There are good spells and bad spells in the creative pattern. Lately it has been more of the latter. Even though I accept the "bad" spells, which are essential to breaking through to new ground, I am impatient. I decided to visit my friend Rodney Hatfield, and see his paintings before they were shipped off to Santa Fe. I was feeling discouraged with how long it sometimes takes to make even one painting I am happy with. Rodney has a stool at one end of his studio, next to which is a pile of scraps of paper– brown paper bags, poster paper, old photo paper etc. There are brushes, gesso and paint on the floor next to his stool. There is a hand written sign on the wall that says: "Shut up and paint", reminding him not to think too much.
To create a reprieve from the intense process of doing a large painting, he does a quick sketch on a scrap. He reminded me that this is what I do in my sketchbooks, and that I could also make use of rejected pieces of paper by doing something quickly–
Now I have one end of my studio dedicated to large scraps onto which something can be spontaneously scrawled.
Before I left Rodney's studio, he found a painting rolled up in one corner, looked at it, and handed it to me saying "this needs some writing". After tossing around the idea that I could easily ruin his painting, I decided to play. The painting called to mind a Nat King Cole song Rodney sings: "There was a boy, a strange enchanted boy... a little child... but very wise was he". I chose a rugged writing instrument to be sympathetic with the painting, and closing my eyes before I wrote each word (with a pen made from a piece of a soda can), and lettered part of the hymn.
I don't know what will come of this– the important thing that happened for me is it was a spell breaker. I became like a child and romped around on the paper. My work in the studio caught fire. I gave the painting back to Rodney, along with another from me, for him to respond to. Collaboration can be a catalyst for getting outside oneself, for discovering a new way of operating. The last part of the lyrics to Nature Boy by Nat King Cole go like this:
And then one day, a magic dayHe passed my way, and while we spokeOf many things, fools and kingsThis he said to me:
"The greatest thing you'll ever learnIs just to love and be loved in return."
To see more of Rodney's work:
Do you have some spell breakers to share?