The Joy of Collaborative Creation
Writing and art are isolated passions. I envy musicians, dancers and actors who hone and produce art as a team, especially jazz musicians who play off each other in instant shared creation. But writers and artists rarely share the joy of creating with another. Yes, we work with writing buddies to improve our work, agents to help sell the work, editors to perfect it and art directors to produce it, but the narrative dream, invention of characters, and structure arrive when we’re alone.
Painting also is solitary. An image appears in your mind and evolves on the canvas. The moment the vision takes its initial shape and is sketched on the canvas is brief, then follows the work of perfecting the form and motion, the magic of the media and hue. In both writing and art, the ‘editing’ part can take the work into a new direction.
Once, I was involved in a round robin altered book group where each of us chose a book, redid some pages, and passed it on to another artist who added to it; the book traveled each month to another artist before the completed book returned to its initiator. Each addition provoked the visual response of the next artist. The finished art-books expressed different aspects of each of our individual visual language , but maintained a sense of unified integrity. And once I was involved in a surrealistic writing project where me and my partner would write a chapter, send it the other who would take the plot, characters to through the next event.
Mostly, we writers and artists are alone at the moment of creation.Recently I have had the exhilaration of sharing the magic where the spark is imagined and born with other artists. I met Simba Chakauya, a painter, at Michael’s where we were both obsessing about paint colors and mediums. He wanted to do a pop-up show of his paintings and I told him I’d love to come and we exchanged numbers. Juliet Seignious is a new arrival to my city and my daughter met her and figured we had so much in common – i.e dancing and art — we needed to meet. She was right. Juliet and I attended an art show and I told her about Simba.
“We should join him in his pop-up show,” she suggested. Just then, my phone rang. It was Simba and the three of us agreed to meet.
I don’t know who had the idea first, but after visiting each other’s studios—each of us with very different styles, media and backgrounds—Simba suggested we paint together.
We bring different paints.
We place 36” X 56” tar paper on a vivid blue tarp on lawn (the contrast of the vivid green and shiny blue beneath the matt black enough to provoke ideas) and start painting the immediate images that come to mind using spray paints, acrylic, sign paints.
Communication through colors and shapes.
This is what it’s like: Simba sprays a face in gold and I dot the eyes with red, and Juliet paints a body and a crown. I curve an orange snake and Juliet gives him purple stripes, then flicks turquoise splatter over it all… I dot an edge and she turns dots into mini suns. Simba paints a border of ancient squares. We play with colors in each other’s images, enhancing them, changing them. We don’t take turns, but do whatever we see or feel. One or two of us stand back and look, or walk around the work considering, what next? Another jumps in and the tempo speeds up again. A wordless visual conversation, the creation simultaneous and energetic. Not pondered. Not thought out and planned. Simply spontaneous. Each with our own individual signatures, Simba’s characters, Juliet’s slashes, my dots and curves… embellishing and expanding the whole. But sometimes it’s hard to tell who did what. It’s like a dance we do making it up as we go along. Impulsive and invigorating.
We know it’s finished without anyone saying a word. We just stop painting and walk around it. Ponder it.
It works because we create together. We glory in the colors and the moment of creation itself. The works capture a spirit of magic.
It is art as jazz.
Here’re some links for our websites so you can see our individual art
The fabulous photos of the three of us painting are by Hilary Nichols . Thank you Hilary for capturing our live painting: www.hilarynichols.com