Picasso was an incandescent genius in his late 20’s, while Cezanne did not paint his master works until his mid 50’s.  But this is not the difference that caught my attention when I read an essay titled “Late Bloomers”  by Malcolm Gladwell in his book: What the Dog Saw.

Picasso: In my opinion, to search means nothing in painting. To find is the thing. …I have never made trials or experiments.

I am not for a moment suggesting my work compares to Picasso, but for not quite 40 years I knew where a painting was going from its first brush marks over the net of pencil drawing.

No matter the complexity of the tonal washes, or how tightly rendered the detail, there was no seeking, just knowing what next was required to actualize the image I had already found.

In fact, my goal was a sort of Zen like meditation while painting–no urgency, or dilemma of “now what am I doing?”  And at their most successful, I think my large photo-realist paintings create a similar, mesmerizing gaze in the viewer.

And then everything changed.

Galenson in the book: Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity, as quoted in Gladwell, says:

Late bloomers tend to work the other way around. Their approach is experimental. Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental. Each work leads to the next, and none is generally privileged over others.  They consider the production of a painting as a process of searching, in which they aim to discover the image in the course of making it; and typically believe that learning is the more important goal than making finished paintings. These artists are perfectionists and are typically plagued by frustration at their inability to achieve their goal.

Nor am I in any way a Cezanne, but this description of discovering the image in the course of making it is astonishingly true for me.  This is the core process of painting the 47 dreams of the Journey Oracle divination cards and book.

Now I have no idea what I am doing next.  Every part, and every part between the part, is whole–but the parts do not connect in logic, nor make a sensible story that all would agree upon.

Dreams are like that.  Each image is discrete and only references itself, but we connect them into a narrative, because we are like that.

Galenson says:  The Cezannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition. 

I take this as a sort of permission to keep shouldering on through all manner of urgency and dilemma, that mostly sounds like me saying to myself in front of yet another dream panel,  “now what am I doing?”