From Joy Schaverin, The Revealing Image

Routledge, London and New York, 1992, p. 106.

Adapted by Sven J. Warner, 1995

There is a body of lore about artists and how they relate to their finished art that often verges on characterizing artists as emotionally inept, if not something worse. Yet, there is usually some measure of forgiveness, an allowance for this, assigned to the cost of creativity. As colorful or overstated as some of this lore is, the underlying message is important. When someone creates something not only unique but quite possibly in a new style, or on the frontiers of their own or general human awareness, there are real emotional issues which need to be attended to. Tending to our emotions about the finished work, and how the work changes our self perception, can be called "processing art work." It is as important for the beginner as for the professional, probably more so.

A useful approach to this is to treat each finished art work as a "transitional object." This is a psychological/devel-

opmental term, which, put simply, means we use the object as a focus as we undergo a transition in the world and a change within. Such transitional objects are intimately connected with our personal development and growth, as is the making of art. In a book entitled ' The Revealing lmaqe, Joy Schaverin', a lecturer in Art Therapy, speaks of "the life of the picture" having five stages, which I have adapted to the ongoing processing of art work, and have found immensely helpful.

This processing is part of this course in mosaics, and is recorded as "Writing about your art work." A work page outlining the steps follows the text about the stages.

The stages are:

1. Identification. This is a time of paying attention to and contemplating the work, in which one becomes connected to the work with a gaze. It is mostly a non-verbal experience, not one in which one thinks of something to say from a critical perspective. In the often pressured lives we live, this quiet gazing at our work must often be done with considerable intentionality. In writing for a mosaics course, doing this stage can be indicated by simply noting when and how you went about it. A key word is ATTENTION.

2. Familiarization. One begins to notice particulars about the work, some of which were intentional in the creation of it, others seen for the first time. While one may notice what might be thought to be good and bad points about the work, the idea here is to not make judgments, but to begin to let the work be on its own terms, independent of us. Again, words are not very helpful here. For writing requirements, one could write as if talking to the work, as if it were a distinct entity, with a life of its own. Or, one could, mention a few points, some general, some detailed, describing the work, as it is seen with the open eyes of gazing at it. A. key word is NOTICING.

3. Acknowledgement. Now one begins to put into words not what has been noticed about the work, but more to the point, what it means and what its implications are for you. I find this works best as poetry, simple, free verse. But, for those who claim to not have a poetic bone in their body, some prose about the meaning of images, the symbolism of colors, why one made this particular mosaic can give you some acknowledgement that this is indeed something significant that you have made. A key word here is WORDS.

4. Assimilation. This is another largely non-verbal stage, where one "sits with" what one has written, allowing it and the art work to be, "digesting" what has been acknowledged. Like a big meal, this can take some time, in fact weeks or years, and is the most likely stage to get lost in the shuffle of moving on to the next project. It can help to keep the art work in a prominent place, like in a dining room or living room, or to carry the written "acknowledgement" around with you, or to read it before going to bed. A key word here is OWN.

5. Release. This is the fruit of doing the first four stages. Some works which have not carried much transitional energy or meaning can be readily let go of, given away or sold. But most work, for beginners especially, the better work, must be processed more. Some measure of its full power and meaning can be put into words, or images of the work can be fixed in the mind's memory, and "owned inwardly." Then one can "let go" of the work's immediate concern, and be free to move on to the next work, carrying the earlier, now processed work, within. Key words here are OWNING INWARDLY and LETTING GO.

Since I have discovered this process for processing, I have been able to let go of not only art work but other accomplishments as well, leaving me more free to be not what- I -have-donein-the-past so much as who-I am-in-thepresent. I hope it will do the same for you.




1. Identification. How did you go about paying ATTENTION to your art work?

2. Familiarization. What are a few general and a few detailed things you NOTICED, without judgment, in your art work?

3. Acknowledgement. What can you put in WORDS as to the meaning of the work for you, the symbolism in it? Can you do this poetically?

4. Assimilation. Can you think of a few key words you can use to label some files in your brain, where you will have filed these meanings, so that you know you OWN them?

5. Release. How would you say, "Goodbye, for now" to your art work? What might be some parting words? What will you remember, or even miss? Are there new questions or ideas the art work asks of you?

copyright George Fishman 2017