The Grazing Principle
“Creativity is the Spirit of the Picnic…” Beyond Success or Failure
I first came across this idea in the book “Beyond Success and Failure” by Willard and Marguerite Beecher many years ago and it stuck with me somehow. It is an excellent book about life in our competitive world and is somehow inspiring even though the book is relentlessly unsentimental.
As for the Grazing Principle, they give the example of the horse that without any thought of getting ahead grazes his happy way through the day. He sees a clump of grass and then another and another. He fills his belly, enjoys the process and all without fuss or anxiety.
We are not horses I hear you say, but the book sets out the idea that we humans have exaggerated the importance of our fore brain and intellect. They propose that the Grazing Principle within us is our intuition and it is intuition that leads us to our greatest discoveries and satisfaction in life. The intellect will set its goals and then blind us to anything outside that path. We become like a horse with blinders on a dusty road unable to see the lush ideas or opportunities all around.
“The anxiety ridden, ambitious turbulence of the conscious mind makes grazing quite out of the question” Beyond Success or Failure
I have learned to be in the moment with my art and to see ‘what is next’ and what emerges is always better than what I had planned. But how am I to translate this idea to everyday life?
How shall any of us live a life with spontaneous awareness in a world that does not support it?
As we all know staying in the moment when we are at work, stuck in traffic, or the baby is screaming or the dogs barking, or we are looking at bills is quite another matter. In a competitive, goal oriented, money making world there is no support for the “let’s see what is next” or “Let me take some time to get in touch with my Intuitive Wisdom”. You will experience rolling of eyes, ridicule, lectures and be overlooked as lacking substance. There’s not much to be said for this way of life and yet…increasingly it is the only thing that makes sense.
“When will power…..enters the scene, then spirit, playfulness and creativity depart at once”
Beyond Success or Failure
I have been neglecting my blog, and I really wanted to write about deep and profound subjects related to Art like Introversion, Depression and Spirituality. However, the sun has been out, and in keeping with my Dilettante, Do Whatever is Next profile, I’m going to talk about my dogs instead.
My dogs are giving me the “Look”. Dog owners know exactly what I’m talking about. The Guilt Inducing look of utter incomprehension at the strange and dog boring activities of drinking coffee and staring at a computer.
Why am I not chasing squirrels or exploring the woods, or rolling in something stinky and disgusting? These are all excellent questions for which I have no answer.
I’ve been busy setting up my Fine Art America site and fine tuning my other websites. But when you have dogs, and the sun is out in the Pacific Northwest where it rains for 10 months out of the year, it is a crime to sit in front of a computer.
So my more profound and life changing insights will have to wait for another time.
I have squirrels to chase.
Eckhart Tolle says, “Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life.”
For the sake of this blog I have labeled myself an artist. But I could just as well call myself a cook, or a gardener or any number of other creative endeavors in which I engage. When I am cooking, I am a cook, when I am gardening, I am a gardener. When I am creating I am an artist.
Contrary to the impression you may have gotten in my last post, where I talked about the benefits of being a quitter, I am not advocating you be a dilettante, although I’m pretty sure that is what I am. I admire those who with a single powerful focus master their chosen field, or medium. I enjoy the fruits of their excellence. However, I am not one of those people as I suspect many of us are not. I have experimented with many roles in my life and in art with many mediums. I have been daughter, sister, wife, lover, student, teacher, friend and loner. I have experimented with clay, fabric, paper, paint, colored pencil and digital mediums in my art. So what should I call myself?
Am I a Ceramist and nothing else, or a Collage Artist? But then I discovered colored pencil and so then I must be a Colored Pencil Artist. Currently I am enamored of digital art…Each of my experiences in life and each of these mediums have taught me a great deal. So my question is at what point are we to stop playing and exploring and trying new things?
I realize this lack of commitment does not fit well in our focused product driven society but I would like to propose there are more people like me in this world than we know whose voices are silenced .
So you go to a party and are asked “what do you do?” I immediately resent this question and am inclined to answer, “I go to parties and answer stupid questions”, but mostly I just don’t go anywhere.
It would be easy to assume I resent the question because I have not found success in a chosen field, but I suspect success breeds its own resentments. Because you are then put in a box defined by your success. Just ask famous movie stars or musicians, who dare to assert their right to paint pictures or write poetry, or pursue any other interest outside of what we expect them to be. I feel one reason behind a fear of success is the fear of being trapped. Success, as it is defined in our society can kill the spirit, and deep down we all know this to be true.
Once I was a 5 year old girl who dreamed of forests and magical deer. Once I was a 13 year old who cared only about books and horses. In my twenties, I partied, chased boys, did drugs and went to college. In my 30 and 40’s I worked a lot. So at what point do I say this is who I am, this is what I do, and this is how it is?
The word Dilettante has a negative connotation, but it was not always so. It used to be associated with the pursuit of knowledge simply for the beauty of knowledge, not for what it may earn. In fact the root of the word Dilettante comes from the Latin ‘to delight’. And it is with this perspective that those of us, who are Masters of None, can accept the spirit of curiosity and playful discovery to be a good and wonderful thing!
“If the Angel deigns to come, it will be because you have convinced her, not by tears but by your humble resolve to be always beginning: to be a beginner.” RILKE
I am a Quitter and therefore always a Beginner. I’ve taken precisely three art classes in my life and have promptly quit all three. The first was in the 7th grade. I was only 13 at the time; sure I was no artist, but still wanting to do something artistic and creative. The 1st week was kindergarten style projects; potato printing and such. My highly sophisticated 13 old self was put off by what I saw as laziness on the part of the teacher. Finally in the 2nd week, we were given a real assignment. We were shown how to draw mountains and a river receding into the distance. I think we used water colors. The instructor asked us to basically duplicate her drawing, but to be creative! Mine came back the next day with a near failing grade of ‘D’. I became righteously angry and immediately transferred out of the class.
