Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Muse-ing For Inspiration

"Muse" by Jim Carpenter, Acrylic on Paper, 10"x10"

Where art thou, Muse, that thou forget'st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
- Shakespeare, Sonnet 100

Day 11 - Painting #8

Five years ago I titled a painting "To A Muse," a joyful painting with floating figures and lots of color.  There is also the play on words, "to amuse" which suggest something enjoyable and entertaining.  But, "amuse" derived from the French "amuser" has as its roots a sense of diverting one from serious business, "a" meaning "from" and "muser" meaning "to ponder," or  "to divert someone from pondering."  And now I look at today's painting with its neutral palette, its near colorless figures grounded in a place that suggests ancient walls and illuminated caverns, sacred places with messages carved into the walls.  And I wonder (muse) about my Muses and the path they have taken me on.  

The figure on the lower right is smaller and he has a cloak, and color in his face, all suggesting to me that he is in this place but not of this place.  Is it possible that he is the source of the figures that rise up larger than life?  Or has he gone to this other worldly place to find his inspiration?  

In the classical tradition we call upon the Muses to inspire us.  Shakespeare in Sonnet 100 asks his Muse where she is, and where she's been!  It is a matter of convention to call upon the Muse for inspiration.  Interestingly enough the verb form of "muse" means to reflect deeply on something, or to meditate. I think that the figure on the lower right of the painting is doing just that.  

Now you may see this painting in an entirely different light.  As I said earlier, my reading of my painting is just my interpretation.  And remember, I don't plan my paintings out, so it is not as if I painted this with set ideas in mind of who is where doing what.  

This painting took me most of the day to complete.  It went through numerous changes before I found what to me what the story of this 10" x 10" painting.   Here are the images of the painting as it evolved.

 The Start

I thought it was done!

I thought I had it all figured out, but ultimately had to admit that it wasn't working.  It didn't make sense to me. The figure on the lower right was just so solid and the figure just above him had a face that looked like a detailed engraving and I was "in love" with it. But the figure on the lower right was central and I wanted him to have focus so I took out the other guy!  In my previous life as a theatre director such removal would be painful for all concerned, but in a painting no one cares! Besides, I know this old man is still there in the painting, under a few layers of acrylic but still there adding character and mystery to the canvas.  And then I looked at the moon and the rest - well, what was I thinking?  I just got out the isopropyl and rubbed it all out and what I was left with was something that looked like the original start but with a little man in a cloak down right.  And I started over again looking for the painting. 

This is my search. This is how I paint.  This is my process. Paint, uncover, paint uncover, paint dis-cover.  This is what I guess my Muse likes to put me through.  I'm not complaining.  I am having a great time on this 30 in 30 Challenge that is being hosted by artist Leslie Saeta.

How does the word "Muse" (muse?) fit into your own vocabulary?  


  1. Liking this series and the thoughts that come to the surface as each piece is viewed.

    1. I'm so glad you are liking this series and the thoughts. I'm certainly enjoying being carried along by it!

  2. Very soothing, this painting. I like the darkness in the background as if something shadowy is emerging.

    1. Paula, is this anything like the "creative process" you experience when writing your novels? Something shadowy emerging is a good sign, no?