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6527212 January 28, 2013

Can You Hear my Voice?

“This is the time for every artist in every genre to do what he or she does loudly and consistently. It doesn't matter to me what your position is. You've got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you've got.” 
― Toni Morrison

Can You Hear My Voice?
25" x  40" Acrylic, Ink & Pastel on Canvas
I spend a lot of time thinking about what art should mean, what my art means. Sometimes I get bogged down with the thought that, as an artist, I should be out fighting the good fight, championing a cause, slaying a villain through visual expression. These thoughts often become overwhelming. I'd love to do those things yet I still find myself painting particular images in a particular way. My way.

I wonder if I'm a horribly selfish artist. 

I think about all the great artists and their topics. I consider who was great and why. I tease apart the emotions we know artists such as Kahlo, Pollack, and Van Gogh had, for example. These people were not great champions standing on mountaintops showing the world what the next steps should be toward ultimate peace and tranquility. They were highly emotional individuals who often struggled, and they expressed those struggles through their art. They showed the world who they were and in turn, held up a mirror to others.  

While I was painting my latest piece, Can You Hear My Voice?, I thought about all this, getting bogged down and trying to remind myself that I don't have to solve the world's issue with a painting.  As usual, I began by creating a background for the work. Then I painted a face (as I'm into faces lately). Then I decided I didn't like it so I took the unstretched canvas off the wall and turned the whole thing sideways. I decided to ignore what I'd already painted and began painting another face. It made no sense really. That's the way I often paint. I plan very little. I just start and do what I feel like doing. I paint fast, listening to my emotions and instincts, to stop my hyperactive brain from over thinking.

As I continued working on the piece, I began to head in a downward spiral, thinking that it made no sense in any way and that, once again, it certainly didn't relay anything that would qualify as world-saving or villain slaying. That's when I started to get mad. Mad that I'd wasted my time and canvas. Mad that maybe I'm wasting my life. And then mad at myself for believing I need to satisfy "someone's" definition of art for it to be deemed valuable. Mad that I'd be judged and that I am judged. The angrier I got, the more I did whatever I felt like doing to the work based on my instincts.  

As I began to feel that the piece was nearly finished, I got happier. I liked the sort of sarcastic do-you-think-I'm-an-idiot? expression on the purple-ly faced girl and the red jagged line down the other's face. I liked the way it looked as if the entire left 2/3rd of the piece might be exploding out of the misunderstood girl's head with a small chunk of her brain exposed. I loved all the little creatures around them and the colors and the busy feel of it. I loved the realization that no one could replicate my work.  

Then I came across Toni Morrison's quote. I read it and knew that she's right.  And Kahlo and Pollack and Van Gogh were right. They painted who they were as individuals. They gave to the world proof that we are a vast composite of unique individuals, and that in its self holds never ending hope for our future.

I remembered a wonderful book I read by Kazuo Ishiguro. His novel, Never Let Me Go, is about a society who raises children for the purpose of donating organs once they mature into adults. The kids grow up in special "schools" and are taught their purpose early in life. One of the administrators involved keeps a program going for the kids that focuses on art. Their days are filled with creating art. They sense that it's important yet they don't really know why. It turns out that the woman believes art is the one tangible thing that can prove these kids are human. That they are individuals and worthy of life. The art displays their souls.

My art displays my soul. Perhaps very few in this world give a real f-ck about the soul of Penelope Przekop but I believe I'm capable of putting my soul on canvas and so I will do it, not only for myself, but for all those who cannot or do not care to try. Perhaps someday, my efforts will be valued individually, as part of a generation, or as a small part of the human race. I don't know, but I sense that it's important. 

So as I finished the piece and wanted to give it a title, I realized that, yes, it loudly portrays who I am as a complex human being in a way that is consistent with the work I've been doing over the last year or so. I took a deep breath and decided, Okay Toni Morrison, I will do this loudly and consistently.  I'm ready. 

Can you hear my voice?  Can you see it?  I hope so. 

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6527212 June 04, 2010

Dedication, Creation, and Expression: Karina Sala

"Creativity is a capacity all humans have but talent is a power that not everyone shares."

I'm beginning to wonder if being a writer is akin to suffering from a bizarre diagnosis.  The primary symptom is an unfaltering need to write and the underlying disease presents as:
  • lack of self-esteem
  • an strange emptiness that needs filling
  • a constant or deep need to be validated; to be worth something
I'm sure quite a few of the writers I've interviewed would throw up their hands and say, "Wait just a minute!  I honestly don't have those issue.  I write to create.  I have a vast imagination that never stops, and I simply enjoy writing more than anything else. I'm good at it; always have been."

I'm happy for them.

I love writing, too, but it's somehow not quite so simple. Although I prefer to resist labels, I'm been wondering if  there are two categories of writers: those who are driven to create and those who are driven to express.  I wish I could ask some of my favorite writers about this.  I wonder what Nathanial Hawthorne, Philip Roth, Pat Conroy, John Irving, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Micheal Chabon, Ayn Rand, Anne Tyler, Micheal Cunningham, and Richard Yates would say about creation versus expression.  I wonder what the 100 greatest authors of all time would say. 

