I’m weird. I like to look at a beautiful blank book, feel the unwritten pages, smell the fresh leather of the cover, and imagine the possibilities that lie within those pages.
But once the ink touches the paper, and words are coerced into existence from the ether of the subconscious, meaning (or the semblance of some form of coherent thought) comes into being.
And, at least for this possibility, one reality has been forged, from the infinitude of possible realities.
It is as though the probability wave function has been collapsed, and the fate of Schrödinger’s Cat has been determined.
It is the same with painting.
There is a romance in the act of beholding a blank, stretched linen canvas, primed and ready for painting. I love to feel the texture of the linen and often spend a lot of time just preparing the surface and imagining ways to cajole something from nothing.
Many artists love acquiring art supplies. I believe what they truly love is to behold the creative possibilities that lie ahead. In the same way, I love looking for new and different pigments to paint with. In particular, I love the idea of incorporating all kinds of natural minerals in my art, and I also love the idea of innovative ways to express colour and form through novel types of pigments, such as optically variable pigments or thermally variable inks.
And then there is woodworking. Whittling in particular. Carving wood and bringing forth new forms from a piece of blank. For me, the added allure of unique properties of interesting timber, irregularities in grain and texture, all offer more possibilities for creative expression.
One of the reasons I love collecting all kinds of unfinished or semi-finished things is to appreciate the unrealised potential within them. Of course, I am attracted to the inherent beauty in nature, the symmetry, the diversity, the harmony… all point to a Platonic ideal that transcends.
So, it may seem weird that I enjoy collecting gemstones (in their raw form) as much as seeing them finished into jewellery or art objects, or that I enjoy acquiring natural fibres or yarns as much as seing them knitted into scarves or fashioned into wearable art.
For, the finished form – the created art object – precludes all the other possibilities that could have been.
I call it artistic opportunity cost.
No wonder, then, that I like to take my time to actualise the many possibilities that lie before me.
Unless I find an item for a specific or predetermined project, there is usually a hiatus between the acquisition of raw materials and their transformation into completed works. Very often, the raw material is acquired for its inherent beauty or uniqueness, without any intention of turning it into anything else. Or it is there just for the sake of the possibilities it holds without any idea of what to make from it.
This brings me to the flip-side of the coin: the inclination to do nothing and procrastinate.
Where does one draw the line between imagining and appreciating possibilities, and transforming and realising potential?
What is the acceptable duration between dreaming and making it so?
I think that depends on the individual. Some people need to be constantly active and productive, and feel guilty if they are not doing something. Others like to take their time.
For me, I tend to go through intense, productive ‘bursts’, followed by periods of inactivity or creative dryness.
Productive bursts can last a couple of years, but artistic dryness can last five years or more.
It is, very often, during the dry spells that I turn to other interests or pick up new ones. This then leads to collecting different raw materials and imagining their possibilities.
A new interest or passion ensues, and a whole new world of possibilities unfolds.
And this process of discovering takes time; it cannot be rushed.
Then years pass, one discovery leads to another, and in the process, old discoveries are rediscovered, in a continuous process of invention and reinvention.
That is the creative journey for me.
It is never stagnant, even though it may seem to stagnate at times.
It always moves forward, while at the same time moves in cycles – the difference being that each new cycle enriches previous experiences and opens up whole new worlds of possibilities.