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  • Rob Will

Art Process and Suffering

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

“I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, and torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage.

- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will To Power (1888)

What happened to your hands?” my visitor asked with a look of concern. Confused I looked down at my hands and realized why this question was asked. Little scratches, red marks, and tiny bruises covered my hands. “Oh, that’s just art,” was my reply and I explained why…

People often ask me how I create the art I create; both people on the outside and inside.

Yesterday, a veteran C.O. stopped in front of my cell, looked at several paintings I have out and said, “Will, how in the hell do you do that? I’ve been working in TDC for 25 years and ain’t never seen anything like that.

When I explain certain aspects of the process of creation which I utilize I usually get called insane or crazy. When I explain to others around here how to do certain things I am usually told something along the lines of, “Fuck no. There is no way in hell I’m going to even try to do that!”

Back to my hands: I have very large and strong hands. I always played sports and was very athletic when I was out in the “free world”.  Since I have been here, I have continued to work out and I have gained a lot of strength in my wrists and hands from Yoga, especially the more advanced arm balances. But art has had a lot to do with this also, specifically the process of making paint. All I have access to is little kiddy kindergarten style $1 watercolors and colored pencils. In order to make the best paint I can, I break down the colored pencils into little “bars” of pigment which is quite hard. Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! on and on and on and on non-stop, and about an hour and a half later I have pigment powder. This takes a lot of effort and it is really like exercise.

Then I take the little watercolor tabs and mix them with the pigment and add some water. Stir! Stir! Stir! Shake! Shake! Shake! on and on and on and on. I then heat up the paint in my little hot pot and repeat the stir and shake process again and again and again. This takes many hours, days, and even weeks usually. I will work on one color and let it sit and then work on another color and switch back and forth. Regardless of how careful I am, I inevitably bleed every time I make paint. I most certainly am not a pain freak and I do not enjoy suffering. Several things that I have learned about this environment: suffering can indeed breed creativity and strength and also it requires suffering to achieve extraordinary things in this wretched, soul destroying hell.

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