Painting by Stanislav Zhukovsky

‘One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice, though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. “Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognised as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do, determined to save the only life you could save.’ (Mary Oliver)

*

“the wounded child inside many males is a boy who, when he first spoke his truths, was silenced by paternal sadism, by a patriarchal world that did not want him to claim his true feelings. The wounded child inside many females is a girl who was taught from early childhood that she must become something other than herself, deny her true feelings, in order to attract and please others. When men and women punish each other for truth-telling, we reinforce the notion that lies are better. To be loving we willingly hear the other’s truth, and most importantly, we affirm the value of truth-telling. Lies may make people feel better, but they do not help them to know love.” Bell Hooks

I used to wonder as a child if my father never stopped talking because he didn’t want to hear what his children might say. Those energies kept in abeyance probably turned me into an artist, although I was probably going in that direction anyway. I developed my own world and lived in it, hidden from everyone else.

When I discovered abstract expressionism, it fit like a glove. My kinetic and emotional forces flowed naturally into an eruptive style of working. It took me a while to get control of those impulses and to learn to compose and arrange an aesthetic coherence in a piece. Catharsis could get a painting started but it was not enough to make a piece of art. All those things I was taught in art school involving design, composition and well made forms made those energies readable.

Otherwise it was just a chaotic mess.

Creativity needs your true self. It cannot come out of a self you developed to satisfy adults who just wanted “good behavior” from you. I never became a good citizen, mainly because I was not trained to be.

I was a loner, a little bit feral. Our parents were too preoccupied with survival of the family unit to train us in the niceties of social norms. We were a wild bunch, especially the older brothers. I taught myself to channel those impulses into art making.

This is a fierce little boy. I hope he keeps his fierceness. We need our fierceness to live on this planet. We will need to protect it so we can create and live our real lives.

Writing is different for me. Not so physical as painting, but it allows me to reflect and consider meaning. Questions, ideas and the craft of making something readable is an entirely different enterprise than painting is for me, but they are complementary. I learned that every creative discipline opens up new real estate in the body/mind. You discover a variety of voices in yourself, all with their own creative intelligence.

Yet all these voices need to come from deep self acceptance. A rejected self can’t create anything. Only a self that accepts its eccentric uniqueness can do that.

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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