”Because I was expecting it to be formless and random, I was surprised to see different images of people, objects, animals, scenes, characters, even Batman and Joker. And it freaked me out. Where did all this come from?~ Daeu Angert on her painting Formless
The Formless Substance (Formless). Daeu Angert. Diary Collection. 2020. Oil on canvas. 36″ x 36″ (91cm x 91cm)
At the turn of the 20th Century, Wallace Wattles wrote a book called The Science of Getting Rich, where he wrote about a formless substance that thinks, and a thought of form in this substance produces a form. He wrote about us living in a thought world, part of a thought universe.
I was introduced to his writing by Shushan Aleaqui, an Executive Advisor with expertise in organizational development and leadership, and also a dear friend. We had a great conversation about leadership, setting a vision, and achieving results. I haven’t read the book before our interview, but after our discussion, I made sure to grab a copy and read it.
There is a particular paragraph in the book that grabbed my attention. So much so that I thought it was a brilliant idea for a painting.
The stuff from which all things are made is a substance that thinks and a thought of form in this substance produces the form. Original Substance moves according to it’s thoughts; every form and process you see in nature is the visible expression of a thought in original substance. As the formless stuff thinks of a form, it takes that form; as it thinks of a motion, it makes that motion. That is the way all things were created. We live in a thought world, which is part of a thought universe.
The Formless Substance painting is my interpretation of the ‘thinking stuff from which all things are made”.
Daeu talks about the inspiration and meaning of The Formless Substance painting on the I Paint Ideas™ Podcast. Listen here in full or wherever you get your podcasts.
The Approach To Formless
Painting Formless seemed the most straightforward assignment I have ever given to myself. The premise of it being random and formless land itself perfectly to doing zero pre-work. No studies, drawings, or models…Things I would typically agonize over for weeks. Not this time.
However, there were a couple of thoughts that crossed my mind:
- I wanted the finished painting to have no orientation, meaning that any way anyone would hang it on the wall would be the right way, and
- I wanted to have as little conscious influence as possible, meaning I needed to refrain from overthinking it—something I often do.
I set up a studio in my light-filled, airy, high ceiling formal living room. To keep my mind occupied, I listened to the playlist my daughter put together for me on Spotify, and I went to work putting paint on canvas. The music was fun. I sang, danced, carried on, and occasionally turned the canvas clockwise to avoid an obvious direction. I was in the flow, and time seemed to stop. Before the playlist was over, I finished the painting.
The Creative Process Favorite
Once the entire canvas was covered in paint, utterly devoid of composition or form, I sat across the room to observe, indulge and revel in the colors, criticize, but mostly give myself notes on what still needed to be done.
My favorite part of the creative process is taking a photo of the painting at this stage and playing with the image digitally: changing exposure, saturation, contrast, hues, etc. No fancy tool. I played with the image on my iPhone, sitting on the floor. It’s like getting into the painting itself, taking an x-ray of it, or taking it apart and putting it back together.
A million percent of the time, this is the most creative point in the process, because inevitably new ideas came to mind on improving the painting itself, or ideas for new art, or digital extensions, or NFTs or putting this peace on the art continuum. A million percent of the time because a million new ideas come from this process.
In the case of Formless, I turned contrast up. I was curious if there was a structure to the painting, and I wanted to see better the edges of different colors and how they played together. Because I was expecting it to be formless and random, I was surprised to see different images of people, objects, animals, scenes, characters, even Batman and Joker appear. And it freaked me out. Where did all this come from?
The Formless Substance. Original oil painting and digital image with the contrast turned up. Hold the purple verticle line with your mouse and move left to reveal the digital image or right to reveal the oil painting. What forms do you see?
Smack in the middle of the painting, I saw a child and governess — a period piece. This child looked at me and followed me around the room with her eyes and tiny face. She had a hood over her head, it was blue with red on the inside, and she was carrying something over her shoulder. Like in the old days, her governess was wearing a hat with a large feather and giving her side-eye. And it just freaked me out because it felt like the girl saw me.
And then I started seeing the other images: a shipwreck on the beach, a toucan, a boy playing on the floor, an armchair, a fortune teller, a fairy, even Batman and Joker. Where did they come from? I don’t know.
I had no intention of painting all these things, but I did intend for the viewer to give form to the formless. In that regard, I was successful. The most exciting part was comparing notes with others. Some people saw images that I saw; others didn’t. And visa versa. It was fascinating to have a shared and unique experience of the same piece with different people simultaneously.
But even without any intention on my part, the painting found its direction and composition, colors and balance. It felt like all the pieces just fell into place. And that was even more fascinating.
The Gratitude Connection
I omitted to mention an essential part of my creative process earlier — the gratitude ritual. I give gratitude to art, inspiration, creativity, etc., before I start working because I feel art is energy, and I want to connect with that energy. What was interesting here, Waddles wrote in his book about gratitude. He wrote:
Gratitude unifies the minds of men with the intelligence of substance so that men’s thoughts are received by the formless. A person can remain upon the creative plane only by uniting himself with a Formless Intelligence through a deep and continuous feeling of gratitude.
Daeu on using Gratitude in her creative process.
I hope that the gratitude did connect us in this case because I don’t feel like painting any of it. Only I did paint all of it. And speaking of gratitude, thank you, my love, for reading daeu x art. I’m so grateful to share my art with you.
The original Formless painting is now a part of a private collection. Limited edition fine art signed prints are available for sale.
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