My second stab at an art class was at a community college, also a dismal failure. On the very 1st day, the instructor said it was his goal to get a third of the class to drop out in one week. Apparently he was bent out of shape at the class size and the overbooking of classes by the administration. (I should have dropped out on the first day). He ran the class like a drill sergeant. I thought it was a beginning art class, but he threw advanced perspective concepts and assignments at us the very first week, until one day during a timed drawing exercise I realized I had no clue what the hell he was talking about. I started to cry and quit that week along with about a third of the class. Mission accomplished Mr. Art Instructor!
My 3rd attempt was about 25 years later. I had been experimenting with colored pencils on my own and thought to take an informal evening art class. I had always drawn on black paper as I loved the way it created a ground that made the colors pop. But in the very first class the instructor informed me that using black paper was cheating. I asked why, did not get a satisfactory answer and so quit.
By now you are saying I’m a big fat quitter and you are right. However, I don’t buy shoes that don’t fit. Just because someone tells you they should fit does not mean they actually do. Besides, I like to go barefoot.
I am a self-taught artist and have come to terms with the limitations AND with the opportunities that brings. I had a friend years ago who was a highly successful artist with a college degree in art, who once told me that she envied my lack of training because I didn’t know what could or could not be done.
What I enjoy most about art is the process of discovery, and although classes would hone my technical skills, it would at the same time kill the spirit of exploration and the delight of discovery that I cherish.
For those of you like me who resent the yoke of convention, or who are trying to regain the childlike spirit of play in their art, I invite you to forget the training, put down the books, silence the critical voices within and without and simply find out what’s next!
“Art is when you hear a knocking from your soul — and you answer.” ~Terri Guillemets
In my first Post, I talked about the difficulties of writing the first post! While I’m sure it was riveting, my goal is to share the circuitous, messy, illogical, frequently interrupted evolution of my art, not my angst about writing. Whether my art is any good or not is of no consequence. What matters to me is what I have learned from pursuing art, and sharing what I have learned with you. Perhaps you will gain some inspiration, encouragement or insight into your own creative life. There is scant little encouragement in this world for anything other than making money.
By the 1990’s I had given up the recreational drugs of my tumultuous youth. Drugs had given my life the illusion of deep and profound creativity. When you’re high on pot or mushrooms or acid, washing the dishes or putting on your socks will feel like the most creative, artistic, amazing thing you have ever done!
And although there may be some Zen/Amish truth to that, I found my life Post Drugs to be lacking something. Not being a religious person, and finding the New Age Movement of the time to be unsatisfying, I turned to art.
My journey began with reading “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards back in the early 90’s and “The Power of Your Other Hand” by Lucia Capacchione.
Also “Life, Paint and Passion” by Michell Cassou and Stewart Cubley were helpful in overcoming my biggest obstacle: ME.
These books introduced me to the idea of letting go and having fun with the process of art. What a concept! Like most of us I grew up in a world Of Nay Sayers; “No, you have to stay within the lines”, or “No, that’s not the right color for a cat”, or “What the hell is that!?” It was difficult to let go of voices that I had long since internalized and made my own.
The Voice of Reason always made an appearance too: “you will never make a living with art, why bother?”, or “ there are lots of talented starving artists out there “, or “you have to go to college, you have to have connections, you have to make money, you have to sell your soul, be practical, get a real job…etc. etc.”
All these voices would usually kick in before I even broke out the brushes or pencils. Paralyzed once again, I would do something practical like get a second job or Do the Dishes.
I saw an ‘inspirational’ saying on Facebook that said, “What you do when you are procrastinating is what you are meant to do with your life” If that is true, then my life is meant to be playing Sims, Diner Dash and Doing the Dishes. I refuse to believe this is true.
It was during the worst 4 years of my life that I finally gave up the need for art to be anything but a means of expressing myself. Seems simple enough, but this represented a huge breakthrough for me, and the journey began in earnest….stay tuned.
|“Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.”|
|— Kahlil Gibran|
And boy am I perplexed!
How do I start this Blog? I keep looking for a road map or a formula or for inspiration to strike me like a bolt of lightning, or for the Gods and Goddesses of Creativity to knock me upside the head and say, “DO THIS” or “SAY THAT” in thunderous non ambiguous ways.
GO FORTH AND BE INSPIRED OR I WILL KICK YOUR ASS!
But no such luck, so I will slog on and hope that in my humble story you will find inspiration for your own artistic journey. (Or at least a few laughs).
Into the Soup, Life and Art without Recipe is my attempt to find coherence in the mixed up, far flung experiments of my life and art thus far. Like a refrigerator full of leftovers from unrelated meals, I must try to cook up something meaningful. So far I have found no such coherence or meaning, and I have certainly not realized any sort of living from my art. (That thorny issue is a subject for another post). What I have found is what a large part art has played in moving me forward to greater confidence, self-acceptance, and embracing the value of surrender. Self-discovery in the process of making art has to be the truest aim of art. Money, recognition, excellence, and making an impact can be satisfying by products of art , but it cannot spring from those sources. In that attempt, the spirit is lost. It has to be about the journey.
So begins my Blog.
“The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its supreme purpose through him.”
– Carl Jung