Painting has often been about the oneness of our subject with its surroundings. Marcel Du Champ once said, “When you start to see the space between things, life becomes one revelation after another.” Impressionists and expressionists, from Monet to Van Gogh, have passionately fused the “subject” and the space surrounding it into unity. This is visual philosophy, not technique. It is a spiritual teaching in purely visual language. The subconscious of every viewer understands its sermon instantly even though the conscious mind, often dominated by its culture, can do with that information as it pleases. People once wrapped fish in Van Gogh sketches, and stuffed holes in fences with his paintings. But their subconscious minds knew exactly what they had just seen, a message that said all things are one and immensely, unspeakably beautiful.
In an energy universe, that is to say, in this Medium of Self Expression we call energy, our energy bodies move this way and that as expressions of our fears and desires, our awareness using this medium of expression to learn from and articulate what it feels like to be. As human energy beings, human expressions of Awareness, we have a freedom that animals and other energy expressions don’t have. We have a variable energy presence. That means a deer can only be a deer, but a human being can express deer energy. An actor can suddenly switch energy states and become someone other than the expression others know them to be. When Marlon Brando, for example, began rehearsals for A Streetcar Named Desire, “Stanley Kowalski,”. his character, walked out onto the stage and began delivering his lines. The director suddenly jumped up and demanded that the maintenance man please leave the stage because a rehearsal was taking place. Brando had become Kowalski!
We believe that we relate to one another as people. In fact, we can relate only to the energy that a thing or a being puts out. If a beautiful woman walks up to you in a supermarket and her energy state is one of intense rage, we are in relation not to her beauty but to rage. If a stranger comes up to us in utter joy to see us again, even if we cannot recall who she or he is, we respond to her as an old friend, frantically trying to place how we know her. Once, when I was with my partner, another woman came up to me in a parking lot, and with great affection asked me when I was going to call her and have dinner. To this day, I have no idea who this woman was, but my partner of twenty-four years still remembers this incident with impressive clarity. The energy that this woman was delivering was unmistakable, and neither of us could relate to any other possible energy presence, even though to me she was a complete stranger.
The master painters of Expressionism and Impressionism, if not all painters and especially the cave painters, all appear to have had an identical revelation concerning the making of art. They realized that, as human beings, we have the option to invite any energy in the universe to move through us, and make the painting for us. This marks the difference between a person making a painting and a painting made by a master. For, in the end, there is only one Master Painter, and that is the universe itself. That is to say, when a tree stands before you and you stand before an empty canvas, it is best to step aside and let the energy that created that tree recreate that tree in oil or acrylic on your canvas. A great artist, looking at a tree, knows when to step aside and hand the job over to one who does the job best. That is the secret that is behind Rembrandt’s gaze as he looks at one of his own, last, self-portraits on canvas. He knows that he did not do it. In exasperation with having spent a lifetime attempting to keep up with the beauty he is capable of seeing, he remains helpless before it. This exasperation and solemn acceptance are in his eyes.
How can we, as painters, come to this same masterful place and act as a conduit for the universe at large? It is effortless. Look at the trees and plants, living in the ground. In gazing upward at a tree, try to hear the music that specific tree is expressing, as if it is a dance performance. Are its leaves staccato, or slow and haunting as they drape and blow in the wind? Is it like an oboe, as with a magnolia tree blossoming only in a rainy, cold California winter, or the jungle-like percussion of ivy, as it races up a tree in conquest of all the territory it can grab? Is it the violin solo of a white cyclamen, or the trumpeting of sunflowers announcing their triumph? These energies are specific to each and every living substance, even rocks, metal buckets used for years to mop a floor, all are made of and are still imbued with a unique quality of energy that nothing else in all the universe is an expression of. Yes, not two atoms in the universe of energy expressions are alike, though they may both be referred to by humanity as hydrogen atoms and left at that.
When we discern what song these things are an energy dance to, as human beings, we have the option to invite that self-same energy to move through us. On canvas, we may invite that creative force to move through us and recreate the tree it once made in living energy, in oil or acrylic on our canvas. It will once again perform that astounding tree event, if we provide for it a protected field of respect and love. One can almost hear the applause as the energy re-assembles itself, and begins to regenerate a performance no less than the greatest performances that have ever stepped out onto any world stage, and no less alive than the original tree it once created. Your hand begins to move, the colors are given to you in your mind, and the brush becomes a dancer who moves to a drummer that is invisible but truly present without any doubt.
By allowing the energy that created that specific tree to oscillate your brush in the same rhythm as the leaves of the tree, you witness the tree come to life on canvas once again. It literally regenerates the same frequency of the leaves and you no longer need to look at the tree itself. You have the source of the tree within you. You now understand what all of the world’s greatest artists understood: the painting was not done by you. It is astounding! In order to become a great artist, all one needs to do is to know that none of it was ever done by oneself. It was a gift given to those who had the humility to step aside and hand the brush to whatever force created the subject itself, and had the courage to invite it to recreate it once more on canvas.
Knowing this truth, we may see that for a student of painting, it is not a question of learning how to paint, but learning how to not paint. It is a matter of whom you invite to the party, and not how you will be at the party.
There is clearly nothing that you cannot paint masterfully, when this secret is known. The painting itself will be charged with life force. I can walk down a gallery or art museum hallway with my eyes closed, literally, and feel the life force of those paintings that were made by a master. If no life force comes from a painting, opening one’s eyes shows us that it was simply one too many of that type of demanded painting that an artist was asked to make for income. You can feel the difference.
Painting from an energy point of view is the difference between great art and practice. It does not mean that one’s art must be impressionist or expressionist. It can be energy conscious even as digital photo surrealism made on a computer, or as absolute realism by an artist’s hand. It is only the energy that we respond to, consciously and subconsciously. Knowing this allows artists to compose images in the energy realm, and create an open window through which may move any quality of energy one chooses and bring a breeze of life force into the viewer. One day, when humanity becomes once again energy-conscious, works of art may be used to heal our energy bodies, minds and souls.
Ross G. Drago
Paint Rag Magazine