Avoiding the Straight and Narrow


Ikebana 1, 10 x 15″ acrylic, inks

“When the snake decided to go straight, he didn’t get anywhere.”

– William Stafford

Our artistic paths have a trajectory that is unique to each of us. About the only thing they have in common is that they are not straight, often to our dismay. It seems like we’d get to where we’re going faster along the proverbial “shortest distance” straight line. But we need to see each twist and turn as the necessary route that is getting us to where we need to be.

A favorite analogy of mine is that of an airplane – it is slightly off course the entire trip and only reaches its destination because the pilot (auto or human) is constantly making small adjustments to its direction. In fact, if you find yourself on a path that feels pretty straight, you minght want to contemplate whether it’s just taking you really off course. Whenever I have been doing something consistently for awhile, I change it up. Usually I do so because I get bored easily so it’s a change born of necessity. But other times I’ll try something new just for the sake of it, to see if that direction feels like it’s moving me forward.

Of course, the airplane analogy breaks down a little bit with artists, because we  don’t know what our final destination is. So our course corrections have less design behind them. But I think it is safe to say that you’ll probably see a greater variety of scenery along the way if you meander purposefully a bit – and, after all, a more interesting journey is what it’s all about!

5 responses to “Avoiding the Straight and Narrow

  1. Bob,
    I have recently subscribed to your blog and have truly enjoyed your thoughts and beautiful art. I am a teacher and photographer and experiment with painting abstractly as well. I just thought you would like to know that your words have great value. Your art too!


  2. Todd

    Welcome aboard! I appreciate the kind words and look forward to hearing more from you. I enjoyed your website – portrait photography is an art form I admire but have no skill in!

  3. Very interesting entry, Bob. Once more, I look for similarities within my chosen field, and find many. I have a number of musical pieces lying around, almost all of which are the result of this twisting, turning “searching” process. Somewhere along the way, I may have got lost for one reason or another. But I never regard them as failed pieces. I constantly delve into them when I need a chorus, a solo, or an intro or whatever, and my creative spark is waning. Often, they become the basis of instrumentals, such as the ones I use to accompany Miki’s artwork videos. So, whilst the journey may not always find its destination, the experiences along the way are all fuel for the creative fire. A little like life, don’t you think?

  4. Kev

    I suspect most endeavors that are complex and require thought, such as art, are themselves good metaphors for life in general. Which is one reason we are so drawn to them. For those who are thoughtful, they allow us to learn things about ourselves that can help in general in life.

    Sounds like just as many paintings have a long, twisted life (endless altering, cutting up and reusing, etc.) music can as well. Makes perfect sense. Keeping that in mind, no piece is really a failure as you say because it may make a comeback at a later date!

  5. I really like these last two images (the dreamcatcher and this one)! In many of the earlier ones, the square/circle shapes are very defining. Here, squares/circles still have a presence, but the free forms really burst forth. I guess I relate to that. Hmm, perhaps “straight and narrow” is also in some way about the linear quality of those squares/circles…?

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