Archive for September, 2005

Approaching from a different direction

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Getting around creative blocks, obstacles and results

Sometimes when one goes to create, one is confronted by one’s own obstacles. We can have the wrong attitude, feel tired, feel unenthused, feel anything but creative. The question is what we choose to do about it.

We can give in and put off the creative project – and wait for the right mood or inspiration. We can look around in hopes of seeing something which will inspire, trying things which have worked in the past – taking account of the world around us.

We can also choose to approach things from a completely different place. This might mean a number of things.  For instance, in going about writing this article, my normal methodology was feeling stale – doing some specific searches and finding enough similar articles to be able to write my own twist on the common themes. But today I write from me – and hope to make the connections afterwards – and if not – so be it.

For creating a work of art, a piece of music, article, etc. might necessarily speak to the community it comes from, but shouldn’t always be a reaction. In fact, what is more unique is what comes from the attitude of not giving a damn.

And that is what brings us back to the beginning. Much of our being uninspired or unenthused is about our attachment to the results. It is ok to do something lousy – perhaps like the sales philosophy of every missed sale bringing one closer to a made sale – bad results are ok too.

The only true way I know to get over the stumbling block of being uncreative is to not give a damn about the results. The results may still stink, but you nevertheless will have been creative and that is the process – focus on the process and the results will come.

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Art Creates Unity

Monday, September 26th, 2005

art unifies individuals, community – creates bridge

In the most basic way, art creates unity for the individual.  By making the uniqueness of the individual so visible, it is by its nature a unifier.

Art can also create unity within a community. As a vehicle for different people to communicate with each other and also as a way of giving a community its unique setting. Art is recognized as a vehicle for bringing not only creative energy and vitality, but also an increase in business to the participating communities.

In a parallel quote found in the Playbill Arts, the new conductor for the St. Louis symphony says:  "I tend not to think in terms of one mass of people that you unify, but rather as a field of play in which the inspiration might come from any group at any time, which then can be suddenly absorbed by the rest of the group."  I see this view of the orchestra as being akin to the way different individuals, groups and cultures can communicate through art.

In the Herald-Dispatch, artist Chris Worth explains succinctly, "I want all perspectives in my work. I don’t do art in a bubble … My goal is to bridge the community, and art is a beautiful place to start".  Notice that he sees the nature of art as being communicative and unifying.

Regardless of subject matter, art has the quality of creating unity.  Art is a language which crosses cultures.  It is a language which is accepting of alternatives by its very nature.  This acceptance and ability to look at ourselves and others is what makes art one of the prime unifying forces.

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Too Beautiful, Too Perfect?

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

Creating Beauty Requires Imperfection

Years ago when I used to create beautiful produce displays as my way of making a living, it became clear that sometimes a display could look too perfect, too beautiful for people to want to touch. In an article in the Kentucky Kernal about a sushi place, the author states:  "The food often arrives too beautiful to eat."

The comment struck me as I ironically remembered how it is common in all Japanese art to leave a piece intentionally imperfect as perfection is only saved for deity. It seems to me that some of the offness is part of what allows any work to be accessible. In an article in the Georgetown Voice about an exhibition of portraits taken from almost too close for comfort, it says:  "Close manages to capture in this series that beauty present in all of us: imperfection."

This concept of imperfection, is perhaps like the mistakes which keep us moving forward in life, keep us growing. Perhaps in order to be creative and human it is necessary to to have such imperfection just to keep striving. Perfection is not just untouchable, undesturbable, but no longer part of the process or journey.

Of course, from my perspective, kind of flipping it on its head and due to the nature of learning and growth, I tend to think things are only perfect when they have such an imperfection.

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The Position of the Artist

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

Artist , Musician, Creativity, Listening, and Observing

The question of where the artist sits in relation to his work is an important aspect of the creative process and even the finished work.

I suspect it is different for different artists, but there are similarities that can be found as well. In some cases, people approach their work as the great shaper, not stopping until the piece is formed exactly as they imagined. In other cases, people approach their work with more give and take and find themselves going in the direction that the work or medium directs them.

My personal leaning is towards the latter. I like to start with intention, but am not opposed to going in the direction that the piece warrants and pulls me.

Similarly, in music one finds that the role of playing with other musicians requires that kind of subjugation to the overall sound. In an article in The Australian, renowned guitarist Ralph Towner states: " With a group, you have to find a role in the music … and of course the roles change too. You can be chameleon-like. There’s a lot of three-dimensional play. You have to adjust to the other people’s concept of rhythm and harmony and the way they negotiate musical space."

There are other ways in which one can be immersed. According to Emeka Udemba, in an article about Nigerian art breaking borders in the Daily Independent, “For as long as there have been urban environments, artists have found inspiration in them. Creative people have made meaning from the many layers of culture, changing technologies, sense of accelerated time, changes in the social polity and aesthetic allegiances within the cityscape.”

