I’ve been riding motorcycles most of my life. While I certainly have the occasion to ride alone, more often I’m with a my friend Treavor. Now to say that Treavor and I ride together is a bit of an understatement, as we have ridden thousands upon thousands of miles together over more than the last decade. The state of Virginia is motorcycling paradise and so, our rides are rarely ever less than a couple hundred miles, and we ride twelve months out of the year. This means we ride in varied conditions.
In doing so, we both have learned that we have an unspoken form of communication, maybe mental telepathy is a better way to put it, and I know we both use it a lot. Now mind you, we could buy a real helmet to helmet communication system, where we can actually talk to each other. But one of the wonderful things about riding is the ability to be with yourself in your own helmet. So, depending on who is leading and who is following, as we switch off at times, the follower is left guessing what route the leader might be choosing, stopping for fuel, or to take a break, and even the pace for one reason or another. The leader is also doing some respectful guessing about the follower’s participation in this, how they might be feeling and what choices they might make if they were leading.
Yet after so many years of riding together, we know almost exactly what the other one is thinking about with all that I have just mentioned, plus our feelings about the condition of the road we are on, the time of day, or the fatigue each of us might be feeling. I would say we know to a factor of about 90%, which then leaves a nice 10% for surprises. This could be the choice to go farther than expected, the choice of an unexpected road, or that type of thing. With hours in the saddle, part of the adventure is that mental telepathy going on between us, even to the point of appreciating a view.
So how you ask, does this have anything to do with art? Well, those amazing views from the ever changing landscape during a ride aside, I’ve noticed, this unspoken word is similar to how I also communicate with my art during the creative process. In a sense we are riding buddies, and remember, one of the wonderful things about riding is the ability to be with yourself in your own helmet? Well, painting is very similar.
You have your creative process, the way YOU uniquely go about your work of creating a piece of art. There’s the composition, the where to begin, knowing when your art is finished, and so much more. It’s a dance between you and your creation, and after all, (for the most part) it’s just the two of you, together, for hours. Sometimes you are leading the process, sometimes you can be following, allowing the artwork to take you where it wants to go, and with that, even surprise you! If your partnership is working well, the two of you know not to mix something too complicated when obvious fatigue is present. You begin to understand when color is too hot or underplayed, when your art is lacking contrast, or most important, when it’s not going as planned. If your art is sending you a message, even a subtle one, you must learn to hear, or better yet, feel it and respond.
I know what you may be thinking here. Art is a bunch of inanimate materials and is without feeling, emotion or spirit. Well, maybe on the face of things one might think this, but why even look at art if it doesn’t stir your feelings, emotion or spirit? More importantly, why even create art? This might be a version of the chicken and the egg, but ask yourself this, when exactly does art gain its ability to move people? Is all of this just your talent at play and the art itself has no power? When exactly does art become powerful? Is it when you are done and deem it to be so? I think not. Many talented artists have looked at something they have just created with amazement in their results. I did that? It’s a refreshing feeling. Yep, just as if that which they created had a mind of its own, and if it does, isn’t it worth communicating with it?
Sometimes one of the most freeing feelings is experiencing the freedom of not always being in control. Not being in control does not mean being out of control though either. Following doesn’t have to mean you are being led, it can so easily mean you are going with. The creation of art can deliver some pretty amazing results when you trust that your buddy, or your art isn’t just taking you on a ride, but with you on a journey. It’s a partnership. If you realize that art has a very powerful presence long before completion, you are in a better position to trust it, and it you.
Art may never actually take a breath on its own, but it can become powerful enough to take your breath away. I believe it starts to get this power very early on, and it will communicate with you throughout the process if you listen to it. It may also surprise you with a path you were not expecting!