“Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”
– Miles Davis
It’s all too easy to play what’s there – to take another photograph, paint a painting, write a story, compose a song, much like the ones you’ve done before. There are lots of reasons to do so – creating a consistent body of work, improving one’s skills through practice, recreating a past success, fear of making a mess.
It takes lots of imagination, courage and discipline to “play what’s not there”. To take the next step and create something new is exciting, seductive, frustrating, uncomfortable – and ultimately very rewarding.
I’ve been focusing lately on some abstract acrylic paintings – my intention to stick with non-representational work makes it a little more difficult to “play what’s there” since I’m not trying to make it look like anything else. During the period when I was doing landscapes in pastels, I found I was focusing on improving technique and much less on being creative. The explicit nature of the subject matter weighed me down. My focus was more outward.
When painting non-representationally I find myself listening to the pieces more. I start a piece and put it aside, come back and sit with it, trying to understand where it wants to go next. Since there are no external landmarks to direct me, the marks I’ve made so far must be my guides. I enjoy these private conversations immensely.