I'm never quite sure why I feel the urge to create a still life around a specific object. For my painting, In search of the muse (shown at the end of this post), that object was a plastic deer figurine. I suppose I was charmed by the graceful lines and gentle gaze of the realistic little model.
Over the course of several weeks I tried placing many other objects alongside the deer. Nothing felt right until I realized that the deer worked best when it was slightly elevated. When viewed from a low angle, it had a noble and majestic quality I wanted to convey. After figuring out that piece of the puzzle, a pyramid of items – typewriter, dictionary and typewriter carrying case – quickly fell into place as a platform for it.
I try to keep the process of selecting the content of a painting as intuitive as possible. I don't really know where a still life is going or what it will mean until it's finished. However, I have strong feelings about what works and doesn't. Some of that comes from years of crafting visual ideas as an advertising art director and graphic designer. But mostly, the things in my paintings feel right when I connect with the symbolism in some way. I don't always know why at first but the connection always relates to something I'm concerned with or thinking about at the time. It's a little bit like dream imagery.
The end result is a mashup of things that tell a story. In this case, the painting turned out to be about the creative process itself.
Unlike the ad agency world with its limitations, deadlines and opinions, I've got total creative freedom with my art. But in many ways, that can make the process more daunting. Parameters narrow down the possibilities and automatically guide thoughts in a certain direction. As an artist, I'm free to let my thoughts wander anywhere. The trick is to let my mind go and have confidence that before too long, it'll run into an idea worth putting on a canvas.
In search of the muse
Oil on linen, 40 X 30 inches