Artist Ingrid Roth
or A Phenomenological Perspective on the Creative Process
Down below you can read about how a creative process can look like. In this case is a phenomenological perspective on the creative process.
The creative process can look differently according to the task I am working on.
I regard the violet paint my brush is slowly spreading around a circular shape that will soon be painted orange. It gradually develops into a round surface somewhere behind a charcoal sketch of a male figure.
The violet hue triggers vague memories of mother-of-pearl. I don’t see it, yet it’s there. It flashes through the fabric of my awareness and disappears just as fast. Another brush collects the orange paint from my palette, carefully dipping it into a dark red. The round surface takes the shape of the sun, and the colours loom up, battling each other for dominance. Another touch of orange makes the sun shine brighter, smiling gently at me from its cradle of mother-of-pearl. A shiny button… A flowered dress sweeps by…
Next to the man I see a vague sketch of a woman holding a spaghetti server. Shouldn’t that be a spoon full of porridge? Her dress takes on a rosy shade from the hint of red still on the brush as it sweeps through a dollop of white paint.
The white becomes increasingly evident the more the brush works on the canvas; the reddish tone recedes to a shadow under her bust.
Roses… Purple roses… The roses turn into spirals, spreading across the dress, across my retina, in my breast. They haven’t materialized on the canvas yet… Or have they? I see them… They hang around, reluctantly settling in one place. A piece of siding in some sunny place where the air is scented with strawberries.
The strawberry patch glowed red in the sun, angled towards the miles of endless blue. Tiny green islands floated on its surface. Shadows of tree formations gathered on those islands. They bobbed up and down over the water’s surface while I swam in the big blue, hoping I would be able to keep my head above water. I kept swimming until someone called out that I had earned my swimming badge. It was summer and the sun was warm, but the big blue was cold and frightening.
The man on the canvas is holding a twisted viola in his arms. His hands seem to dream around it while I observe the absence of a pipe. Then I hear it… I hear the glow expanding and the tobacco crackling as he takes a deep pull and smacks his lips with pleasure. Two short pulls and a little cough. No, it’s not there; the man doesn’t have a pipe… Yet. Maybe later.
The tree behind the man doesn’t have any leaves. They don’t exist yet. There is a hint of them, and I know they will come to be. Dark red branches spread out into nowhere, weeping for leaves to cover their nudity. The trunk is old and the branches delicate. Fragile with age, they exude an air of Jerusalem. The heat from the olive tree gave the trunk its fragile voice. The voice that now belongs to the elderly Jewish man sitting with his back against the tree. He is not smoking the pipe.
He fingers his sidelocks familiarly and sighs heavily, remembering his beloved who no longer lies beside him on the blanket there under the tree. He remembers stroking her shoulder and hearing the dry leaves rustle as she reaches for her wine glass.
The parched soil is now beginning to green, and the man with the sidelocks remains behind the picture frame on the wall. That’s where he lives. He lives there above the television set, but he would love to slip into my painting. He takes liberties, the scallywag. You’ll just have to wait, old man. The man with the viola was there before you, and so far he still has ringside tickets.
The man with the viola has no expression on his face. Yet. He’s waiting for me to give him lips. The lips turn up in a smile – a cautious smile. The kind of caution that fills the air with a sort of awareness.
That everything is okay. The air is clear and no one is afraid. While the shapeless viola increasingly echoes with Bach’s cello concerto, I watch as the instrument’s appearance fades in importance.
Perhaps it will be red, or blue or violet. It only gets two strings. Yet those two strings can give me any music I could ever want.
It allows itself to be transformed by my every whim. Is that power? Is it a twisting of a layer of memory, or simply a wish for beautiful memories?
Now the woman fills her spoon with spaghetti, which should have been porridge, and happily dishes it up on a plate. The lamb meatballs take on a green tone – the lemonade-coloured
paint that fills them tastes… green… The green balls offset the orange heat spreading in the middle of the violet sky.
The pipe and the purple roses are somewhat distant, but still there. They are enveloped in a layer of memory, shimmering in mother-of-pearl. The woman speaks to me, but I can’t hear what she says. Her lips move and she laughs. She takes the spaghetti server and buries it again in the mountain of pasta, then points it at an empty plate, which is meant for me.
Does she want me to sit down and share their meal? With her and the man with no pipe, and the woman with no roses on her dress? The roses turned into violet spirals and the pipe became a fanciful viola or cello.
