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...feed your soul with art & creativity!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

More Ways than One

We’ve probably all heard the term “more ways than one to skin a cat.”  Now, as a cat lover, I’m not too thrilled with the entomology of this phrase (or the visual this evokes), but from a practical, efficient project management standpoint, I whole-heartedly embrace this concept.

I’m not sure when or where the disabling idea occurred and was embraced that says there is only one right answer.  Okay, perhaps there are disciplines where there actually is only one right answer.  But even in math, for example, I am sure that the further into it you explore, the more creative the answers can get—just look at the wildly creative signs and symbols used to express higher mathematical concepts. 

And even if there is only one right answer, there are multitudes of paths to get to the right answer. 

As an artist/writer and creative person, I have to seek many creative solutions and choose the one that feels best for the circumstance and project.  If one solution doesn’t work out, then it is time for me to try out the second right answer.  And if that still doesn’t lead to the result I want (and it may very well lead to an entirely different expression than I ever expected—one that may provide an entirely new creation or art form)…then I have to explore the third right answer.

With creativity, it is not always the right answer that is the important aspect.  Sometimes, it is the creative process and how the end result is achieved that is far more important.  When I’m doing brain storming for a project or working with a class on brain storming, I constantly ask, “what else would work?”  and “what else could I try?”  These open ended questions can open up the proverbial can of worms.  Some of the ideas might seem crazy.  Some of them might not work at all.  A tangent may not be the answer, but it can lead to a new path that leads to the answer. 

Freeing up creativity requires a willingness to explore. The first answer isn’t always the best answer.  Sometimes it may seem to be the easiest answer, but the easiest answer doesn’t always provide the richness of a satisfying end result.

Surprise yourself.  Try the second or third answer or the thousandth.  If Thomas Edison had accepted the first answer he got for electricity—“it doesn’t work” we’d all still be in the dark. 

Rules? What Rules?

There are rules for cooking and rules for dating.  There are rules that govern our behaviors in society and rules in most households.  They all have their place.  But I just want to go on record and say that in all my not inconsiderable life experience I have yet to see a Rule Book for writing or artwork.  Yes, I am well aware that there are “schools of thought” and “best practices.”  I am also aware that there is, through numerous peoples’ prior expertise and experience, a significant body of knowledge about what seems to work well, effectively and provide “success” in both writing and the art world. 

I also think it is a good idea for an artist to learn at least the basics of their craft.  I believe it is a good practice to hone one’s craft. 

Having, at times in my life, been a rule breaker and sometimes rebel, I find it equally important to break those non-existent rules--oh, the irony!   Perhaps Pirates of the Caribbean had it right when they said that rules are more of a guideline.  To be constrained by rules in art and writing is a double edged sword. 

There is the value of creating something in the normal and expected manner.  But for the sake of creativity and the sake of an artist’s (I use the term inclusively, as writers are also artists) sanity, constraint by rules can be a death knoll to genuine expression and creative intent.  Rules can stymie the flow of ideas.  And when the flow of ideas stops, the art stops.

Not only does the art stop, but the exploration of the use of mediums vanishes.  What would have happened if the Van Eyck’s had not experimented with pigments and oils?  We would have no oil paintings.  What would have happened if the studio art movement did not play with the production and manipulation of glass?  So many unique expressions in glass would not exist. 

What would happen if artists had not broken the rules?  Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol, among many others, immediately come to mind.  Now I realize that there are certain sets of critics and artists who “don’t like” or at least are not fans of these type of artists' work, but it is my belief that our artistic vision, our artistic evolution and the culture of art would be stagnant if not for the rule breakers. 

Sometimes you just have to allow something new to be born that has never been seen before.  This can’t happen within the confines of a fenced in belief system.  Even if there WERE a book of official rules for which an artist should follow…I still would say…rules?  what rules? 

Monday, October 8, 2012

It’s so obvious…

Writer’s block. Brain freeze.  Creative vacuum.  Mental fart. It happens to the best artist, writer or creative thinker. 
Once in a while, the ability to bridge the gap between the brain fart and functional artistic progress can be a quick jump start.  When I walk into my studio and I have the (false) idea that I don’t know where to begin, or worse, how to begin, once in a while it hits me and I’m almost immediately able to move on and proceed. 

When I look at the project in front of me, it almost always automatically shows the way to what needs to be done next.  If I’m working on fused glass, it depends on what I did last—if I ground glass and shaped it, its time to clean the glass and set it in the kiln.  If I’m working on jewelry, the obvious next step is clear…either I need to add a jump ring, finish soldering, file, seal, string, design….  If I’m working on a painting, there is usually a clearly defined starting point.  A color I need to add, details that need to be painted in, something to add to the background.  It’s always obviously missing.  It just takes a moment to see the obvious next step.

