I have been making art since my kindergarten teacher told me that my picture of a tree had depth, realism and poetic wistfulness. That is how I remember it. I have been creating pictures for decades. It has only been this past year or two that I have really let people see my work. Part of that was my own insecurity. Actually, that was the main reason. I decided during these very strange days that it was time to open up and share more.
Making art is not relaxing for me. It is cathartic and liberating. It recalibrates and re-centers me. It helps me find myself when I am lost, and reveals aspects of myself that I did not realize. I do not create art as much as it helps me recreate myself.
I want to share my love of art and some of my process, because it is so important to me that people find ways to connect to their souls, to their deepest selves, more so now than ever.
Judaism is a religion dominated by words. There are the words of the prayer book, the Torah, the Talmud, the sermon. Even our meals are framed by the words of blessing. All of these words give us opportunities for great expression and spiritual connection. Sometimes, though, the words of tradition can be overwhelming. There are so many that they may inhibit our own words. They may also give the impression that words are the only way to connect to our spirituality.
There are many people who do not respond to texts, but respond in a very powerful way to images and to sound, whether creating them or meditating on them. A lot of them have been distanced from Judaism, because they do not feel there is room for them. This is why I taught drawing and painting to teens, because I wanted them to have a voice, a way of sharing their deepest thoughts, even if they could not verbalize them. The soul is radiant within each of us, but has so many different ways of emerging.
Spirituality is about the expression of our souls, not just the words of our lips or pen. If you or your loved ones are feeling cut off from Judaism because the texts are a barrier, or if your spirit souls through other means, I encourage you to look at those times that you are moved by art – or music or dance or any other kind of expression – as potentially true religious and spiritual moments, as moments of Torah.
Let me share some of my process. The first is technical. I have been drawing with pencil and charcoal and painting in watercolor and acrylics for many years. I had stayed away from oils when our children were young, because the oil mediums can be pretty toxic. Most of the art I have posted over the last year has been digital, which I have created on my computer and iPad. I use about a dozen different programs, including vector, pixel, fractal and filter ones. I draw and create dozens and dozens of layers and then collage and arrange them into a composition.
I keep Pinterest boards of images that intrigue me. I also practice drawing from Old Master drawings. Digital has really opened up a sense of freedom, because it allows for so much play and experimentation. If you are interested in more specifics just contact me.
My inspirations range from Jewish mysticism to Hollywood movie magazines from the 1920s to Chinese landscapes to mid-century modern architecture to the Dadaists and Surrealists to Yiddish Avant Garde film to 60s sci-fi flicks. I go where my imagination takes me. Sometimes I just start with a couple of colors, make some random shapes with them, and then see where it goes. Other times, I have a definite image in mind. I find, though, that the image has a mind of its own and goes in the direction it wants. The image turns out well when I follow that direction, not when I force it into something else.
Let me encourage you to make your own art. Can't draw a straight line? No one can. That is what rulers are for. You don't need anything high tech. Get a piece of paper and a pencil. Just make lines and marks.
Those lines and marks are unique to you; they are the foundation of your art. Do the lines flow at random? Are they precise and regular? Look at them and learn about yourself. What do you see in them? Do you see faces or buildings or even faces on buildings? Don't be afraid. You don't have to show anyone unless you want to.
There are times in life that images express what words cannot. We are living in one of those times. Art is liberation. Give yourself that gift.
The Torah tells us that God gave each of us our own way to understand the world. Find yours!
All art below and at instagram.com/ravabergman copyright Aaron Bergman.