Tending the Growth of an Idea

Here we are on the doorstep of spring and it feels right to sow seeds and cultivate the land available before us, small as it may be. Every year it is the same process. The work is tedious and back-breaking at times but it begins with a plan. We seem to draw remarkable confidence for our project’s success once we have a plan installed. It is our recipe for success now that the natural world is at our beck and call – because Nature is so obedient to the plans we make, and what could possibly go wrong.

First the garden beds are considered, problem areas are diagnosed, new seeds, fertilizer, plants and supplies are purchased by the ton. The kids magically disappear as soon as a second set of hands could have potentially been useful. These are just some of the notes and tones we dance to as we exert ourselves annually to control the uncontrollable. But once those first tiny buds begin to sprout and gradually the grey of winter’s wasteland departs to be replaced by green shoots and new growth then the memory of the work required disappears in a haze. Of course the haze is usually assisted by ample supplies of beer, piping hot showers to ease sore muscles and fist- fulls of our favorite pain medications. This is a common experience for those who find themselves responsible for the care of a plot of land and neighborly obligations demand that you prepare your home for the change of seasons.

Without stretching a metaphor too far this process is a mirror image to what goes on in the artist’s studio. These are both life-giving endeavors that require great effort to generate new growth. Ideas that are left out in the yard too long become unruly or simply die on the vine. Diligence is required and the payment of time and effort are owed to the work for it to become a viable creation.

The early work done in the studio cannot be overvalued. It is the perfect time to consider what was done previously – what part of the plan was a success and what failed to take root. There is a wild and frenetic undercurrent in the studio that lays just beneath the surface waiting for the proper nutrients to be added. For many artists it takes effort to even get to the point where the real work can begin. The use of drawings, sketches and journals become essential tools here. Subject, style, color, tone, brushwork, scale are constantly evaluated and our initial thoughts endure waves of revision.

Through all of the alterations, adjustments, hours of labor and self-doubt it comes down to those wonderful sprouts of new, healthy growth that keep us coming back. When we are fortunate enough to raise an idea from the spark of recognition to a workable sketch and then on toward a completed artwork we are shown a small part of life’s ineffable spectacle. A glimpse very few people will ever see. It is here in this creative garden we want to remain and we are renewed again and again.

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