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Kindling the flame by Robert Genn

Kindling the flame
by Robert Genn

Yesterday, Nancy Holloway of Lexington, Kentucky wrote, "The art instructor in Noah Gordon's novel, Shaman, says about his student, 'He was too literal. He lacked the vital imagination, the misty vision. He had the heat but lacked the flame.' For those of us who may lack the 'vital imagination, the misty vision, the flame,' is there any way to cultivate this, or is it a matter of some have it and some don't?"

Thanks, Nancy. I used to think folks were either born with it or not born with it. Some are, of course, and that's handy, but I now know the flame can also be self-lit. For the lukewarm and the not-so-hots who would like to feel more fire in their bellies, there are ploys:

Increase levels of observation and appreciation: This is a general habit based on an agnostic approach to the world. Be not satisfied with pat answers and simplistic solutions. The world is remarkably diverse, complex, fascinating and chronically in need of questioning. Questions, while never fully answered, turn observations into opportunities. The fire we desire burns brighter with the fuel of opportunity. Opportunity also requires that we dig down deeper for knowledge, technique and craft.

Be again a child: To fan the imagination and vision we need to see the world "baby eyes new." With this perspective, childlike appreciation arises and so does our natural compulsion to collect our winners. Spirits that burn bright love to collect what they do.

Try to improve work habits: We're all different, but we all need to fine-tune our work methods. This requires self-understanding, trial and error, and habit control. To become efficient in our work is ambition enough.

Immutable laws govern productivity and growth: Boldness and audacity stamp out weakness and disgruntlement. To be enthusiastic we need to act enthusiastically. We are engines of unknown capacity that need to be regularly test-revved. The fire that propels our stars will be found in the meat and potatoes of our work. It is work that builds the imagination. Ideas breed. Creativity grows. Fire burns.

Best regards,


PS: "Boldness has genius, power and magic. Engage, and the mind grows heated. Begin, and the work will be completed." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Esoterica: I found a two-ton rock high on a mountain pass--one among many thousands tumbled from ice-age glaciers. The rock bore three distinct lichens--a crustose black one, a foliose grey-green one, and a circular, floriated orange one. The orange one, Xanthoria elegans, is used in lichenometry to determine the ages of things. Curiously, this lichen begins its long life when a bird has perched and left its nutrient. Perhaps, in this case, it was an extinct relative of the golden eagles that soared above. I decided to make this rock my own--to possess it. Were my eyes the only human ones to settle on this weathered granite? What a miracle to take it home in a small wooden box.


Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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