This is one of my “found phrase” sketchbooks in which I paint around selected words on the pages of old books, letting the words remain where they are on the page, but show through to form a small phrase that inspires the drawing or painting surrounding it. You can see the words here on the left page: Through art we harvest the unknown.


Through art we harvest the unknown. It couldn’t be a better time to be reminded of this. To be reminded that we go into that space never quite knowing what the outcome will be, but we can take that very unknown aspect of it and make it tangible, visible and heard.

Sometimes, I’ve described creating imagery as a form of cloud gazing translated onto a surface, but maybe a better analogy would be cloud gazing while walking on a long path with no end in sight, into uncharted territory, meanwhile with all of our thoughts, feelings and past experiences swirling inside our minds. The very idea of that might be pretty daunting, but we always return again and again to a blank slate, finding comfort there, like being with an old familiar friend. An old friend that physically is new every time, but the feeling we get when we are with it is the familiar part. We share stories with that blank slate in the space that only the two of us are familiar with in such a way that it provokes a feeling sometimes so crushing in its humility that it sits heavy and powerful in our chest until that old friend says “let go. It’s okay.” And this is the very thing that makes us want to come back and continue on. That blank slate knows us like no other. It knows us in these times when we’ve felt this before, and more importantly, that we made it through these uncertain times, having gained the knowledge, strength and experience to do it again. Each time we return with more and more that we’ve accumulated to help along the way. We’ve drawn maps of what’s ahead of us, and our faith in the familiar is our compass. Sometimes, it can be easy to forget, but that familiar compass was once an unknown.

As creators, we are continuously made aware that there is an infinite number of paths to take, and though it may not be possible to take them all, the thought of the newness can be exhilarating. We embrace it in all of its raw and unforgiving glory. Newness does not budge. Newness itself will always be new, but the concept of it stays the same, and that’s something it’s taught us about ourselves. We are always who we are. That part remains a constant, but what we experience is more of a constant change. We are a part of and in the midst of a continuum, and what we do can and does effect that continuum.

We see uncertainty as an opportunity, and use our search for meaning as our guide. Our artworks are visual descriptions that formed at first as an intangible thought or memory. Through a common thread of a search for truth and the belief in hope and in the wonders of our existence, we are one. We are universal.

Life and love need us to be present so that they can thrive. Our story is our gift to share with others, and because the stories may be varied in viewpoint, we share them, immortalized, on what was once a blank slate because they can act as unwavering guides into unknown territory. For ourselves, and for others. We’ve returned from journeys having the newfound strength to dispel the fear of the unknown and to welcome change. To welcome newness each and every time.

There are storms and droughts that obliterate whole harvests sometimes, but we have the capability to store the experience of the harvest in our minds for eternity, or we can choose to let it go completely and plant seeds to grow new adventures. We form creations as grand in scope as whole new universes and as under-the-radar as practical inventions, all under the guise of what we’ve been told are improbable circumstances. We can harvest intangibles – all of the clarity and insecurity, all of the light and the dark, all of the hope and despair. And everything in between. The unknown and the familiar all roll together into one big spinning mass of a complex and vibrant abyss that we are able to find our way in, with each image we produce marked as a projection of an experience within it. We are the filter through which our experiences pour out onto the blank slate. Our good old friend, the blank slate. We are safe there in the potential for discovery.

Through art we harvest the unknown. Something to keep in mind most certainly in a time so fraught with the unimaginable and unforeseen. We can harvest the unknown, and make it into something to feed our souls and to nourish the souls of others. There’s no better time than now to be doing that very thing.

the blank slate

Click here if you’d like to see other “found phrase” sketchbook pages I’ve posted in a previous article here on Muddy Colors.