Art Instruction from Beyond The Veil by Bruce Wood, Dream Network Magazine Vol.25 No2, pp32-33
It took six years of art education to be told the ultimate secret to solving problems and making great art. The information was no surprise, but still gave me goose-bumps and a surge of energy rising up my spine and across my scalp. The words of my professor, Chicago artist Ted Halkin, were matter-of-fact, as though he was telling us that we needed to eat to have the energy to live.
In looking back on that small gathering, I think I may be the only artist there for whom the words were not revelatory. However, I knew we were being given a verbal tool to control and evoke what were, for most, random experiences. I'll share this sentence with you. "An artist must be able to call upon the spirits of all the artists who came before". Those words have been more than helpful over the years, and have energized my life.
As a concept, this is nothing new. However, it has existed in secret, for fear of ridicule and persecution. It emerges as a side note in the biographies of artists, scientists, inventors, and other creative types, and has often been referred to under the socially acceptable term "divine inspiration". Lately it's going under some other names, including "tapping into source energy". I think Ted was very brave to verbalize it in non-religious terms. For me, it explained everything.
Up to that fortuitous day, I had been visited by artists (and other beings) in my dreams. In my early training as a painter, one of my heroes, Monet, visited and gave a few tips on brush-handling. As my interests changed, I would dream-visit other artists, some who were still alive, and learn what I could. But those dreams were a bit like taking classes and learning the basics. Not at all what Ted was getting at.
Early visual art training involves mastery of the materials and concepts of making traditional art objects. From that point, art-making becomes a series of problem-solving exercises. Artists are pushed to go beyond the limitations of material handling, (the craft of art), and produce something else: Art. That may be a difficult concept, but it's very much akin to a mechanical engineer using all his skills to arrive at a point where "inspiration" shows the way to a new invention.
Inspiration is not the idea to create something new from what one knows. It's the intangible spark which guides one to create something unknown. In my experience, I'll often start a painting with an idea, depicting a view. I'll use all my skill on it, and produce a lifeless painting. I feel it's done, but the painting needs something more to make it "Art". That's when I stop, take a breath, and consciously ask the artist spirits to come to me and help. And guess what? They do! And usually, it happens fast. It's a bit like going into a trance and getting all tingly. And my brush does the work, as my subconscious adds colors and marks to the canvas. My best paintings happen that way!
In the past few years, I've been interested in making movies. (My master's degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is in film). I found myself talking script ideas to anyone who would listen. Even in my dreams, I'd yak away. However, there were no filmmakers in my dreams, or even film-buffs, just the same cast of characters who have been keeping me company for years. It was curious that some of them had never seen a movie, and were sort-of fascinated by the concept.
While awake, I decided to make a movie about dreamers. I've always been a lucid dreamer, and have had the experience of remembering some dream-events as reality. It amazed me that sometimes those memories lasted for years, until I was confronted with evidence that it could not have happened. Those were extreme cases. Usually, the memories were sorted out within minutes of waking.
Another thing which fascinated me was that some people insisted that they don't dream at all. I've always considered them handicapped.
When my dream-fiends said they had never seen a movie, I didn't believe it. Then it was explained to me that they experienced movies second-hand, by watching them with dreamers, but the experience was different than what I was used to. As I pressed for more answers, they did their best to distract me and change the subject.
I had never questioned them about anything, but sometimes, while awake, would wonder who they are. Ghosts? Other dreamers? It turns out that some of them are exactly that, but the ones I was questioning that night are a different breed. The one I see most often, Ori, has been with me for years, since I was a child. He's always been pretty much the same, looks to be in his 20's. I've gotten older, he hasn't.
Ori is superficial fun-guy, and hardly ever lets me get serious (which is my nature). I was surprised when he got excited about my film ideas. He gave me some suggestions, and true-to-form, made the story be about him! For me, this was fascinating, since I wasn't sure who or what he was. Anyway, he did get serious for a while, and revealed some things about himself and his friends. He is my Dream Guide! (Ori is the Head Dream Guide in his group, and teaches the others.)
Ori's revelations were the exact help I needed to elevate my film "The Door" above a normal story about lucid dreamers meeting a realist. Ori gave me a complex plot containing lessons for dreamers and dream guides alike.
At showings of The Door, I'm amazed at how people open up and talk about dream experiences. I had no idea that the story would spark so much conversation! I thank Ori for all the help, and Ted Halkin for accelerating my reception of help from beyond.
Another pivotal thing emerged from making The Door. I became interested in transcendent music. I hired some Chicago musicians, Brian Citro and Charles Gorczynski, to compose an experimental jazz score. When I watched these guys perform, I could see them go into the same trance I experienced while painting. It convinced me that they were the ones to work with.
Many musicians contacted me about composing for movies. One of them, Steve Hillman, is known for his ethereal New Age electronic music. He's in London, and we've never met, but our e-mails revealed that he's always been intuitive about dreams, and is a mystic. He shared some new music with me, very different from his New Age work. He said he's been obsessed by these new pieces, and that he felt "guided from beyond" while composing them.
That convinced me to become a music publisher. My company, Dreamfast Cinema, will release a CD of Steve's new work in August. Steve reported that when he finished recording the master CD and sent it to me, he told his wife "now it's up to Bruce and the others". At that moment he saw a glowing orange ball zoom through his living room!
It seems that many people accept help from beyond in their creative endeavors, most without realizing or admitting it. I'm sharing these stories with you, the reader, in hopes that you may benefit by consciously seeking this help when you need it, one artist-to-another.
Bruce Wood is a contemporary artist and filmmaker whose works have been shown in international art museums. Paintings can be seen at www.brucewood.net, Films and music can be found at www.dreamfastcinema.com