About four years ago, portrait artist Dana Lundmark began playing with clay.
‘I’d had no training at all,’ she explains. ‘I was just sort of playing with blobs of clay. Pretty much straight away a human figure formed. I guess that happens a lot, do you think?’
I shrug my shoulders.
‘What was interesting was that I’d be tinkering absently with a figure and it would sort of take a posture of its own. It was really weird. Does that sound weird to you?’
Weird, yes, but interesting too.
‘Anyway, it seemed weird to me. And every time I did a figure, the same thing – it would take on some gesture or posture I had nothing to do with. I never started out with an intention or a plan. I just accepted that these figures somehow did their own thing.
‘People say that my figures are expressive, even though they have no facial features.’
Here’s what’s interesting: a portrait painter suddenly making clay figures with no face at all! An unconscious part of the process of separation from portraiture, perhaps? Was the shift from two to three dimensions a liberation, a catharsis?
The behaviour of Dana’s figures reminds me of the common experience of novelists in which their fictional characters take on lives of their own and lead the story where they will, seemingly independent of the will of the writer. These writers can’t wait to get back to their desks to see what their characters will do next!
It’s a reminder that a large part of the creative process is intuitive, unconscious. That our intuition is our connection with a world much more vast than the confines of our rational minds. That we should avoid playing the end-game, but rather accept artmaking as a process. That we should try to keep our egos out of the process wherever we can, and to be wary of trying to impose our will, Godlike, on our artwork. To make a routine of freeing the mind of rational thought in order to make way for the creative dream-space. To take a step back and silently observe as our inner forces take charge. To let the universe speak through us, rather than us shouting dimly at the universe.
And I’m the first to admit I need reminding.
Only if you are able to be conscious without thought can you use your mind creatively…Eckhart Tolle, “Practicing the Power of Now”
In my conversation with Dana, I’m getting a strong sense of the importance of spontaneity, an absence of planning, an openness to possibility.
I’ve never had a plan. At anything I’ve ever done. Never. I just go, “that looks interesting,” or, “might give that a try.” Or someone offers me a job and I say, “what’s that? But sure, I’ll do it!” I don’t think I could ever say, “I’ve planned this, and it worked.” I feel like my life has gone with the universe.Dana Lundmark
I have to admit I was a little gobsmacked when she told me this. How can a person be so unplanned yet not only survive but thrive?
But I shouldn’t be so surprised. Poet, Mary May Simpson recently told me something similar:
I’m a bit of an enigma, even to myself. When I wake up, I don’t know what I’m going to think or do that day. The opportunity of each day excites me. I think it’s a form of insanity. It’s not normal. I’ve always been that way.Mary May simpson
I suspect this freedom of spirit is an important part of who these two women are are as artists. It gives the impression of effortlessness in their artmaking. Dana admits that it was not always so.
With painting it was always a struggle to some extent. I loved it, but I struggled to find portrait subjects, and I was selective with subjects. But with sculpture it seems to be much easier.Dana Lundmark
Although we’ve spoken at length about intuition, chance, risk, serendipity, the overriding mood I am sensing from Dana is maturity. She is by no means old, but she’s somehow taking on the character of a vintage wine. The ease with which she speaks of her art is a joy to listen to. I’ll leave the last words to her.
I used to feel guilt, whether I was painting or working at my day job. I’d be playing with paint, thinking it’s an indulgence, knowing I should be doing my job, meeting a deadline. But when I was doing my job I was always thinking I really should be doing my art. I was basically conflicted. And unproductive.
But these days I’m quite different. I know it’s not self-indulgent. It’s just something I need to do, love to do.
This is how I feel: All the things I’ve done up to now – drawing, painting, jewellery making, design, graphic art – all of those things were leading me to this. This is my final destination. Sounds corny? So what. I’ve reached my destination; I feel so comfortable. The satisfaction is enormous— enormous. When I finish a piece I’m happy that I’ve done it, but I’m ready to start again. It’s where I am meant to be – it just took a long time to get here!Dana Lundmark