After a time, making art becomes intuitive, meaning that most of the thinking that takes place is not rational or linguistic. Art is, after all, a visual medium not a linguistic one. But language is so deeply allied with thought that we often think in words. However, we are always using all our senses, and this form of thinking occurs “below” the linguistic level. An intuitive visual art process does not need words. Getting beyond words requires confidence in one’s perceptions and feelings. 

Envelope with postmarked stamps and person stamp. 2015.

Envelope with postmarked stamps and person stamp. 2015.

This collage is an example of this process. I found the four cancelled stamps on the back of an old, lightly faded blue envelope. Something about them was compelling so I cut the envelope in half, and glued the half with the postage stamps to a piece of 300 lb. etching paper. Mounted on this paper, the work took on a visual significance that was not apparent as an envelope. I pinned in on the wall where I could glance at it as I worked on other projects or walked by.

After living with it a week, I still liked the stamps but increasingly felt that something was missing. It needed something else. But what? I visualized adding additional elements: collage, printed elements, crayon, pencil, pen & ink additions?

After two more weeks, it occurred to me that a hand-made stamp with “MS,” my initials, might work. I didn’t know how or why, it just seemed, instinctively, that it would comment on the stamps and fill a compositional need that was lacking. So I imprinted “MS” on the envelope in a space I thought would imbalance the composition and create an interesting tension between the positive and negative space, and surprise the viewer. I chose a deep blue ink to accent the other colors. 

Again, I pinned the collage on the wall. After a few days, I noticed that the printed “MS” mirrored the postage stamps. How? The four postage stamps formed a strong horizontal and vertical axis. The postmarks are circular. The shape of the letter “M” created a similar vertical structure in relation to the circularity of the “S.”

In making the collage, I intuitively sensed the visual affinity of the elements before I could rationally analyze the reasons why they work. Words didn’t play much of a role in the process. It was an example of making art by seeing and sensing.

To see a work of art through one’s own eyes is a challenge the viewer must tackle. In an increasingly analytical world, where rational linguistic analysis predominates, it is a challenge few persons recognize as essential or even meaningful. It is, however, at the core of the visual creative process.