The cutting room floor
A look at the casualties of the creative process

by Jules Masterjohn

The creative process is exactly that: a series of actions, deliberate or not, directed toward a specific aesthetic goal. Yet the path from the idea to the finished product, from inspiration to painting, sculpture or novel, is rarely a straight line. Rather, its route is often marked with twisting turns, in pursuit of the muse.

The process involves making and remaking, action and response. Even well-practiced artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Picasso reworked the images on their canvases. We know this through the use of x-ray photography, which has revealed paintings under paintings, showing each master’s aesthetic decision-making process.

So it goes with writing, as well. Many words get written in the “vomit draft,” that first version intended to “get it all out” onto the paper. What follows is a process of editing not unlike that of which a visual artist goes through to decide what the final piece will really be … what it will look like or how it will read.

Following are multiple hundreds of words, left behind from nearly two years of “Arting Around” columns: words that have merit but, due the direction of the creative process, did not make my final edit.

Intentions: The premise of this column is to offer perspectives and thoughts by our local “creatives” to help us better understand what the heck artists do; to nudge each reader to identify with just a smidge of his or her own creative impetus; and to encourage, through written example, more exercise of our human birthright, the expression of the creative spirit. (I have often thought that we do not have a crisis of leadership in America, we have a crisis of creativity, meaning that readers are just stuck inside of the box and too darned comfy and scared to get out!)

Creativity: The question comes up about creative people … how do we become who we are, and how is our vision of the world formed? Many artists credit a mentor and life circumstances for helping to direct their preferences and prejudices. And then there is the question of “nature vs. nurture.” Must it be one or the other? To me, it’s not a simplistic consideration of this or that but how these two, differently positioned characteristics intermingle, that helps form our lives.


Holiday Spirit: Perhaps this time of year inspires the artists and performers in each of us to create wild light shows and share them for all to see … it is the giving season, after all! Shortly after Thanksgiving, the otherwise picture perfect houses on Third Avenue became a passion play of lights and holiday decorations. This year’s indulgence of line and form in colored bulbs and holiday yard ornaments seems especially zealous …. with swags and wraps of red, blue, green and white along with an inflatable Santa and candy cane fences. I like to think that this holiday light extravaganza is a true sign of our desire to share our joy and passion with others. Clearly there is no stigma that outdoor lighting be a masterpiece. It might even work in reverse – tacky is good!

Is it live or is it Memorex? Many people feel just as satisfied having a $20 reproduction of Monet’s “Water Lilies” hanging on a wall as they would a unique, original expression by a living, breathing local artist. Of course, there is probably at least a $500 difference between the two pieces; one is not “real,” however. An art history professor of mine in college referred to these poster images as “visual musack,” like elevator music, just something to fill the space.

Rituals: There are many rituals involved in being an artist. There are the habit-types of ritual, like sweeping the studio before each work session or having exactly two cups of coffee before writing. There are also rituals that involve celebration or initiation. For an artist to share his or her creative work with the public is a rite of passage, especially if the artist is new or emerging in their artistry and art world.

Georgia O’Keeffe: The Chama River Valley traveling north on Hwy 84 – I can see O’Keeffe’s paintings everywhere. The Pedernal, in a geologic game of hide-and-seek, peaks up over the nearest rise, only to disappear again behind the next. Like in O’Keeffe’s work, the Pedernal is only occasionally present. Also present are the red rocks with their ochre variegations, their rounded and sensual shapes capping the more harshly angled bottom rock. I can see O’Keeffe’s Model ‘A’ parked down a winding canyon trail, her figure shrouded to protect it from the brutal summer elements of wind and sun, traversing the hills alone.

Authentic Art: Real art rouses us, stimulates us, soothes us and upsets us. The purpose of these images is to move us, pure and simple. Images, words, melodies and movements can awaken parts of oneself that lie in slumber. With the use of visual and verbal language, auditory sounds and kinesthetic action, long forgotten ideas, situations and events can be brought into the light of a present consciousness, infusing our past memories and present realities with a more integrated understanding of our experience.

So what of this thing called creativity? Let me know ( how creativity manifests itself in your life and it may be included it in an upcoming column. Viva’ la muse! •