and his wife, whom he encourages, is a burgeoning photographer.
One piece really grabbed me. It was a framed piece that looked like a stylized black spider web. Soft pastels floated in the background."Thom;" I said, "I really like this one." He says,"Oh, I did that when I was seven." He took it off the wall and unhinged the back of the frame. "See, there's my name. I signed it Tommy. That's how I signed my name when I was seven."
Looking at this picture, I couldn't help thinking, "Wow. How fascinating." On his walls were pictures from professional and amateur artists, all adults. Yet the best artwork, in my opinion, was something he did when he was 7.
It got me thinking. How is it that children are able to do such wonderful work without even thinking about it? My Goddaughter's picture came to mind. She had been watching me drawing a vase of flowers on silk. She so wanted to help, but watched instead. The next day, she took crayons to paper and drew a vase with flowers. It was so perfect.
Why are children able to create art without a whole lot of effort and trying? It clicked. Maybe that's it. There's not a whole lot of effort and trying. They're just doing. Drawing what they see. Drawing from the heart, without judgment. Could it be with adults that we're just so mental that we get in our own way? It makes me wonder. Maybe we adults should stop trying so hard?
Something the author in the book review, Jeanne Carbonetti, speaks about this. She writes about the stages of an artist. According to the author, we go from loving what we see and painting from that joy to wanting to be experts with our materials and eventually we return to creating for the love of it.
Many years ago, I studied watercolor. The teacher often pointed out that as we painted, she could see our own self-judgment on our faces. One of the students was an excellent photorealistic painter. Another student, who was once a graphic designer and capable of excellent photorealism, had suffered a terrible accident that had left him permanently impaired. He was frustrated because he couldn't do the work he was used to doing. His hand was shaky and much of his work seemed imperfect to him. It looked somewhat abstract. A third studentwasdoing abstract and unusual things. Somewhat surreal, his paintings were strange and beautiful. The abstract artist envied the photorealist and the photorealist envied the surrealist artist. The surrealist thought his paintings came out the way they did because he couldn't draw. The teacher encouraged us to silence or ignore the voice that criticizes.
I think that our first response to art is visceral. It hits you in the gut. It causes your stomach to tingle or your lip to curl before you really think about it. You either like it or you don't. At least, that's been my experience on the road that I call the artist's journey.-----I agree wholeheartedly with Tunizia about needing the mind of a child when painting. I create wonderful designs when I'm I'm absentmindedly doodling or playing around with my dyes. Try to consciously translate those designs into a painting and I'm stumped! Need to figure out how to consciously paint unconsciously...