Exploring the Lyrical

". . . everybody who has ever done creative work of any kind knows this moment. You make your plans in terms of what the mind can think of, and if you hold to those plans you're going to have a dry, dead piece of work. What you have to do is open out underneath into chaos, and then a new thing comes, and if you bring your critical faculty down too early, you're going to kill it.

There's a beautiful letter that Schiller wrote to a young author who was having the trouble that's known as writer's block. This young writer had oh, so much to say, but he couldn't write. This is a normal situation. Schiller said simply, 'Your problem is that you're bringing the critical factor into play before you have let the lyric factor work."

                     –Joseph Campbell, Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine 

La Danse by Matisse, 1909.
La Danse by Matisse, 1909.

Artists are explorers. The "terra incognita" that artists explore may be a world of ideas or a world of feeling. Sometimes we just follow a whisper of a notion, a little inner voice perhaps, or a sudden, powerful inspiration caused by something remarkably beautiful that we have just seen. Whatever the motivation, there must be pleasure in the act of creation or we can quickly lose our way. Play can be paramount to stimulating our artistic pleasure centers. However, the gods of play demand that we put our rationalizing, self-critical voice in the back seat for a while if we are to embrace the lyrical in our work. We've all had days when this can be hard to do. Sometimes, switching away from a comfortable medium or set of familiar tools can be immensely helpful in inviting play into our work.

When I think about the most free creative play I have ever enjoyed, I think about the sandbox. As children we created worlds in sand and just as easily erased them to start over again. There were no rules, no plans, no investment save our time, and sand sometimes behaved as if it had a mind of its own. Hours flew by and whatever masterpieces we had created were cheerfully abandoned at the end of the day. Today, my sandbox is watercolor painting. No matter what ideas I may have for the finished picture when I begin, the medium always demands that I step back and let it do some of the talking. I am always exploring what watercolor wants to do. Paradoxically, my most satisfying watercolor paintings required both complete attention and also complete forgetfulness. Total absorption in the moment leaves little room for critical assessments, allowing the elusive lyrical to surface. Play at its best.

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–John & Ann

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About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.