Ahaaa… The layer of memory thickens, stretches and reminds me of something. Sometimes it becomes visible as it takes the shape of a thick velvet curtain. Old, but exquisite. I will leave space for it, but right now I’m discovering something else. A light is coming in. I carefully fold the curtain and leave it in the waiting room. On that piece of siding that smells like strawberries. The layer of memory can live there for a while, and I dip a bigger brush in the blue paint, which has begun to dry on the palette. I flatten out the brush in the middle of the blob, pressing down to break through the dry crust that has formed over the top. It cracks, and tiny fragments of the blue paint stick to the bristles. The paint is getting thick, and I thin it out with a little white and new violet paint.
I’m in the zone again, my hand working quickly and methodically over the top of the canvas, which is now the sky above the sun. The sky is getting darker, contrasting with the bright world below. The world doesn’t see the dark yet, but senses its presence, feeling the need to shine even more to show off its bright beauty.
The dark settles in the firmament, gradually thickening and calling out to the light to keep shining so the dark can behold its beauty and give them both key roles in the sequence of events. Or was it the other way around? I don’t remember…
The woman sees the man in the middle of the burning light, but feels the aura of the dark. The aura brings her to life. She smiles, and knows the number of her days. Today that number is infinity, but tomorrow it will be just a memory. I paint her hair red – bright, burning red – but she told me she’d never been a redhead, so I bleached it with peroxide. I hoped it would turn into a blond mane with barely distinguishable locks, but instead it turned dry and vaguely red.
“No one in my family has ever had red hair,” she said, glaring at me. She had forgotten her sister, who had fiery red hair. But she ran off to America, so maybe she doesn’t count.
The layer of memory suddenly splits open, and the man behind the viola, who doesn’t have a pipe, calls me on the phone. I sit up groggily in bed when the signal shrieks through my dream.
I answer: “Hello…”
“Hi, it’s uncle Arne…”
I say this is ridiculous…
“Why are you calling me?
You don’t exist anymore. You’re nothing but a memory. Both of you moved away. You belong behind the mother-of-pearl skies!”
“I just want you to know that we’re happy, dear…” says the man with a calm, relaxed tone.
He sounds happy. He sounds like those lips that I just let appear on his previously
“She sends her love.”
“She does?” I answered quickly, not quite understanding even as I do.
“What does she say?” I speak the words breathlessly, my heart pounding ever faster.
“She says that the lamb meatballs which should have been porridge are now waffles and they taste wonderful. You should try it sometime. She always mixed water into the batter.
That made them extra crispy and good.”
My grandmother knew how to make fried porridge and crispy waffles, but she was also good at forgetting.
I remember that very clearly.
What you just read is a fragmentary example of how a few minutes of my painting process on any given day might look. The memories intermingling in my palette came from my grandmother, and the voice on the phone was her son – my father’s brother. I really did get this phone call in a vivid dream the day after his funeral. Then there’s the beloved painting on my wall at home by Tobiasse.
The process I just described was probably both shorter and longer than the time it took me to relay it. It changes constantly, wandering between poetic expression and emotionless brush strokes to a feverish gasp stemming from a memory. It can be consciously planned, or an unconscious reshaping of the memory as it wraps itself in a new cloak. An image of the past appearing in its true form, or a glimpse of a future yet to come, flying at rocket speed or trundling like an old Ferguson tractor across the fields. Painting is like making a journey through an undiscovered poetic encyclopaedia. A work in an infinite number of languages – languages that only I master, but that I usually don’t understand and am not even aware of.
Sometimes I look the words up in my big encyclopaedia. Sometimes the meaning rings clear and true, while other times it fades before my eyes and I’ve already forgotten that I was trying to find something out.
Then there are those things called beauty, harmony, balance, challenge and excitement. The fairytale that tells how things should have ended. The symbols that give us insight. The things that reach deep inside the viewer, giving you a new perspective. An insight. A rectangle of space that opens a door to a past, a future or something else that instils peace and harmony. Recognition. A reminder of something that can’t be described in words. A bit of comfort or long sought-after justice. Painting contains the dialogues, the words, the whispers, the dance of voices, the tones of music and all those things we can’t understand, but still feel.
This is also called the Expressive Arts… And it’s one of my tools at the easel.
Ingrid Uppsala, 19 July 2011