In short the immersion of oneself either in one’s environment or during the process of creating seems to be a great part of the creative process. This is one of the things which is so valuable about the creative process – it is a place one can be incredibly focused and in the moment. There are many who feel there is nothing more real than this being in the moment.

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Creative Process : Two Aspects

Monday, September 19th, 2005

Intention, Artistic Process, Improvisation, & Learning

There are two levels in which we generally talk about the creative process. The first has to do with intentionality – the dialogue of the time or intent prior to doing the work. When one approaches a work, one is bringing in to play that which he has seen and experienced before.

In particular art movements, such as, abstract expressionism, the artists were not only talking with each other but to the art which had come before. The New Nation writes:  "In a famous letter to the New York Times (June 1943), Gottlieb and Rothko, with the assistance of Newman, wrote: ‘To us, art is an adventure into an unknown world of the imagination which is fancy-free and violently opposed to common sense. There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing. We assert that the subject is critical.’ "

The point is that having an idea of what one is going to create or at the least a starting point, is essential to the creative process and along with perhaps inspiration is the starting point of creating.

The second aspect of the creative process is the work itself. Since creating is ongoing – it is the process which is what is most important. From my own perspective, it is about being in the flow, not letting oneself get bogged down or stuck, feeling a rhythm and not getting caught in fear of making a mistake. Most errors can be fixed, but stopping will cement them.

In a quote from the Albuquerque Tribune:  Visual Arts, the artist creating a lifesize stonehenge of old refrigerators says,  "I’ve learned to embrace the process. The process can be more revealing than the completion."  The Billings Gazette describes the work of a glass artist and says: "From blank glass to finished work, the process is all-consuming. Burton begins each new piece with a vision."  In the Arizona Daily Wildcat, there is a story about an artist who creates sculpture out of books – she is attributed as saying,  The artistic process forces you to question yourself, while also learning new things about yourself. And The New Nation writes about the abstract expressionists:  "These artists’s valued spontaneity and improvisation, and they accorded the highest importance to process."

It is the journey not the destination  – I am obviously not the only one who views the creative process this way – but then like all of us, I am part of a long tradition of different culture, art, and the same shared human race.

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Creative Process & Blog Writing

Friday, September 16th, 2005

Art, Community, Sharing, Creating Meaning

As I write today, it is with the type of process that one might use to create any work of art or piece of music. Something strikes you – you either stumble upon it, see it, hear it etc. A little later you stumble upon something else which strikes you. You don’t see a connection except for their proximity to you. But being the creative sort who looks for connections or meaning – you string together or weave together what might be otherwise disparate events.

So with that said, as I searched for news stories related to something I might feel like writing about – I found several articles which each had something interesting in them.

The first article I saw had a great title "Open Your Art". It was about a new art center that was 30 years in the making and how the artists had no place to congregate or share and there was "no place for them to create art bigger than their individual dreams."  I love that line.

This idea of art being community oriented came up again in another article about a trio converting a warehouse space into art studios. What I enjoyed the most about this article, was how the group described wanting to have control over their own space while also wanting to share it; but more amusing was the photo where they all wore masks – wanting to be in control of their own images – but of course.

In another article – about being in control –  an artist/professor insists “I want students to begin to see themselves as artists; because, as I tell my students, the first person who needs to think you are an artist is you.”

The two other articles will be referenced below. One I found interesting because it was about creating art using what you have available – a theme I have been writing about. The second was a tale which though absurd pointed out the difference between the sum of the parts and the whole and is a fun story.

To sum up, if that is possible. Open your art to community, to sharing, to believing in yourself and what you have to offer. Don’t underestimate what you have available and don’t over analyze what you create.

And finally, don’t hesitate to put together the disparate pieces of your world in a way which is creative and perhaps meaningful. 

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A Different Take On Limits

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Making Do, Found Objects, Found Art, Creative Limits

In a previous article, I wrote about how our physical limitations are a key in both our appreciating art and creating it. Today’s take on this subject is more about making do with what one has.

If you are cooking but don’t have all the ingredients and don’t want to go to the store, you improvise. Not having everything which is ideal is one of the kernels of creativity. Our problem solving abilities in general come from not having everything go our way. Otherwise, there would be few if any problems to solve.

In an article about the American Visionary Art Museum in the Baltimore Sun, it states ,"Painting is a part of the self-taught artist’s medium, but many use materials such as matches, glue, paper plates, crayons, metals, machinery parts and even unraveled thread from wash cloths."  This is an excellent example of people using the things around them to create rather than the neccessarily accepted mediums.

