Aphantasia and my artistic process

So I have been silent lately, moved into the new house (At least I own this one!), disruptions to routine, same old crap. Mostly comes down to whatever I am perseverating on at the moment, which tends to block out anything and everything else going on, makes me horrendously unreliable, which is why I seldom ever promise or commit to anything.

That said,  I now have my own art studio space with the new house and have been spending a tremendous amount of time in there…mostly playing around with acrylics on canvas (I have texture issues with oils getting on my hands, drives me nuts).  I have traditionally focused on colored pencils, pen and ink, etc.  But I came across something interesting about the artist Grandma Moses, how she got into painting as a result of arthritis and decided to give it a try since my hands cramp horribly trying to do drawings. And wow, painting is so much easier on me, and I get to do really satisfying things like fill syringes with paint, smack the plunger, make huge spats, even whipped a canvas with 20 lb test fishing line dipped in paint (the one shown), and pretty much any other crazy idea that comes into my head, which is just lovely.  That and based on my super long blog posts, I am really beginning to realize I might better communicate my thoughts via a visual medium than 4k+ words.

So, as an aphantasiac autistic individual I have a lot of barriers in regards to traditional fine art.  And frankly I am glad, I hate being “normal”, such a foreign concept to me, I do like the concept of outsider or Art brut though quite a bit.  Now, some youtube videos on aphantasia have focused on lack of “imagination” and one even said you would be unable to sculpt because you could not imagine the outcome.  It really shows how biased we are to our own cognitive and sensory process. I would think that if you are an artist and visualizing is critical to your process, not being able to do that seems foreign, even impossible…it should be foreign it is a different mode of thinking, but certainly not impossible.

So how have I been creating art?  Like when I do a math problem, I have to do the work in front of me, I have no inner template to go from, I may have conceptualized an idea (though usually those are the worst paintings for me by far) but for the most part I build up something on the canvas until, like a Rorschach test, I begin to see something form in front of me, and then I can guide that process.  When I finish a painting, I am seeing it for the first time, and it is amazing, because it informs me about myself in ways I otherwise could not fathom.

Now how do I guide this process from the start? I often have something eating at me, often socio-economic, social sciences, or political in nature.  For example the featured image is called “Refugee in Hijab” because I can see again the cycle of fear and demeaning that becomes self-fulfilling prophecy in full swing again, so many scared primate minds creating the conditions to make that which they are afraid of, unable to see the connections and correlations between there actions and the end result. These mood and thoughts influence how my brain is interpreting the image forming before me, so what I am thinking or worrying about influences how I guide the end product.  Such a fascinating process really. I often complain about how my conscious and sub/unconscious mind do not seem to communicate well and see eye to eye.  I have even denigrated my desire to do art in earlier blog posts, but the reality is, I am beginning to find more value in it, to get past my aphantasiac tendency to just define my existence through words.

So will I ever learn to doing realistic art? Not likely, could I? To a degree, I could learn to do still lifes and landscapes, draw what I see and translate it to an image on canvas.  But I am not interested in these things, they do not hold new thoughts, ideas, or inform me about the world or myself in interesting ways.  I want my art to be interesting, cognitive, maybe occasionally political or teach a lesson when possible, but over all I want people to wonder what the heck was going through my mind when I made that painting…because that is exactly what I am doing too!  Looking at the art that helps me get insight into myself, helps others get insight into me, and since as someone on the spectrum, even after studying social science so extensively, I still struggle to connect with people in a way I feel is meaningful. Sure I can meet others halfway, do the small talk, which can be important and validating to many, but for me? It has little value, I am investing my energy into helping someone else feel well, and still leaving myself out like an alien on the sidelines.  So my artistic process is an exploration of communication with myself and interpersonal communication, we shall see how this goes.  On the upside, with canvases hung all over my house now, out of sight, out of mind is much less of an issue!

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