Doesn't it always seem this way in the creative process? One day you're down in the dumps and the next day you figure out whatever was bugging you, get to it, and get back on track.
I wasn't quite happy with the way my sculpture "Heart's Portal to Nature" had worked out. My friend and colleague Kitty Wales mentioned that it needed a little shining up and I agreed. Lazy, I used the first thing I found in my locker, an old can of polyurethane. I like polyurethane but this batch was so old it came out thicker than molasses. I ended up with a drippy, gloppy, thick, irregular layer that didn't do anything to complement the sculpture....itself reminiscent of something thick and irregular.
I also didn't like that the only color that seemed to come through was the light blue. I had actually done more work than just a single layer but it didn't show.
I stopped by the hardware store and picked up a very hard stainless steel brush. I rubbed hard all over the sculpture. I feared the worst...would the brush break the clay?
The results were better than I'd hoped. The steel brush made tiny fissures in the polyurethane. As the brush started to disintegrate it left a fine dust of black metal in the fissures. Cutting through the light blue paint, some of my other colors started to come through. I ended up with a buff finish that really enhanced the colors and more important, highlighted the shape of the clay.
I stopped worrying about displaying the piece as I intended initially...as a sort of open portal. Instead, I looked at it from whatever angle seemed to "work." I ended with this wonderfully live, twisted, moving piece, much more of what I intended in the first place and a springboard to more work in the coming months.
How does this connect to science? I remember when I first started working on problems of lichen morphology. I used the microscope intensively. Drew, sketched, labelled, conjectured. But somehow I missed what was right in front of me. Maybe it's me. Maybe it's the human condition. One morning I woke up and realized that the locus of morphogenetic activity was right at the tips of the lichen, exactly the place I'd been drawing for months.
Creativity or sweat? You tell me.