I did not choose to become an artist. At midlife, after 40 years of living in a left-brain-dominated attitude, after earning a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and working 15+ years in the IT and computer programming fields, I inexplicably found myself painting and writing poetry. This uncharacteristic behavior coincided with an equally unbidden urge to revisit my childhood and re-evaluate my worldview. Both compulsions nurtured the other by providing expressive outlets and, together, directed my efforts toward productive ends—the productive ends being both tangible works of art and subtle, integrative changes in my self.
Much of my early work, especially my poetry, was strictly personal as I wrestled and worked to reconcile with key events in my childhood. As my introspective journey has progressed, my art has also evolved. Rooted in but transcending my individual history, I strive to produce art that contemplates universal themes: loss, grief, relationship, depression, nature. How does the relationship I had with my father, with all its day to day idiosyncrasies, comment on the archetypal father-son relationship or on relationships, in general, of which we all are a part?
My process utilizes both conscious and unconscious material. The unconscious is a more-than-willing creative partner but it likes to do things on its own terms and in its own time, without the interference of my meddling ego—my consciousness. I often start a project with an image or idea or topic but with no expectation of what the result will be. I start by “doodling” with words or paint, jotting down thoughts and associations or throwing colors onto a canvas, and wait for something to start taking shape. Then I spend time actively not working but mulling over the emerging subject, staring at the canvas, letting things bounce around in my head while driving or in the shower. This gives the unconscious a chance to offer new insights and ideas which I then try to incorporate into the project, consciously adding and refining the wording, shapes, images, details. This is an iterative process of unconscious “listening” then conscious “doing” which propels the work forward.
I struggle every day with my craft. My “inner critic” is exceptionally strong and constantly bedevils me—aborting projects at conception, criticizing every word and brush stroke, casting aspersions on my identity as an artist—but the compulsion to create remains. I did not choose to become an artist but I choose, every day, to remain one.
Ken Buch recently joined the executive board for Whispering Prairie Press and his painting, “Yellow Nude,” was published in Kansas City Voices, vol. 10, 2012. You can see more of his creative endeavors at www.kabuch.com.