New Path to the Waterfall

Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night but differently each time.
– Ornette Coleman
Voila!  One of my favorite graphics, one I’ve used more than once – The Cartographer’s Heart.  This is a genuine cartographic representation of our currently not-too-happy planet, devised by one Johannes Kepler, a more or less contemporary of Columbus.  Not one of my own designs.
I like it because it’s both beautiful and unattainable.  Rather like so many other things in life – including our art. We strive, and some of us make it, but many do not, for one reason or another.
Now that the show is nearly over, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what’s next.  More art?  More jazz?  More anything?
In a way I didn’t expect, the show with so many paintings on one long wall felt like a culmination, an ending, and it’s left an empty spot in my calendar.   The pandemic hasn’t helped, of course, but that just feels like an excuse these days.  I’ve been rethinking my writing projects and whether to get back to that instead of painting.  I do have one large unfinished writing project but going back to it feels more like surrender than creative work.  Maybe in another lifetime.

So, Raymond Carver’s line from a poem and the title of one of his books came to me this morning – a new path to the waterfall – in the company of today’s bit of jazz advice.  I subscribe to the jazz advice because I know that creativity overlaps one discipline with another and the jazz advice almost always gets my painting juices flowing.  Today was no exception.

“Many musicians share a frustration and for many it goes right back to the standard approach to improvisation that you find in most books. The mentality that each chord has a designated scale:

  • Major scales for major chords
  • Dorian for minor chords
  • Mixolydian for V7 chords

“This is a fine place to start, but if you limit your harmonic and melodic approach to these 3 scales you’ll end up feeling trapped inside of a musical box.”

The advice for musicians was about a lot of things I don’t understand as an aficionado (myxolydian scale?), but I do understand that quote as an artist.  I don’t want to feel trapped inside an abstract box!  My work with jazz paintings is far from finished. I still have things to learn about the paint, the tools, the light, the way I can play the same note in a series of paintings but differently each time.  Bring it on!

The map of my cartographer’s heart feels exactly right for this next part of the journey.  I will happily return to the studio on Monday with new eyes and new choices to make.  I don’t expect to find a waterfall, but the new path will take me to the fresh start I need.

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