Also in The Oklahoma Daily today was an article about the Firehouse Art Center in Norman, OK. The coordinator states,“You can make art out of anything you can find.”

We are by neccessity limited by the material world. Using found objects or what we have lying around can limit us more. But in doing so, it gives our imaginations the ability to be more flexible in putting together things in ways never thought of before; and as a result it allows us to be more free.

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Art as a Place of Refuge

Monday, September 12th, 2005

Timeless Creation, Appreciation, Openness, Change

For the person creating, time can stand still. There is nothing else in the world than the creation at hand. When one dances there is only movement. When one paints, there is just color and form. When one plays the sounds of music, the music becomes the world you breath. Though not exactly mediation, the process of creating is potentially just as mindless and potentially just as timeless.

But art is also a refuge in other ways. Though there is always criticism, there is always the security of unique creation – something which doesn’t need to be defended – something which is your own. And though there is competition in every form of art – in its true state it is more of a collaboration and appreciation. We do not create in a vacuum and we do build upon each others ideas – whether they are current or from another time. Art is generally not about tearing down unless rebuilding is to follow.

There is another place of refuge for art as well. In Gilroy, CA (see Dispatch11 Palestinian, Arab, Jewish, Israeli and American artists have gotten together to have a show entitled "Piece Process 3". The premise is that  “It’s not a ‘peace process’ it’s about the process. Art cannot undo things, but we can demonstrate how we can work together,” said Granite Amit, an Israeli born Jew curating the event. “The goal is to create a space where we can meet and talk. The idea is we’re not going to censor each other.”  “Our art pieces are having a dialogue … some of it is angry, some of it is overflowing with love. We’re not telling people to feel a certain way,” Pitman-Weber explained.” In our little art show we’re kind of acting out a (way to live together.)”

This open listening and acceptance is part of the creative process and for it to carry over into the political world is both natural and part of history. The above is a wonderful example but not the only one in today’s news.

In a story about an artists’ collective in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the Minnesota Women’s Press, states  “What I’m trying to do with my art is build a different kind of society and to do that, we have to learn how to work together,” said Meg Novak, one of the founding members. “So it’s definitely a direct experience in direct democracy and decisionmaking by everybody involved that I really value.”

Art and Creativity are best when open to possibility and differences. Because of that they provide a refuge both from the world and to a better world.

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Not Blocking Inspiration

Friday, September 9th, 2005

Creative Inspiration, Recognition & Process

In three recent web news articles, three different people were quoted about their views on creating art and what is most important. All three took a very similar posture that art can not cater to what is accepted but rather should answer to its own voice.

Artist Pratuang Emjaroen was quoted in the Bangkok Post(8/9/05 – article now N/A)as finding his inspiration from current news and events – that he sees art and his work as a "counter balance for the suffering. The world today is very commercial; nothing is free. But art is free, with no expectations. It can provide support for the whole world.” 

Similarly in Eleanor Heartney is quoted as describing what creativity isn’t:  "It’s not about finding the thing that pleases the greatest number. It’s really about finding the thing that isn’t particularly welcome at the moment it comes forward."

The general theme is to not create so much to please others but let the creative mission rule. And though I believe they are generally correct about how to create, we are not living in a vacuum and many of our aesthetic choices are necessarily dictated by common culture and consensus.

However, there is a message that can be taken from this thinking and applied completely. So much of what inspires us, we reject. We look at the thought and say trite, boring, overdone, who would care, etc.  Sometimes being creative means developing the mediocre idea and finding out where it leads. Just like life being a journey – creativity is about the process – the finished pieces are like a gift. Try not to reject them before you even create them – advice I wish I could heed better myself.

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Appreciating Limits

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

Aesthetic Appreciatation, Perception, Limits, and Creativity

Limits come in many forms. Our bodies themselves supply the limits of our perception. We can only hear within a certain range and see within a certain range. Each individual also comes with his specific limitations whether based on environment, genetics, or as I have previously suggested one’s past experience and interpretations.

In an article and interview originally posted in The Edge and then reposted in Future Positive , author and MIT research psychologist, Steven Pinker talks about this from a different perspective, "Many artists and scholars have pointed out that ultimately art depends on human nature. The aesthetic and emotional reactions that we have to works of art depend on how our brain is put together. Art works because it appeals to certain faculties of the mind."

My propostion is not just that the appeal of art is dependent upon such limits, but also the creation of art. In obvious ways, gravity provides limits for a sculptor, and time and technical skills can provide additional limits. But limitations are a welcome thing – a less than full palette of color can be quite useful in creating something pleasing. Using the pentatonic scale, such as the black keys on the piano, can provide limits and safety from dissonance.

Though I don’t suggest always going so far as to be safe, I do suggest relishing the limits you personally have as being a tool for providing a space to play within and one which can be uniquely your own.

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