Developing a formal language is a lifelong process of accessing the unconscious through the body. This is as true for narrative art as it is for abstraction, but I find abstraction much harder. Painting an abstract painting is like writing a poem: you are using the most basic formal elements--in the case of painting, line, color, and canvas, and in the case of poetry, words, sentences and paper--to create a coherent whole while consciously resisting a "story." What is that whole? I myself don't know
For this reason, creating abstract art connects with Eastern philosophies in that it emphasizes the process itself, rather than the goal of creating "something," with the understanding that there is no place to arrive, but only returning to the canvas to begin again.
If you could divide an artist's life into infinitely divided cross sections that represent all the moments of her working process, a painting is one of those sections; a single moment of the process captured. How the piece is "done," how that composition arrives, is mysterious. There comes a moment of inevitability in the process, when you know it's time to step away.
All the years of process re-appear continually in my abstract painting--lines and shapes from my narrative work come in without my knowing--the birds and flowers and minimalist body pieces that formed my earliest work. This reflects Proust's understanding that a life is something lived through time/space, existing both discretely and all at once. The artist documents her life and momentary experience through her materials.
The hardest thing I've had to struggle with was the death of my son when he was 32. I think what keeps me going is the sense that he is with me; that time, like painting, never begins and ends but comes and goes in the mind.