On Inspiration

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Blue Moon Rising, 2018, acrylic on panel

I read books on creativity all the time. I’m not sure if it’s because I, somehow, want to be assured that I’m creative, or whether I want to understand what goes on in that process. Either way, one thing that comes up time and again, is the admonition not to rely on inspiration. In fact talent and inspiration are two terms that almost everyone disses.

I understand it to an extent. Talents aren’t share equally among everyone, and we don’t want to make anyone feel bad because they were born with a little less of a particular talent than someone else. And there is in the creative community this idea that the talented rely only on their talent and don’t work hard. That’s wrong I think, but I’m going to leave that for another time.

Another thing that books on creativity disparage is inspiration. I’m not saying you should sit on your duff and wait for inspiration before you attempt your creative project, but for heaven sakes if it comes along grab it with both hands and enjoy the blessing.

In my last post I noted that I’d finally painted something I didn’t hate. I made a tiny beginning. Then a day later I had the opportunity to visit Lorenzo Dupuis’s studio. What a wonder! I still feel all melty inside when I think about his luminous work, and I was/am inspired. For months and months I’ve been feeling as though I’m repeating myself or taken what wasn’t mine from others. Now, there is a path, a way to learn, a voice to find and I’m going to follow that inspiration. And surprise, surprise there are hints that I’ve been moving in this direction for some time. Yes, I’m worried that my work will look too much like Lorenzo’s, and guess what, he worries that his work looks too much like someone else’s. Creativity is a funny circular thing. Accept your talent, your inspirations and make something of it!

Help! I’m Drowning

14102383_10153305589557537_7493960287916582389_nWell, no, not really. But I am a little overwhelmed with all the work that comes along in spring. I have a huge yard and vegetable garden that needs all kind of attention this time of year. Not complaining, I’m very lucky.

I spent this morning buying seeds and looking for trees I might to plant in a bare spot. This afternoon I’ll need to reseed grass where Caro, my dog uhm…burned it out.

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On the plus side I finished Hannah’s Hearing, my fantasy/boomerlit novellayesterday and sent it out to beta readers and I managed three small sketchbook drawings (one was awful) and a cover mock-up for Hannah’s Hearing.

Have a great week!

Bear with Me

Drawing of a bear
Bear, digital, May 6, 2018

Spring is truly here! It’s astonishing to have temperatures of +27C so early in the year. With this marvelous weather comes birdsong, budding trees, and a tonne of yard work.

Between bouts of raking and digging, I continue to revise Hannah’s Hearing, a novella featuring a boomer-aged woman (think: Fredrik Bachman’s, A Man Called Ove) and I managed to get out to do at least one urban sketch.

It’s lame, I know, but I couldn’t bring myself to plant a stool on the sidewalk to draw, so I parked my car at a nearby mall and tried sketching a senior’s high-rise. I need to get over my fear of having people watch me do my work.

The bear was a digital practice drawing. I’m trying to expand my abilities and repertoire. Like many people, I gravitate to drawing faces or figures. It’s nice to change it up. For instance, I hate that my ability with perspective drawing is so iffy, that’s why I’ve been going out to draw buildings.

I’ve been listening/watching Youtube videos while I draw. Some on drawing, some on publishing, and many on thinking, philosophy, and psychology. It’s a bit like being back at university—without the writing papers bit—and I love it!

What about you? What do you listen to while you are doing your creative work?

Creativity and a Memoir

Cellist, digital drawing, 2018

 

 

On my recent visit to my granddaughter, she was persuaded to show me what she’d learned in her cello lessons. We talked about the cello while she was setting up. One of the threads on the bow was broken and we wondered what you did about something like that.

“What are they made of?” I asked.

“Horsetail hair,” was the reply.

“Hmm.”

Google told us, soon enough, what to do with the broken strand. Cut it off.

But this use of horsetail hair reminded me of another time in my life when these hairs had done something more than brush flies off a horse’s back end.

I was five, possible six when I first made use of a horsetail hair. On a regular weekday afternoon my two sisters and I, pestered our mother to let us sew doll clothes. We wanted to use a real needle and thread. We’d been allowed before under her supervision. This time Mom said no. She was tired. We had a little brother and he was keeping her up at night. She was going to take a nap, and we were to go outside and play. My mother wasn’t careless of her kids. These were different times and children were taught to grow up faster.

Grumbling and complaining–I’m sure I was the loudest–we went outside with our little scraps of fabric. We wondered around the farmyard in a desultory fashion for a while and ended up in an old broken down storage shed.

It was a grimy place full of rusted metal things, some hanging from the walls on nails, some in boxes stacked on makeshift shelves. There was one tiny window through whose dirty panes light strained to come in past the dirt and fly-blow. Blue-backed flies bumped against the glass trying to get out, wishing they’d never come in.

We found some boxes, arranged them in a row,  and sat.

And sat.

What to do?

My eyes roomed the walls. Nothing of interest. Nothing of–wait! Thread. Long thin threads.

For some reason, our dad had collected a clump of horsetail hairs and hung them on a peg in this shed.

“Hey, we could–”

I wasn’t sure what we could do–but thread! It seemed somehow that we had half the answer to our sewing needs. Where, in this place, could we find a needle?

I pulled one of the horsetail hairs from the peg and had a flash of understanding. The hair wasn’t limp like a thread, it was firm and springy. Maybe…

I came back to the boxes to sit with my sister. I folded the bit of cloth in half and threaded the tip of the horsetail hair through the layers of cloth.

