The Agony & Ecstasy of Being Creative


Wild Arnica & Lupine Painted in Watercolor
on Location in Alaska by Jacki Kellum

Many years ago, I saw a movie about Michelangelo. The name of the movie was The Agony & the Ecstasy. Honestly, I remember very little about the movie, but because I find the thesis that some things about life can be both very, very good and  bad, too, I often recall the title of the movie.  There is an Agony and Ecstasy quality about being creative.

Being creative is like being a sane schizophrenic. That may be why many of the artists of the past, like Van Gogh, were thought to be mad. When an artist’s work is going well, his entire life view is exalted, but when a painting does not work out or when the words won’t flow, the creative spirit dips.


Creativity is linked to the ephemeral intuition. In fact, when an artist is at his best, he does not do his work at all, his intuition does it. In the above quote, Michelangelo is saying that in sculpting, a striation or a marking in the marble seemed to beckon him to make a cut here or another there and that by merely following that inner voice or guide, he arrived at  his sculpture. In following an inner voice, the artist is giving rein to his intuition. The artist takes a back seat, and his intuition drives the car.

“I don’t know! I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I enjoyed it, and I don’t know why I’ll do it again!” –    Bart Simpson

Often, we don’t know why we do what we do in making art.  In creating art, something that leads the eyes and urges the hand to move speaks to the artist.  Each person has a unique voice coaching him, and as he listens to his own coach–his own set of directives–the artist begins a journey along a set of stepping stones that become a work of art and ultimately become an individual artist’s style.

I have written several posts about the intuition. It fascinates me.

“In creating art, something speaks to the artist and that something should be allowed to lead the way. By listening to that something–that inner voice–one is able to distil one’s own vision–or style.” – Jacki Kellum

“Knowing why one does this or that while creating is not important–just doing is the key to becoming.  Making art is an intuitive response.  An essential key in learning to paint is learning to hear the voice of your inner artist and allowing that voice to lead the way.”  – Jacki Kellum

“The best news is that, as we calm down and begin to hear our intuitions speak, we enter a meditative-like zone.  It is within this zone that the healing power of art is unleashed.” – Jacki Kellum

All of the above speaks about the high side of the intuition. This is where the Ecstasy of being creative prevails. Riding one’s intuition is like sky-diving. Your inner airplane takes you to one of the highest places within yourself and then, you jump.

Flipping and floating, you begin to cascade downward, and ultimately, you hit the ground. BAM! The intuition ride is over. The high is gone, the idea is no longer fresh and exciting; yet, the work is often incomplete. In writing, this is the time for editing and re-writing. For artists, this is the time for reworking over and over again, and the re-dos  must be done without the jet-propelled intuition to urge them forward. The Agony of Art sets in.

I am blessed with an inordinate amount of creativity, and much of what people see of me is produced while jumping from one of my flights of fantasy. On the flip side, I am terrible at seeing things through. When the magic of a project is gone, I am gone, too. I am off, seeking another place to soar–another fresh idea–another high.


Fortunately, I do realize that I am bad about dropping the ball. Just yesterday, I created a work week schedule for myself. Here The truth be known, however, I have created these schedules before. Unfortunately, the devil has always gotten the best of me, and I do not stick to my guns. Perhaps 2016 will be better. I am hoping that this will be the year that I can grab the bear by the horns and wrestle him down. Hopefully, this will be the year that I’ll actually finish a few things.

More quotes about intuition:

“For it is intuition that improves the world, not just following a trodden path of thought.” – Albert Einstein

“Intuition is the father of new knowledge, while empiricism is nothing but an accumulation of old knowledge. Intuition, not intellect, is the ‘open sesame’ of yourself.” – Einstein


“Indeed, it is not intellect, but intuition which advances humanity. Intuition tells man his purpose in this life.” – Einstein


“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination.  Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein



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