Scratching the antagonizing creativity itch

There are distinct phases of the creative process that are frustrating. Twitchy. Murky. Irritating. I think of this as ‘brain rash’ – it makes me slightly uncomfortable, out of sorts, squirmy. These are the problem-solving moments, when the connection between finished art and conceptual idea is the most tenuous. When ‘what’s in my head’ is distinctly different than what has emerged with physical form under my hand.

For sure, sometimes that difference is a nice surprise (giving rise to secret doubts about the power of my imagination, after all). More often, the difference is distressing, inducing the aforementioned brain-rash.

My most recent case of brain rash has turned out all right, but only after navigating the twitchy out-of-sorts period.

For more than a year, I have relished the idea of making a tree sculpture evocative of hoarfrost: the ice-fog condition that coats everything in magisterial, otherworldly whiteness.

Hoarfrosted trees

Trees coated with hoarfrost

The pearlization of the glass flowers turned out great; the tree too; then I got to the stage of applying the hoarfrost. I wanted delicate, transitory, sparkly contrasted drama. What I got was pure disco.

Silvered tree

Hoarfrost tree with all-over silver paint

After I finished with the silver paint, a vague case of brain rash began. Low levels of irritation. The silver was cool, but not quite… right. Too uniform, taking away the hand-made-ness of the piece. Then I looked back at my original ‘inspiration’ hoarfrost photo, and discovered the key to soothing my rash: contrast. More precisely, lack of it. Hoarfrost is arresting and dramatic because the tree trunks and lower branches stay black, while the tree’s extremities get coated in frost. My rash receded over the course of a face-masked hour spent with nail polish remover, scrubbing away most of the silver on the bottom, giving the tree branches a transition from nearly-bare metal to fully-silvered tips.

Finished hoarfrost tree

De-silvered hoarfrost tree with satisfying tonal contrast

Another case of brain rash, nicely soothed.