An artist is a discoverer. The artist discovers the work. To discover, an artist must have a scientific mindset- one that is open to take in what is present, without judgment that interferes with the real experience. The bigger one’s awareness, the more one sees. The bigger awareness contains more information. More information and seeing what is truly there is a path to more informed decisions and knowledge.
The scientist often breaks with the artist by reducing the whole to objectively observe the thing. The artist stays with the big picture, inhales the wholeness, and lives in the meaning of the relationship to the whole. The artist prefers the intuitive suggestions where the scientist ignores the intuitive very often. The scientist discovers an anomaly and leaves it to the side for later as he looks only at what aligns with his hypothesis. The artist discovers the anomaly and stays right there, asking “what is this”?
Both the scientist and the artist must be open and available to true phenomenal experience. The phenomenon must be seen and felt without conditioned thought and habitual labeling to get to the new idea. But this is doubly difficult because the brain is a habit forming processor- neurons that fire together wire together, as the axiom goes. This means that once you fire a thought twice you are beyond novelty and the brain begins to wire a default setting. To break the default setting one must prune the old wiring and rewire a new thought process. This takes conscious work. This is hard.
Secondly, the conditioning we receive in our early childhoods are mostly about conforming. The conforming mindset is the antithesis of the artistic mindset. But to succeed at schooling we are taught to conform. Any individual desires, interests, and passions are mostly curtailed and the consensus rules, behavior, and thinking are reinforced. Even if one follows a passion, mostly it is taught through a conforming mindset with a “right way” to do it. Even music and art are taught this way in school. Getting the good grade means to do it right, to conform to standardized ideas; hence, the difficulty in becoming an artist.
Helping children develop artistic mindsets would require conditioning them to “do their own thing”, “follow their own impulses and passions”, “learn without labeling”, and to resist conforming so as to be individualistic and uniquely one’s self. We can’t avoid conditioning because as children, human brains are in a theta, hypnagogic state where they are like sponges soaking up their environments without conscious awareness. What we take in becomes our fundamental reality. Yet if we condition children as outlined above, children will keep their innate sense of curiosity, awe, love of beauty, and sense of aesthetics.
As I work with teens and adults I am finding a stronger, rigid conditioning than I found decades ago when I first began to teach. The mindsets are confirmed without any real awareness of this fact. The subconscious desire to be like everyone else is ever present; to stand out and be an individual with a different point of view is buried deep within the societal pressure to behave as we should. If I ask a group of students to walk around the room and call out objects, inevitably they begin to walk in a circle clockwise- every time, all of them. It feels so normal to them they are surprised to find out they are doing so and how conforming this is. It used to be that at least one or two would walk the other way or in a random unconformed pattern. It appears that social conditioning is stronger than ever. This rigid crystallization of behavior is not conducive to making art.
My work now is so heavily dominated by teaching students to understand and be aware of their conditioning and conformity. So they can then make their own decisions about what to keep and what to change. As they learn to follow their own impulses and react naturally rather than artificially, they discover their true natures a bit more- they understand themselves a bit more. From this experiential learning they grow and expand and have more information to make better decisions from. There is nothing wrong with keeping a conditioned behavior even when one becomes conscious of it’s conforming condition. But to be conscious of it is the key. Now the behavior is owned rather than unconsciously programmed by the outer forces of peer pressure from school, parents, friends or anyone else. This is a liberating path toward a more peaceful heart.
The artist must liberate herself from her conditioning that holds her in rigid frame. The freedom an artist must discover originates in her inner life- that inner life is private, individual, and know only from within. Allowing children true privacy will assist them in developing their inner life and knowing themselves in profoundly healthy and vibrant ways.