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Davis, California

Monday, April 22, 2024

Column: Creative process

It’s about 7 p.m. on a Friday night and in a few hours this small city will be swarming with young college folks ready to rage late into the night after a week of burying faces in books and exams. There’s a mirror on the side of the studio where I stare and catch my own reflection. Oh man, I look like a mess. There’s a huge graphite stain smeared across my face and I smell heavily of paint thinner. But I can’t help but think that I’m happy to be in “here” and not “out there”.

The creative process is the most wonderful thing I have ever learned to embrace. It doesn’t take more than hearing a beautiful song or watching a heartrending film to spark a creative epiphany. But the creative process overall is one with so many circumstances and potentials.

What makes today different? For some reason, the combination of taking a power nap and hearing Nujabes “Reflection Eternal” did the trick. I somehow woke up feeling inspired and invigorated — ready to take the world on. So after making my way over to the bookstore to buy a canvas, here I am alone in the studio on a Friday night.

It’s a strange phenomenon that I don’t quite yet understand fully. I really wish I knew exactly what sparks these creative epiphanies. But what I do know is that they are precious. When they happen, I embrace them and do not stop until I am wrung dry of this moment — an urge at attempting to create something larger than myself.

The creative process is the most intimate thing an artist can share with someone else. Like an author writing a memoir, the artists express themselves through their mediums.

My relationship with this paint and canvas runs deep. It’s an individual expression that has been developing since I could remember. Through all of my insecurities growing up — all of the moments when I felt ugly or sad — I could rely on the paint to help me remedy any moments of uncertainty I had with myself.

Describing art is difficult. Taking concepts and making them concrete is nearly impossible. But I want to share this piece of me with you. I hope it comes through from me to this paper and finally back to you.

I am currently listening to The Weeknd (“The Knowing” on repeat) and wearing my oversized denim “painting” button-up shirt. The blank 4 by 5 feet canvas, which sits comfortably on the wooden easel, is staring back at me. My palette is set up and I’m ready to go.

I don’t know any other way of doing this other than letting my subconscious stream and let myself go. Here I go:

Dripping through cracked crevices on the primed canvas, the paint will settle there in its unique form. Brush to paint, paint to brush and brush to canvas. I’ll just let it drip. The mineral spirit glistens over the canvas and continues to drip until it hits the concrete floor of the studio. I’m making a mess. This looks hideous so far. But I take a step back, breathe, look, observe. I let the spectrum of color and light absorb — soak — and let my eyes tell it all. Yellow, blue, red and green are mixing together on the canvas and it makes weird shapes when it melds together. There’s but the slightest moment of conscious thought forming and I just do what feels right — feels so right.

UYEN CAO wants to know what are your creative outlets. Let her know by e-mailing arts@theaggie.org.


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