As an artist, I am constantly on the look out for triggers. Triggers that spark an image or narrative that can result in a painting. I don’t want or need the whole story from a trigger. I do not want someone to finish the story for me—or even “give” me a story. I only want to witness the teasing beginnings to trigger my imagination. It could be a furtive glance, a contemplative sitter in a park, or a fleeting image in a movie. It is often a dream.
There is a false narrative that artists sit in lonely places and wait for lightning to strike or toll away until the inspiration muse brings her delicate touch to our shoulder—causing us to tremble and spontaneously create something earth-shattering. My triggers create an interesting synaptic explosion in my mind. They release the energy that is needed to fuse multiple ideas into a new work. How these triggers inform the work is unknown until I begin a painting. As I begin to apply paint I am mentally referring back to the trigger but simultaneously trying to forget it. I want the burst of energy caused by the trigger. I do not want to imagine or replicate what the trigger is suggesting. Francis Bacon famously said, “the image is the paint and the paint is the image.” My best paintings are the result of a trigger and when I let go and just let the paint flow. The more I think about an image the less successful it is. This is confirmed by the higher percentage of works purchased (see my web site) resulting from this process. .
Recently, for example, Lea and I attended an exhibition of five Japanese artist. One of the artist, Shugi Nakagawa, is a woodworker. We bought his “champagne cooler” wooden bucket. He is a young but incredibly dedicated and gifted woodworker who spends hours planing a simple piece of cypress to the smoothness of a baby’s bottom. His family has been making cypress buckets for several generations. At the artist talks, I was standing behind Shugi Nakagawa. I noticed that his headband had radial lines whose center was at the knot. The angle of his hear, the scale of the scarf in relationship to the head and the contrast all piqued my interest. This image is the trigger for my next painting.