Before us is a blank canvas. It is primed white or black, or a given color. I have often primed my canvases black. I chose black gesso because if the canvas is white, all of the already created possibilities are implied in the white color, and one needs to then cover these possibilities over and choose one. This is similar to a theater audition where everyone in the universe comes to try out, and the director needs to tell every one of them except the one chosen that they should go back home. However, starting from the onset with absolute blackness means that every color added to the canvas is going to be light itself, and making a stroke of color is the same as manifesting that light from nothingness. In this small way, it resonates with creation itself. From nothingness, comes all.
Painting the canvas black has a number of other advantages. Brush strokes are often of different intensities, pressures and energies. The canvas surface shows through unless thickly painted everywhere. Here and there one color may not fully meet with the next, and so blackness, or any base color, shows through. Wherever a brush stroke leaves a thin amount of paint on black canvas, it also filters through. This means to the painter that he or she need not worry about selecting colors that work together. They all have the same great, great, great grandmother, this underlying darkness. This means that all of the colors are relatives, not strangers, and, in this idealized family gathering of potentially inharmonious colors, they all get along very well.
Painting on white gesso creates a need to cover the entire surface of whiteness before the painting begins. With black, every brush stroke may be your last, in a good sense. You may stop at any point and it still looks great, even after a single brush stroke. Recently I have gone back to painting upon a white surface, but this white surface is highly qualified by a hardened, deeply etched texture. This allows for that texture to be revealed, and the energy symbols embedded into the texture, to be pronounced.
Now we are face to face with a blank canvas, be it white or black or some color we have selected to give an overall context to the painting that is hopefully about to be made. We sit or stand before a magic screen. Here, before the blank screen, all of the seemingly contradictory beliefs and feelings that others tell us have no relationship to one another, such as anger, tranquility, foolishness, anguish, absurdity, monumental significance, all are alive and well. Although others may see them as contradictory, an artist can see the unity in them. We are living proof that they are totally related and coherent. In short, these unrelated feelings share their existence in us. For example, how do the tracks made in sand by a wild rabbit relate to the music made by the human soul? Someone out there, sitting in the desert with a handmade bamboo flute just found out as they played, that a rabbit moves in perfect step to a piece of music written two hundred years ago in Vienna. That person knows perfectly well exactly how it relates. Our own triumphs and failures are ours, as artists, to bring together ‘into a ball and roll it toward our own overwhelming question’, to paraphrase T.S. Elliott.
So, let the magic begin. We search our pallet for a color, and flip through a jar of paint brushes in search of the right brush. We select the one brush we cleaned last time, or we pick one from a clean cloth that unrolls a dazzling display of perfect instruments for applying paint. Either way, we already feel more at home, and yet a little or a lot scared. Scanning the pallet of squeezed colors, one color suddenly lights up for us, like an eager child that jumps out of his seat with a raised hand. If the color is not there, we begin the fox hunt, mixing this with that, some of this, more of that, start again, only more blue, less red, and a little more viridian green. There! That’s it! The exact color we are looking for! This is a very good sign.
Let’s look at what just took place, because what just occurred was every bit as significant, in the energy realm where painting takes place, as any event that will soon follow. The color that became necessary to find is a color that, in frequency of vibration, is a tuning fork or is perfectly resonant with the very energy state that the artist is currently resonating at. That color is in sympathetic vibration with our own identity at the start of the painting. In other words, if our energy state at that moment were to be a color, it would be that color.
Being in resonance can be best explained by the old guitar propped up in the corner of the bedroom, that plays note for note as Willie Nelson plays his guitar on television. Each chord played by Willie Nelson on TV vibrates the air and sets up a sympathetic vibration with the guitar in the corner that stands by itself. Our old guitar is playing along with him. The color selected was selected because it is in sympathetic vibration or frequency with the energy state that the artist is feeling at that unique moment. Like the guitar in the corner, the painting now sympathetically vibrates to the same energy state that the artist, himself or herself is experiencing.
In making a brush stroke using this color, (let us assume that this is an ‘abstract’ painting) the instant we place this color onto the canvas, we have caused everything to energetically change. To understand what I mean, let’s assume that we were in some kind of particular mood when we approached the canvas. Traffic was harassing on the way to the studio, or the cat did not like her food and is on a hunger strike outside your studio door, causing extreme irritation. These feelings become the color of all of that that was just selected. The color contains either the exact parallel in color that was being experienced energetically, or chosen to search for the precise opposite frequency to transform the feeling. In a pleasant or unpleasant state of being, we search for a color that resonates with that pleasure or pain. In a less than pleasant state, we may also choose a self-medicating, opposite color in order to nullify our momentary energy state. In either case, there is a tight relationship between the color we chose and the frequency that we ourselves are vibrating at when we choose that first color. That is why it was so important to get just the right color. No other color will do. Even if our process is to take a color at random, that choice to work randomly expresses our energy state in general. Such a decision is also preconceived, but we will see later how the color ‘randomly’ put on the canvas is the perfect opposite polarity to our internal experience.
This is the energy principle or law that I am referring to. It is most important for artists to understand, since once understood, it gives painters the profound effectiveness in society that they often long for and are not given. The principle is this:
We, in reality, are in no way separate from the universe that we behold. Yet, as a society we are all taught from childhood that we are here and everything else is out there. We are taught that we are separate from whatever we are looking at. This causes a split, between how we define ourselves and how we define everything that is supposedly outside of ourselves. However, we may readily see by now that we have taken perfect wholeness and divided it into two concepts,1) me and 2) out there.
The revelation is this. Since it is oneness that has been divided into two, there is an arithmetic polarity between the two that is always in absolute balance. Whatever polarities we take for our side of things, how we chose to define ourselves, part 1), leaves whatever polarities are opposite to that on the other side, or in the realm of part 2), ‘what ‘you’ are perceiving.’ More simply still, if we choose to define ourselves as down and out, that very choice forces everyone we see to look like they’re on top of the world. If we choose to define ourselves as the smartest person in town, it forces everyone else to look like idiots. There is a profound polar balance that adjusts itself every second in accordance with how we define ourselves energetically. Knowing this is imperative for an artist, because it is this principle that gives art its power.
Understanding this first Energy Law, “All moments are energetically balanced between perceiver and that which is perceived.”, we have the very essence of art. This means that the color that was chosen, just a moment ago, that was a polarity of minus 7, let’s say, was resonant with our energy state, was energetically how we were, and is now what we are looking at and calling ‘that which is outside of us.’ This forces us to become its polar opposite, because each perceptual moment must counter balance, and so in perceiving this color on canvas, we have just bumped ourselves into the energy state of being Plus 7. Plus 7 and minus 7 equal zero.
Remember, the moment was zero or wholeness or oneness before we chose to define ourselves, and thereby define what we would be perceiving as our identities’ polar opposite. It was whole and we broke it into two parts. That is why, when we start to paint, it feels good. We are heading ‘Home’, back to Equilibrium, where we all come from before we chose to define ourselves as separate from whatever is before us. As we shall see, the act of painting is energetically the identical act as falling in love with someone who has equal but opposite ways of defining himself/herself. Painting is a love affair with the energy universe. To paint is to literally create our perfect soul mate for that moment, our polar other half, our lover.
Ross G. Drago
Paint Rag Magazine
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