A few days ago I was walking down the main street in Newport, RI when I stumbled upon a small art gallery. (Click on this link to see Brian's website). I'm pretty selective about the galleries that I go into and yet this one caught my eye. In it were bright scenes of people scurrying down rainy streets with traffic lights bathing the landscape with color, some painted on surfboards!
As my eye surveyed the room I noticed this painting above of a disgruntled clown with a woman in the shadows. I was immediately drawn to the abstract nature of the painting and the subject matter.
The artist, Brian, was a friendly man, eager to talk about his work and other artistic matters. We soon bonded over some of our creative commonalities. We spoke about the tension to create what will sell to the average customer and the need to birth something that is enjoyable for the artist, something real and raw. We spoke of being different and having our own style in art as opposed to following the traditional path.
Brian told me that the painting above was in response to a broken love relationship. In so many relationships especially for artists, we give our hearts deeply and they get trampled and destroyed by selfish or hurt individuals. This painting is called the "Final Muse" and in it Brian expressed the sentiments that he would no longer be played as the clown. There are so many things that we can get from this image... the rolling up of the clowns sleeves in deep resolve, the disgruntled never again expression on his face.... the fact that he is in street clothing meaning he's a dignified human being who has been played for a fool. The woman lurks in the shadows to signify that she is in the past, but still present in the darkness of his mood and experience. She stands under laundry that is hanging out to dry, is it representative of her dirty laundry or baggage, or does she "hang men out to dry" on a regular basis? The background and paint style add to the ominous feeling of this work.
All of Brian's works were well done but this by far was my favorite because he put his life experience into it. Brian took the dark night of the soul and captured it in this piece... never to be played a fool again.
How many of you have dark experiences that can be translated into your art? (That's a rhetorical question because of course we all have them). Use the painful situations in your life and try to express them in your work, to give your work soul.
In order to do this it is important to translate your feelings into words first. Brian used the phrase "I will never be played for a clown again". This was his springboard into his piece. Your phrase can be taken from a poem or even a song but ideally something that comes out of your own spirit. Something like "you ripped my heart one day out of my chest when I wasn't looking" has some pretty graphic connotations or "you are dead to me" brings up other images. Perhaps you don't want to be quite so melodramatic, you can try something more benign like "I am but a napkin discarded" or "I reside in the crypt where hope will take it's final breath". Your words can be happy too... it doesn't have to be about your broken heart. The point is to take what is stirring in your soul, attach words to it and then make your translation into your art out of the words. You may even want to do a whole collection attached to your experience.
It's a great exercise in two ways. First you will learn how to translate your soul into your art. Secondly, it is therapeutic to take a painful experience and work it through in your medium of choice. Art is a great gift of expression and effectively mastered when used by those who feel things very deeply and can translate it for others to feel and relate to.
Below is one of my pieces that I reworked with a theme in mind. I titled it "There's an Elephant in my Room". Kind of tongue in cheek, it points out that sometimes something is staring us straight in the face and we are blinded to it, we can't see it and yet it stands to digest us and eat us alive.
So, it's your turn! Put your soul into your art today. Sit in the still, get in touch with your emotions, attach words to them and make a picture that expresses your heart... it's good for the soul!