Creative Work Ethic

blue geometric vortex
Work in Progress, acrylic on canvas, 44" x 44"

How do you design your day?

Now that many of us are sheltering in place our daily rhythms have changed. Maybe there is more space for art projects, but how do you keep motivated and stay focused? At times I have attempted to use the 9-5, 40 hour framework for my creative structure and I can tell ya it doesn’t work.

The muse retaliates.

Looking into the roots of our cultural and social attitudes of work hard and you shall eat I dug down into ancient mythology. As far back as Hesiod’s Works and Days, Greek mythology hammers us with get up and bust yo’ butt and ye’ shall be worthy of food and good fortune.

Contrast this with the ancient Mayan codex, The Popol Vuh, which rambles on about twin brothers who spend their days wondering in the bush. They bring their blowpipes in case they feel like hunting but mostly these lie on the ground while they play games and laze about staring at the sky.

The muse rejoices.

I am a hunter and gatherer when it comes to my creative process. Sometimes I sit in the woods listening, ready to spring into action. Other times I’m tracking the painting slowly, following my inner senses, looking for subtle signs in the forest of my mind.

I entertain the notion that pre-agricultural society was more in tune with nature, more connected to the gentle rhythms of earth. I find some support for this in ancient myths, yet the historical record of pre-agricultural society is thin. Other than The Popol Vuh, all we have are stories handed down word of mouth from un-contacted tribes. “Many of the stories warn that it is disrespectful to to the spirit-keepers of the animals to hoard food or manipulate it into being.”1 Once we build fences and dig up the ground we are setting ourselves up for competition with nature. Hunters had a spiritual connection with the animals and believed they would give of themselves as long as certain respectful rules were observed. Uncle Bul, an Aborigine elder from New South Wales told author Robert Lawlor that “anyone who does not know how to find food … is always frightened… and with that fear the vision of the spirit world departs.”2

I acknowledge that we are stuck in an agricultural society that manipulates the earth, hoards food and generally is not engaged in rituals designed to show respect for the spirits, yet I leave this world to paint. Slipping back and forth between these worlds is becoming easier. The visions I carry with me are gently manifesting themselves in a rhythm that does not accept the notion of time. As much as possible, I let the heartbeat of earth design my day.

  1. Sean Kane, Wisdom of the Mythtellers (Broadview Press, 1998) 19 []
  2. Sean Kane, Wisdom of the Mythtellers (Broadview Press, 1998) 22 []