As I write this, I’m listening to a few — too few — songs that another lawyer-friend of mine sent me tonight. We’ve been talking about them, and a few other art-related-life-related things, via text-messaging, and I finally decided that, for the love of art, I had to sit down, riff off his songs, and write about all this. This music. This life. This way they birth and shape and survive what informs our art. And maybe figure out for myself something about why creators create.
The songs I’m listening to are sad. Too sad. Yet, paradoxically, they have opened a door in me that makes me feel happy, content, and, weirdly, free.
Or maybe it’s my friend’s “mariachis on the radio.”
I won’t name my friend, since he has not given me permission to do so. But I can tell you that if I heard his music every day for the rest of my life, it would please me to the core of my soul. It’s amazing stuff. I hope one day he allows me to share it with you.
Our conversation wound its way through how he came up with his songs — whether he came up with music first, lyrics first, how he decided on background vocals and layering of sounds1 — to how pain informs our art to discussions of our different birth countries birthing our not-so-different feelings of shame for the countries that birthed us.
My friend thinks that he was able to sing as he did — his voice is amazing! — only because he was in so much pain. His soul had been wounded.
Ironically, he has a kind of jaunty — albeit quite unhappy when it comes to content — tune he sent me which talks about being an Angry Man, in which he claims to be a rock, and, having found his voice, lost his mind, and, being unable to feel, he feels just fine…feels no pain.
Ah…there’s some conflict.
So went our discussion. Without pain, conflict, and but for the love of art, creators could not create.
I told him about how, when I went to Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming, Gerry had us “paint our souls.”
“By trade,” I’m a lawyer. That’s why — at least one reason why, and what gives me the pass that allows it — I’ve gone to Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College once a year for the last three years.
My soul painting, created in my first year there, surprised me, as do so many things I create. I could not figure out how I did that, how it came somehow from me, as an expression of…I don’t know what.2
But the core of who I am is “Creator.”
I say, “But,” and it sounds weird. Because the truth is that part of why I’m a photographer, artist, and lawyer is that I’m a Creator. There’s no “but” about any of this.
When it comes to photographic art, I create images. Sure. That’s one of the things that I do. It stretches me. Exercises me. My love of art has me constantly looking at the world in new ways. When I drive home at night, I see foothills, and then mountains in the distance, and I pay attention to how the light shapes them. Depending on the time of day, I see a different terrain. It’s like a completely different world, drawn one way one day by this light, and the next day another, by another.
Is that orange? Doesn’t it shade just a little between a reddish-orange and a pink? How many hues are there, actually?
It’s amazing, by the way, what similarity there is between foothills and clouds.
Because the same questions arise when intently focused on another thing I’m always looking at — when they show up in this part of the world — clouds. Fresno, where I live, is mostly a dry area. But part of the year we do get some amazing clouds. As I drive home, I sometimes have to remind myself that safe driving means keeping my eyes out of the clouds.
When I’m looking at these things, I sometimes tell myself, “Remember (for this or that project) how the light adds dimension to the mountains by (whatever thing I’m noticing).” Or I might make a note of how the light plays on particular clouds — flat elongated ones, short puffy ones, billowy clouds of differing shades of blue or grey and white — and try to memorize them so they can inform my (future) work. Saturation, the lack thereof; brightness and degrees of diminution (thereof)….
But I also use these same skill(s) — my powers, if you will — to create pathways to freedom for my clients. Lawyers — at least good lawyers (and, yes, I’m a good lawyer; I’m not the only one who says so) — are naturally creators.
We creators realize that you gotta get up, you gotta get up, get hold of yourself. You fight, notwithstanding that some things never change. Your heart is on the line.
I think this is why my young friend — oh, I probably didn’t mention that he’s a kid (sorry, my friend, it’s true, and you should know I sort of envy that about you), and I’m an old fart — is also a good lawyer. If he’s not already, I expect he will be a better lawyer than me. I mean, I can sing a little, but not like him. And I can’t write my own music like he does.
But, I don’t just do photography, or photography-based art, I guess. Blog posts are another thing I create. (I want to insert a smiley/winky face here, but I haven’t learned quite as well as I’d like yet how to do that in a text-oriented paragraph. 😉 )
Anyway, as I was saying, I don’t just do photography; I also create blog posts. Though occasionally of the rambling sort, I hope they also make a point or two. And push me to be (again, I hope) creative.
Like this post. It’s the damndest thing.
The interesting thing about creativity — and lawyering — is that I don’t always know where things are going when I start. Because even we creators don’t always know how we do what we do when we’re creating. That’s the unfathomable part that’s done for the love of art, that even the artist doesn’t always understand it. My friend, who thinks he sang as he did on his recordings because of the pain he experienced at that time in his life, doesn’t think he could create the same recordings today. Because he doesn’t himself know how he did what he did. He guesses pain unleashed his creativity.
He may be right.
Today had been a rough day for me. For more reasons than I have time or space to write about here, I’ve been feeling pained and frustrated myself. As I mentioned above, my friend’s music opened something up inside me. His music inspired me to write. To share something. I had no idea where this was going when it started, and I’m not sure I have any idea where it’s going now.
I only know that I started writing because my friend’s songs tapped something inside that made me think I needed to create something, for the love of art, and that I wanted to tell you about it, so instead of working on a more visual —photographic, representational — art piece, I decided on a blog post.
Besides, I’d already spent nearly all day working on photographic, representational art.
In fact, interestingly, my conversation with this friend, about music, art, and creativity, started because I asked his opinion on that other art I was doing. I can’t post it here yet. Another artistic friend for whom I created it has asked me to keep the details under wraps for now.
Suffice it to say that it involves another (my second) CD album cover. I’ll post about it here when it’s kosher to do so. (No, it’s not another anthology from Velvel Pasternak.)
Anyway, it’s music.
Which, perhaps, brings me to my last point: layering.
My creativity is layered tonight, in this blog post on the musical creation of my friend-who-shall-not-be-named (until he gives me permission to name him). Its birth? My sharing the photographic art I created for another musician’s album. Its culmination? My un-named friend sharing his musical art with me.
This is how most art comes to be actualized. It doesn’t matter if it’s music, or a more visual art like the photography-based art I usually do, or lawyering.
Creators create. We don’t always draw from that which is without form — the Void — more often we pull from whatever we find around us. Sometimes we use a guitar; sometimes a camera; and sometimes a pen, or even our voice, in a courtroom.
It’s part of the cycle of life, and all for the love of freedom, and art.
In some ways, I feel like this post has rambled. Believe it or not, it’s taken hours to write. (During which time — hooray! — I’ve listened to my friends songs over and over again.) But I’m okay with the rambling.
Truth is, nothing makes sense but this need to be free. And that, for the love of art, and the fact that I am a creator, so I have to create.References:
- In the recordings he sent me, he harmonizes with himself, and provides his own background vocals to himself. At first, I thought he had other people, including some women, backing him. Such is his range. And isn’t it ironic that just as others often are fascinated by how I manage to come up with my art pieces, and find it unfathomable, I’m equally fascinated by, and find equally unfathomable, the question of how other artists come up with their own pieces?! [↩]
- And isn’t it ironic that just as others often are fascinated by how I manage to come up with my art pieces, and find it unfathomable, I’m equally fascinated by, and find equally unfathomable, the question of how I come up with my own pieces?! [↩]