The Gap :: What We Intend and What We Do in Art-Making

painting sketch, Hali Karlasketch, in progress, Hali Karla

The gap between what we intend to do and what we actually do is both a tender and powerful place.

It is the very reason that the call to be an artist - of whatever variety - is not for the faint of heart.


The gap is the creative frontline of potential growth AND loving acceptance. Tweet: The gap is the creative frontline of potential growth AND loving acceptance. @halikarla

Ironically, those qualities often go hand-in-hand, I find.

From the center of the gap, we can orient honestly to where we are, catch our breath and gain perspective about next steps and places to explore for those tingly moments of tapped-in alignment and unfolding.

So I suggest not over-analyzing it all, but just noticing. You know, don't beat yourself up if what you envision is not what lands on the page or leaves your lips or otherwise forms the expression that results from your creative energy and efforts.

Just notice and get curious about it... letting both the intention and the expression exist, as is... and in that, ultimately letting them go - to reveal what will be. (This is also another way of saying... "stay in the flow" and "don't block your own creative movement by analyzing every step.")

I am currently in two very different online classes for my personal art practice this spring - moving at my own pace through them. It helps keep me fresh in the process and how I see, and both are getting me out of my art journal - which only deepens my journaling practice over time as well.

From my degree in art to my discovery of online art classes a few years back to all the ways I've been a teacher myself over the years, I will always be a student, again and again. This energizes everything for me.

One of the classes is with Misty Mawn, and the other is with Chris Zydel. They are both great classes in their own ways. Misty's is technically oriented and takes me back to my fine-art academic roots in all the good ways - practices with supplies, skill refinement, and more traditional in approach to content and lessons. And Chris' class is an intuitive painting class with her years of guiding wisdom and wild-hearted flair to shake up conventional notions of art and art-making with her invitations.

Both of these approaches feed one another in my personal experience of them. It's inevitable as the two approaches move through the process that moves through me in my practice. I've come to think of that amalgamation of response inside myself as my own variation of a contemplative art practice (neither just intuitive, nor traditional, but fed from many influences and interests).

Both classes also widen my lens and open my heart to the gap between intentions and expressions.

And that is the place that begs me to sit awhile and not run. To love what happens in the making - all of it. To be present to the discomfort so that I can feel the deeper stirrings of releasing expectations in the name of loving the moment at hand (the only moment there is)... and the inevitable expansion of reflection, curiosity and willingness-to-try that is the calling and hunger of my artist's heart.

If there is just one thing about art-making that I can say for certain pertains to everything else in the relationships of our lives, it is this fertile gap that is most clearly illuminated by our courage to show up at all.

I don't mean in an aesthetic way - because it's not about what did or didn't result from the interaction or even what happens inside our minds while creating. It's about how we are with what did or didn't happen in the relationship of the making, how we are with what goes on inside ourselves.

How we respond to that and how we honor our truth in it by making adjustments moving forward - that's where the roots of growth and living-love take hold in the foundation of our practice.

Sometimes the change is about what we are doing, yes - but for me, it is most often about how I am seeing the dynamics, and the resiliency I am resisting or nurturing.

We can take what we see in the gap oh-so-seriously. We can take it with judgment and limitations, or measuring tape and uptight plans bound to be met with fleeting disappointment or approval.

Or we can take it with respect for the process, playfulness and curiosity. With a gracious dose of honest noticing that fuels, not stifles, the energy the moves us. And the freedom to navigate the creative spirit of intention, expression and reflection again and again.

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