If you think youQuestion Theme can’t see the obvious, try these steps:
1.  Squint.  Really.  Look at the picture or piece and squint. Out of focus viewing can help to resolve the areas that need to be completed.
2.  Ask the question, “What do you want me to add now?”
3.  Ask the question, “What is missing on this piece?”
4.  Ask the question, “Is there a color (detail, item) I need to add?”
5.  Write out the steps for making the piece in order from start to completion.  Check off what you’ve done and the next step is clear.
No matter how stuck you might feel or “be,” the answer is always available.  It just might take a moment or two to discover the path to your next step.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bring Out Your Inner Child Prodigy

Meg Jesse Thomas painting
Homeschool students enjoying painting, (c) SZing, 2011.

If you’ve ever watched children do artwork, you know that they rarely:
1)  Color within the lines
2)  Use the colors we expect
3)  Limit their subject matter to the realistic
4)  Question their ability, skill, expertise or talent
5)  Limit their imagination
Ben and Noah making self portraits
Students drawing self-portraits. (c)SZing 2011.

The other aspect children bring to making art is:
PLAY.  While they may be serious about their art, and sometimes they put on a serious face (you know the one…tongue stuck out in concentration, eyes drawn together and intense effort when wielding the crayon or paintbrush), they still know how to make the efforts FUN.
Summer Camp Artists creating jewelry. (c)SZing

They aren’t afraid of mixing colors.  They don’t sweat combining lines or patterns.  They rarely worry about whether or not they are “doing it right” or are “good enough.”  They almost always are proud of the end result and usually give their art away joyfully and freely with the full confidence that their masterpieces will be viewed with pleasure and of course, that the artwork will be displayed.

Ben found object sculpture
Homeschool student displaying found object artwork. (c) SZing, 2011.

A child is willing to learn new skills.  And eager to do so.  A child isn’t overly loyal to any particular medium or artist.

Ciara painting
Homeschool student painting. (c) SZing, 2011.

I encourage you to take a page from the child prodigy journal.  Let go and let your artwork be free.  There is an inner child prodigy in each of us.  Relax.  Play.  Pretend.  Stop worrying and let the artwork be.
Sidney painting a wolf
Homeschool student painting. (c) 2012 SZing.

All text and photos copyright SZing, 2011/2012.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Put on the Boxing Gloves

Creativity usually brings about change. It is human nature to find change uncomfortable. And to avoid it.  At all costs sometimes.

There are times when it takes monumental effort to press through and keep working toward the end result of a process or project.  I call it Putting on the Boxing Gloves.

All of my youth I had dreams of being a writer.  I wanted more than anything to write a book, or magazines, or even poetry and have it published.  Even though I wrote numerous poems and had many articles published, I still wanted to write a book.  The problem was that just thinking about trying to do so completely paralyzed me.  I couldn't even walk into my office.  I couldn't turn on the computer.  I couldn't even think about the project.

I knew I had to put on my boxing gloves in a big way.  I forced myself to go into the room. I didn't make myself do anything else...that day.  The next day, I went into the room and sat down. I turned on the computer.  But I couldn't do anything related to the book project.

The big problem was that I had a deadline.  I was scheduled to teach a class and was supposed to write the textbook for it.  And time was ticking.

I knew I had to get tougher with the fear of the creative process.  I had to decide whether it was important to me that the book I used was mine, not someone else's. I had to decide what I was willing to do to get the book written.  I made a decision.

It wasn't an overnight resolution, but day by day I made progress.  I started out the day by making a list of all the things that I was afraid of related to the book.  Then I wrote a list of all the benefits I'd get from completing the project.  I broke the book out into steps, starting with the table of contents.  I knew that I could change it later if I decided to do so.

Then I wrote the first chapter and the second.  I did not allow myself at that time to go back and edit or even read what I'd written.  By the time I got to the fifth chapter, I was engrossed and I forgot to be afraid. I forgot to do the lists.

And my progress just took off.  I met my deadline with several days to spare, the book got published and I was able to put away my boxing gloves until needed again.  It's a process that I've used to fight through anxieties for art shows preparations, public speeches, and other writing projects.

I suggest if you're stuck, in a rut, fearful of change or feeling uncreative, Put on the Boxing Gloves.

(c) 2012, SZing.  All rights reserved. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Halloween Spooktacular give away....

Don't forget to join in our Monthly Giveaway contest.  We'll be giving three lucky winners each one of our upcycled domino necklaces.  See the entry form to the side.

if you have a morbid mind, this could be a very halloween-ish necklace...
if you don't have a morbid mind,it's abstract

Paisley is one of my all time favorite designs.

Orange abstraction.  Perhaps it is the cycle of the moon...
or if you're sitting to the side of the computer and are almost asleep, it could
look like a piece of pizza (sorry, a personal joke there.)
Don't forget to register.  At the end of the month, 3 winners will be chosen via rafflecopters random selection of the entries with the highest points.  (Be sure to include your email address and look for an email announcing that you won our October giveaway.  If you're the winner but don't respond with your mailing address, I have no way to get your necklace to you...)

(c) 2012 SZing all rights reserved.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Creative Tease...

Sometimes you just have to take a vacation.  Apparently, I'm still on mine.  Looking forward to a month of exploring creative solutions and creative thinking.

In the meantime, in joy, enjoy....