Finding Beauty through the Practice of Creating: An Artist’s Reflection

I am a painter, designer, curator and creative strategist living and working in Philadelphia who trained in painting and design at The University of the Arts. As someone who has helped people find God and beauty in their lives through engaging them in expressive art therapies, I have a unique process-oriented perspective on finding beauty through the practice of creating. To explore this, I will consider my own art-making and how beauty influences the work I produce.

My work focuses on depicting hidden conversations that course through the undercurrent of our minds, unconsciously giving form to who we are as human beings. I work fast, letting my emotion and intuition drive the painting. It is through this process that I hope beauty reveals itself. For other artists, beauty is revealed through striving for technical perfection. These artists want to make any sign of the human creator disappear.  For me, the opposite is true. I want my hand to be very evident in the work  for it’s the human experience, the struggle, the failures, the successes, which is most beautiful to me.

The process of creating is an intimate practice. Art making is a meditative, reflective, physical, emotional and spiritual practice. Creating something that comes out of ourselves, releasing part of us into the world to be experienced by others is something that many people in our culture do not experience. This intimate practice of pulling from within and connecting with the deepest parts of our beings is beautiful because it’s natural, pure and uninhibited. It’s being human on one of its most raw levels.

I make art because I’m seeking to understand some small part of God. My creative process is about experientially finding some common ground with my creator, God.

The creative process, for me, is first and foremost an act of worship and communication with God —communication that is intimately my own. This process is an act of solidarity between God and myself. It’s me talking with God through the process of creating. It’s about letting my creator reveal himself to me and allowing him to use my experience, even the experience of struggling through the creative process, to make me stronger. Refined in the fire, made purer than ever. And that is beautiful.

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The two pieces shown here are works that I have been working on in recent months. The first piece is entitled “Intentional youth takes ice scraper instead of spade and slices hill uprooting the hostas, II” and the second is called “Silver Linings.” (still in process) Because my current work explores hidden conversations, this work is about the conversations happening in the background—life-talk taking place just under the hazy surface—of our loud, cacophonous lives.

I use atmospheric pathways created by layering and removing paint and other materials, often by using large amounts of moving water. It is through this moving water that life’s experiences are revealed—in whole or in part—guiding the viewer through the hazy journey that is the human experience of emotion and physical existence. It is through the meditation of one’s life experience via the contemplative viewing of expressive works of art that beauty is revealed.

Everything that an artist creates or interprets is seen through the lens of his or her internal and external world. Each work is an expression of the subject in the context of the values, culture and events of its (and the artist’s) specific time and space.

For me, as a Christian and someone who is acutely attuned to his own process and desire to connect more fervently with the depths of life’s journey, my work develops organically out of those places and speaks to me and shows me what it wants to become and requires its audience to individually bring their own unique vision.

As artists, we create the context by which others experience the work. In my work I create the context by separating art from the rest of the world so that we can examine it and ourselves in a way that is unique to each individual experience that we bring. As consumers of art, we allow marks on paper, paint strokes on canvas or words on a page to mean something in a broader context, outside of ourselves.

This quote from Dutch-born priest and author Henri J.M. Nouwen inspires me: “In this crazy world, there’s an enormous distinction between good times and bad, between sorrow and joy. But in the eyes of God, they’re never separated. Where there is pain, there is healing. Where there is mourning, there is dancing. Where there is poverty, there is the kingdom.” I need to create because my creating elicits the journey of finding light in darkness, healing in pain, joy in sorrow, hope in despair and life in death. In working to allow my creator to reveal himself through my process, steps are taken and beauty is revealed.

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TJ Walsh is a: Painter, Curator, Designer, Creative Strategist and Catalyst. He received his BFA Graphic Design/Painting from The University of the Arts, Philadelphia. He is beginning his MA in Counseling Psychology at Eastern University, St. Davids, PA. Learn more about him at about.me/tjwalsh

Image Credit: Artist

The header photo, “beauty”, is copyright (c) 2008 sanberdoo and made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

6 Comments

  • Tanya Marlow says:

    Loved this, particularly the part about the humanness of your creation being evident in the work, not seeking to disappear. I am thinking about creativity and worship at the moment, and this is really helpful to me.

    • TJ Walsh says:

      Tanya, So glad that this post was helpful to you. What are some of your thoughts on creativity and worship?

  • jfutral says:

    Nice piece. What this made me ask, is beauty, then, a goal, like saying “Today I’ll paint fruit”? A feature to articulate? Or is it the result of something else, something discovered, or found? Your journey would make be believe the latter.

    Joe

    • TJ Walsh says:

      Joe, Thanks for the comment. For me, beauty is definitely the result of something discovered or found. I believe that anything can be beautiful – it all depends on the lens that the ‘thing’ is viewed through.

  • Victoria Brownworth says:

    I thought this was a very compelling essay on art, beauty, perspective and spirituality. I thought the concept of “hidden conversation” was applicable to more than just specific art. Also, “intimate practice” contextualizes how artists (or in my case, writers) work to explicate their emotions with their vision. At present, as we all try to make sense of Boston, the idea that “where there is pain, there is healing” can be extrapolated: where there is art, there is trancendence.

    • TJ Walsh says:

      Victoria, Thanks for this comment. I love your phrase “where there is art, there is transcendence.” Well said.

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