Two things that have been somewhat consistent in my interviews on creativity are:
  • It's difficult or impossible to put 100% into two creative endeavors at once.
  • Writing is more about creation than expression.  
I've backed off from painting lately. Now that I'm deep into my latest novel, it's beginning to consume me--as it should. It's pouring out much faster than the other three. But in the end, I refuse to be guilty of whipping something out. Perhaps great novels have been written that way but somehow it feels a bit shallow for me. I need to dig deeper into my characters, their world, their motivations and emotions. And I need every book I write to be my best yet.

For me, a novel must have a point, something expressed that goes beyond creating a great story. The novel's world is constructed around a central theme, which is its core. I don't set out to preach or tell anyone how to live or what to think. Instead I explore my own emotions, opinions, and conclusions about the theme by weaving a story around it. 

When I begin, I'm not always sure how I feel about the topic(s) I've chosen to focus on.  I grew up in an emotionally confusing environment.  Everything was out of focus.  I constantly struggled to decipher what was going on, what was true, and how I felt about it despite certain powerful individuals telling me how to feel about it.  Perhaps that's why I need to sort out and express myself by creating my own unique environment inside a book.  My novels represent the thought process I go through, and I invite others to go along for the ride.  We may not all come to the same conclusions and that's okay.

This is tough to if I also need to think about putting my soul on canvas, which often requires focusing on another theme altogether.  I miss painting and want to get back to it, but I can't stop writing; it's my disease.  My schedule/plan may need to evolve from write in the morning and paint in the afternoon to write for a year, paint for six months while planning the next novel, write for a year. That sort of thing.

My guest today, artist Karina Sala, also believes it's not a good idea to do two things at once, but says that painting is a creation/expression combo for her. At one point, Karina had to step back from painting for an entire decade--but she never stopped being an artist.

Dedication is a word commonly tossed around in creative circles.  I would like to suggest that each person's brand of dedication is unique. It shouldn't always be measured by time.  It should be measured by depth and bravery, by what an artist is willing to put on the table and offer to the world, and by their determination to find out how they can best do that, even if it takes a lifetime.

I want my novels to be part of my art not separate from it. I want to put everything I've got into each work of art, whether it's a book or a painting. 

Having the determination and focus to paint or write ten hours a day certainly says a lot about a person, but it doesn't guarantee there is anything valuable to offer, that talent exists, and that something powerful is occurring. For those who share my strange illness called writing, our greatest fear is that, in the end, despite all our dedication, the emptiness will be exposed and our worth will turn out to be nothing.    

What's your story (short version)? Are you surprised by what you are doing and creating these days, or did you always see it coming?

My story is that I began drawing Walt Disney characters as a child because I liked to draw.  When I was nine years old, I began sculpting, classical dancing, and playing guitar.  As I grew up, I continued with theater, dancing, and music but over all painting is where I specialized.  I began teaching the History of Art in an art school.  There I saw my future and all that was to come.  At the age of 23, I began to paint seriously.  I was waiting for it, and it was time to begin.

With regard to your current creative focus, was there an "ah yes" moment you can tell us about?

Yes. After being "socially" ill for ten years and unable to paint, I returned to painting.  My illness hampered my ability to interact with society.  After recovering, I realized I needed to paint about the issues I'd worked through during my illness and the things I'd envisioned.

For you, is art more about creation or expression? If could be both, but does one dominate with regard to your need/urge/desire to be an artist?

For me, it is a little of both.  There are various things in me.  There is a desire to create and express.  That is the truth.

Do you believe that a highly creative person can give more than one art form 100% of their ability/soul? Can a person succeed at more than one, or does trying to do so dilute what they have to offer?

I do not think you can do more than one thing at the same time because you won't do it correctly.  In my case, I'm dedication to only painting because I don't have time to do anything else right.

Do you believe some of the various attributes related to being highly creative have caused you aberrations in life, helped you deal with life's aberrations, or both?

Both.  Like I said, I was sick because of my personality but after I recovered, my personality helped me to be who I am today.

Have you had to deal with people in your life failing to understand your creative personality or drive? If so, can you tell us about it and how you've dealt with it?

I always had problems with society because I always like discovery.  I never accepted everything taught to me.  I faced that by learning to be more sociable with others.

Unfortunately, many creative people never achieve the success they dream about. Which of your dreams have come to pass and what do you dream about now?

I think I have accomplished all my dreams.  But I want more.

Is there a difference between being creative and being talented? What are your thoughts on this?

Creativity is a capacity all humans have but talent is a power that not everyone shares.

What is your primary motto or mantra in life? Why is this important to you?

I do not have a specific motto or mantra that drives me, but a cup of coffee or a Coke gets me going!

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