Most of my paintings are meditation born. That is, an inspiration will come during meditation or at a time when my mind is quiet. Often it will be an intangible subject such as a quality or a particular color. For instance, this painting is called “Vastness.” The idea came during meditation while I was trying to expand my consciousness toward infinity.
Once this ethereal quality came, then a train of thought followed that went something like this. “How do I portray the characteristic of vast expansion?” Now, I am not personally attracted to do completely abstract paintings, nor am I content simply to paint with photographic realism. I land somewhere in-between: like trying to build a bridge between the astral world and the physical one we inhabit, a sort of astral impressionism.
So, returning to this painting, I began to ask myself, “What image would capture the quality of vastness?” Immediately an image of mountains came into my forehead. Next, “What kind of mountains?” The answer: high ones, that lead off into infinity. “Am I in them or looking at them in the distance?” It seemed obvious that I should be right there, in them.
Finally, “Where am I located, and what am I viewing?” I’m standing on a peak looking higher and seeing an image of not just rocks and peaks, but also the vastness of consciousness. So I placed Master, my personal connection to Infinity, just above me, and perhaps reachable with a bit of effort, which expresses the inner feeling of my relationship with him.
Having a clear inspiration and a fairly clear image in mind, I was ready to put it on canvas. My methods have evolved over time, but this is what I do now. First I make some sketches, called “thumbnails.” This gives me a quick way to try out ideas and get the major elements in place. Then, I make a more detailed sketch, but not so detailed that it blocks the ability to be spontaneous. Then I paint, using three phases. I quickly “block in” the elements of the painting, getting everything in the right place. Next, I put in details and shading, trying to get everything to look the way I want, with the light and shadows right. Finally, I work on the details. Along the way I have to keep asking, “Is this expressing the original inspiration?”
Interestingly, this is much the same process that Swami Kriyananda used when he was writing. First he tried to clarify his inspiration. Then, holding onto that, he quickly captured it on paper so that he didn’t lose the ideas. Then he went back to bring magnetism, adding stories and examples. Finally, he polished the sentences, paying particular attention to the rhythm of the words. He would sometimes edit a piece forty or fifty times before he felt that it was just right. Creativity, whether in painting or writing, has to come from inspiration, but it takes hard work to put it into form.
Painting for me is not an end in itself, but a way to participate in the flow of divine grace. It gives me joy while I am doing it and joy in sharing. I let everyone use these images freely, since I don’t feel they belong to me.
Swami Kriyananda encouraged my art, saying, “You are too much in your mind. This will help you to be more creative and to develop your intuitive side more.” And so it has proved. I am deeply grateful to Divine Mother for helping me express Her beauty in this way.
P.S. Devi and I recently published a book called Stand Unshaken!, with thirty of these paintings accompanied by short excerpts from our blogs. If you’re interested you can find it here.