I doubt we got far with our horsetail hair sewing. Little children lose interest fast and it was a dark and dirty place to hang out. I remember the hair going through the fabric, but it must have been a loose weave, for I tried, it again with the broken cello bow thread, and it was reluctant to go through the polyester fabric of my top.

You know those creativity tests where they ask you to think of a zillion things to do with a brick or a paper clip? I don’t do those. Tests make me nervous. But if they ever ask the question: what can you do with horse tail hair? I have at least one creative answer.

What about you? Do you remember a time when you came up with a truly creative idea?

Gasp! You’re Giving up Your Studio?

Studio View 330 Ave G

If you’re going to be a serious artist you’ve got to have a studio!

That is one of the things I learned in art school along with things like theme, balance, architectonic strength and structure. It was by far the easiest thing to understand. If you’re going to do work you need a place to do it, and if you are going to take yourself seriously and expect others to take you seriously you need a place you can call a studio. Ideally, this place is not your parents basement. At least that’s what I thought.

Before I even got my degree I managed somehow to secure a studio spaces–sometimes shared–in various warehouses in my home city. The amenities were often far from optimal when ‘very cheap’ is all you can afford. One of these studio spaces was a shared accommodation over a coat factory. On a cold November day, when a New York critic was scheduled to visit and pass comment on my art, the furnace went out. It was as bitterly cold inside as it was outside. Thank goodness she’d worn her silk socks that day.

There were times when I couldn’t afford even the lowliest space, but whenever I could I tried to have a place outside my home as a studio.

But Do you really Need a Studio Space Outside your Home?

Yes and no. The question is akin to Virginia Wolf’s need for a room of her own. I know of writers who clamp on a pair of noise cancelling headphones, find a corner in their home and write award winning material. I know visual artists who work on the kitchen table in their smallish condo. If you’re doing digital work, do you really need to rent an extra place to house your desk and computer/tablet setup? Probably not, especially if the cost of the studio eats up monies you need for that new graphics tablet.

Still, it is a nice thing to have a place to go that has only one purpose–the place you go to create your art. It’s a physical thing and a mental thing. And if your work is very large, or if you use a medium that it would be unwise to expose your family to, like say welding or encaustic painting, then a space with proper ventilation outside of your home is a must. If you have children who could be harmed by your materials, or who demand your attention at all times, you need an outside studio.

Are you judged on your seriousness as an artist by the studio space you have? Maybe, but I’d say don’t let that worry stop you from creating in whatever circumstances you find yourself. It’s not about where you create, it’s about what you create.

As a writer and a visual artist I do think it’s helpful for you to have a space you can go to to shut out distractions in order to focus. it’s helpful, but by no means a prerequisite. Artists are very good at focusing. They wouldn’t have come to their art if they weren’t. It takes a lot of focus to find your talent and go after it.

So why did I give up my studio this week?

Well, to be honest I didn’t exactly. I gave up a very nice space I had in what used to be the preacher’s office on the second floor of an old church that has been converted to studios. I loved this space, but for various reason (including a long period of creative drought–everything I painted sucked) it made sense. This does not mean I’m giving it ALL up. Another thing most artists have lots of is grit. They just keep on, keeping on.

No, I haven’t given up on painting and writing, but I have decided to convert a space in my own home to a studio.

Here is is.

Studio View 3

Painting area

Studio View 4

Digital Workspace

I don’t have the kind ventilation, here, that I would need to continue with encaustic work, so a shift in materials is in order. All to the good. I loved working in encaustic (beeswax and pigment), but I appeared to be at the end of the line with it.

The nice part of this new studio that it can be do triple duty as analog artist studio, digital workstation and writing office.

But hey you, if you can’t afford an off-site studio space or don’t have a room in your home you can commandeer, use your kitchen table. If it works it’s a worthy place. The important thing is not where you work, but that you do.

Eeyore? Pollyanna?

Thoughtful 2016Worry, 2017, encaustic on canvas

It seems to me that young adults and old adult have something in common. Fearfulness. When we’re just emerging into adulthood, we have no idea how to negotiate all the pitfalls of taking care of ourselves, fending for ourselves, making a place for ourselves and being someone. It’s all flailing and floundering and fear that we’ll embarrass ourselves and nobody special will like us. Ever.

In the middle years we kind of sort it out–at least a little. And if we haven’t sorted it out there is no time to do so now, because now we’re in it to the armpits and there’s not time to let fear hold us back. That career needs building and the family needs care. It’s a doing time.

Then comes later adulthood when somehow your back to not knowing quite how to get on in the world. Things swirl around and past you at such speed that you’re left standing slump-shouldered, mouth hanging open wondering what now. You have no idea how you got to this ridiculous place where it scary to go for a walk in case there is ice on the sidewalk, and you’re worried that your grand kids might think you smell funny.

These things can lead to many Eeyore moments for young adults and old adults alike.

I’m not going to suggest going all Pollyana,  but when life get shitty I would suggest finding something that makes you laugh, and then build on the things you know you are good at. There’s something you’re good at, always something, and if you push the limits on that thing you grow, and that is one of the most satisfying things you’ll ever do. Immerse yourself in what you are good at, and when you’re feeling like you could just about handle something else, give it a try. Be optimistic. Optimism won’t kill you you know and if you lose, try again, or try something else and maybe put ice skates on when you go for a walk.