There are pockets of time in my working day that are very precious to me and I cherish them greatly. It is the time before the starting of any workshop, before the group arrives – either children or adults – in my studio or venues I work in regularly; places with plenty of space and light, places of beauty because in my work as a facilitator beauty counts a great deal. In this time and space, as I go around setting up the room, preferably alone, lost in the myriad of important small tasks, I feel a special type of tension, a tension that is full of possibilities.
Every aspect of preparing for the session follows its own ritual: choosing the right soundtracks to play in the background, the selection of books or visual displays that may serve as inspiration, the selection of art material to be used, a bunch of flowers or herbs from the garden to put in a vase, the vase itself. Everything counts and plays an important role in making the room as welcome as possible and in easing myself into the right mood for the job ahead. In that space I mentally rehearse the content of what I have prepared and I am full of anticipation for what is about to unfold, I look forward with great gusto and great expectations, the wonder of creation.
As I look around the empty room, the waiting chairs and tables I feel like a stage director in a theatre, impatient for the play to begin, a play whose script is loose enough to allow for personal improvisations, exchange and dialogues. Once the performance starts everybody relaxes into their role until they are totally absorbed and at one with their work, I also sit back and observe the New coming into life.
Slowly an array of images start to appear which are so diverse in style and so original in content that it’s like as if a personal Muse is indeed standing beside each artist overseeing their work. These images and symbols are worked with for a while, sometimes days sometimes months; then they disappear to be replaced by new ones or to re-emerge later on under new forms and disguises.
This process holds true for both children and adults. It is a sort of blueprint for creation which is almost magical to witness particularly when I have the chance to work with a group over time. This is when I learn the most.
Once the images are anchored to paper, in come the various preoccupations about style, technique and material. All reveal a type of personality and are expressed in different manners, but the kinds of preoccupations are shared by many.
These are not secondary issues – the preference for straight lines versus flowing lines, brush-strokes versus flat areas of colour, when to stop and declare the artwork completed or give yourself permission to go on, even if it means risking to ruin the work. And what about the problem of having to deal with our own expectations? “It doesn’t look at all like what I had in my mind” or “I have to let go of trying to represent exactly what’s out there” and worse still
“I am not good enough!”.
To all their questions I have many ready answers: reassurances, examples of other artists’ work, words of support, have faith in the process and in every phase of it. Ultimately the chief message I want to get across is the absolute belief I have that we are all equally creative, that what we need to learn is how to tap into our own well and to discover our unique way of expression, with time, with patience and most importantly while enjoying the task.
Giorgio de Chirico – The Disquieting Muses – 1918
The three “muses,” in the foreground of the painting, are meant to represent the pathway to overcome appearances and allow the viewer to engage in a discourse with the unknown. This painting inspired a poem by Sylvia Plath, also entitled “The Disquieting Muses.”