“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” — Thomas Edison
Some of the best artists I know live in a world of chaos called ADHD. They love to play in the mud of ambiguity. I’m not sure if it’s because ADHD is more prevalent in our society than we realize or if it’s just a case of those with ADHD being naturally drawn to art. But it sure does explain the “Flaky Artist Syndrome.”
So while people who like to play in the mud make the most creative artists, the most successful artists have learned the art of harnessing the beast. We must learn to manage our impulse toward distraction. We’re like a fish who sees a shiny lure. We’re drawn to it until something else distracts us.
I say let gravity be your friend. Don’t fight it. Go with it. Grab a shape from your subject, put it down. Don’t beat it to death. If you don’t like it you can paint over it, now or later. Just keep moving. Go where your heart takes you; treat shapes like a hot potato. No need to get bogged down in one spot.
We are told we have to eat our meat and potatoes before desert. If you’re like me, you may enjoy going back and forth between the wonderful tastes all laid out in front of you. Let your ADHD keep you moving throughout your painting, relating colors from one part to another. This is called cross pollination and those of us who know how to manage our ADHD are masters at it. Find the connections between forms. no need to beat yourself up over it.
Devote yourself to the shapes, like a monk, with the freedom of detachment. You’re not a camera. You’re an artist. What you skip and what you focus on are what make you the artist you are. So don’t be a slave to your subject. Be inspired by it. Will yourself into your task, which is relating and connecting shapes.
The other side of this story is that you need to also embrace structure and technique. But rather than the linear, sequential structures of “normal” people, you need to embrace the kinds of structures designed to release you, not confine you. If a structure doesn’t free you, you either don’t understand the structure or it is not the best structure for this moment in the process. But once you understand how liberating a structure can be you’ll want to use them to keep you focused. So as painters, we may limit our palette, make an effort to organize our colors, make a thumbnail sketch. Make a game out of finding shapes and relating them to other shapes.
Remember, God told man to give things names to things in his “dominion.” He did this to make it easier for man to function. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t have any reason to name a sunset or a weed. Things just are what they are. Our job is to bring that divine objectivity to our work. It’s not chaos, nor is it a prison of rules. It’s called knowing yourself.