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Jean Dubuffet’s 1944 painting “Grand Jazz Band (New Orleans)”

“When I want to draw a camel I no longer limit myself, as I once did, to looking only at camels.” ~ Jean Dubuffet

One of my favorite artists is Jean Dubuffet, and I am particularly drawn to his childlike paintings. There is a captivating simplicity and ongoing movement, almost vibration, that comes across through the etched-in brush strokes. The above “Grand Jazz Band New Orleans” can certainly provide inspiration for writing: How would you translate this piece into text? Would you concentrate on rhythm, on the sharpness of words, on color to hold the scene?

But more inspiring is perhaps why Dubuffet chose to paint in this style:

I had given up any ambition of making a career as an artist…I had lost all interest in the art shown in galleries and museums, and I no longer aspired to fit in that world. I loved the paintings done by children, and my only desire was to do the same for my own pleasure. (1)

There is something said for leading with what interests you as an artist. And I wonder if, when the audience does come, it is a more intimate connection than creating with the audience in mind first. There is a certain amount of trust that precedes this process as well as as freedom during it: trust that the audience will come and the freedom to follow the paths, images and stories that ignite your inner fire. Are you following your own internal sparks?

A second nugget I recently got from Dubuffet was something he said about his creative process:

I have observed that very often I gain access to a little secret that I have sought for a long time by way of a fortuitous encounter quite unrelated to the matter: for example six months I try to draw a camel in a way that satisfies me, and I make a thousand attempts without ever managing to do it. Then one day it is a drawing of a plump on the label of a pot of jam or the shadow thrown by an ink pot, or something or other equally unrelated to the matter that provides me with the solution. This kind of thing has happened so often that I have acquired the habit of always being on the outlook, and when I want to draw a camel I no longer limit myself, as I once did, to looking (only, fh) at camels. (2)

Are you open while creating and creating while doing other things? I have an uncle who solves problems by first addressing them head on and then by putting them in the back of his mind on simmer. He says they always let him know when they are ready to be pulled. The trick, he says, is to actively sub-process them.

(1) Jean Dubuffet, talking about his own start as an artist and his early love for paintings of children: ”Batons rompus”, Jean Dubuffet, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 1986, pp. 7-8

(2) Jean Dubuffet, artist quotes on imagination and reality as source for creating art, from : a letter to Jean Paulhan (letter 123); as quoted in ”Jean Dubuffet, Works, writings Interviews”, ed. Valerie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott, Ediciones Polígrafa, Barcelona 2006, p. 44

Post by Molly O