Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Where does your creativity come from?

Where does your creativity come from?

I was asked this question recently, and I haven’t really stopped thinking about the question and the many answers since. On Facebook, I posed a similar question to my artist friends, “What are some specific triggers that inspire your creative practice?” [Read all the answers posted on 4/29/2013 at]

The answers were as varied as the artists: some are inspired by other people’s art, some by emotional experience, some by environment, and some by materials. There were three answers that I was particularly able to relate to and for the purposes of this post about creative blocks; I am going to comment on each.
Sarah Atlee, You Can Go Back to CampInk and Colored Pencil on Paper, 6.5"x6.5"
Sarah Atlee commented, “Learning about something I didn't know before.”
Whether actively pursuing knowledge or whether learning about something new comes more haphazardly, new information fires synapses in your brain and can inspire a train of ideas worth exploring. For example, I heard a story on the radio recently about an anthology of Willa Cather’s letters being published. Before she died, Willa Cather expressly forbade the publication of her personal letters. She even went so far as to burn some so they could never be seen again. Her family respected her wishes and kept them safe, but upon the death of the last executor of her will, the decision was made to publish selected letters. The book comes out soon. On the radio, one of the editors was being interviewed and said he believed she really would want the letters to be seen and that many of the letters were informative of her literature that they put her work in context.

While I am a fan of Willa Cather, and I am intrigued by the idea that there is more writing of hers to read now, I must admit it makes me terribly sad to know her wishes are not being followed. And it makes me angry to think that a male editor would say that he thought Cather would have really wanted them to be published. This story has me thinking about privacy, sexism, and legacy, which are all topics I don’t often think about. I am not currently making work that is directly about any of these subjects, but I write down my thoughts on the matter and when I am thinking about the next body of work or installation I might want to create, the exploitation of Willa Cather after her death might be something I would pursue.

Michael Hoffner commented, “A problem to solve.”
Oh, how I love problem solving. Granted, not everyone does, and some problems are far easier to solve than others, but the challenges posed by a problem force your brain to work in new ways. Solving problems instantly sends my mind into brainstorming mode where no ideas are bad ideas. Come up with ten ideas that could solve a problem, good or bad, in ten minutes, and certainly there is some nugget of awesome in there that could inspire new art. And if not, then there is your new problem to solve. Sometimes, a quiet place to meditate and visualize solutions will work. Sometimes, consulting a trusted council of advisors does the trick.

Here’s a problem I currently facing: my right arm hurts from fingertips to elbow from repetitive motion injury due caused by the art I am currently making. I need to keep working because I am on a tight deadline, but I don’t want to risk serious injury because I know I will be working for weeks. Here are ten possible solutions: stretch more often, change position of tools, quit this project and start something else less physically taxing, have someone else make the work, get an arm transplant, develop telekinesis skills, take pain killers to dull the pain, work through the pain, use left hand, and schedule more rest time. Of these ideas, I am not sure which combination I will use to solve my problem with carpal tunnel. However, I am certainly intrigued by the ideas of using my left hand which would produce a totally different kind of art.

More than that though, the idea to use telekinesis makes me think of the 1975 movie Escape to Witch Mountain in which Tony plays harmonica to move objects via telekinesis. Even the words in the previous sentence could be a launching point of creativity: escape, witch, mountain, and harmonica. What if I made a drawing of a mountain of harmonicas? Or a photocollage of an exodus of witches escaping the tyrannical rule of a harmonica playing Tony Soprano?

Finally, Zachary Presley commented, "I get a lot of thinking done while driving."
So do I. Whether I am listening to something on the radio or not, if I am in a car driving long enough, my brain will develop some crazy ideas about concepts to explore, media to combine, compositions, color schemes, and entire exhibitions. I imagine chewing gum or exercising could produce the same kinds of results because your body is preoccupied with a task that is routine enough and that allows your brain to float.

…Floating brains.

Thanks to Romy Owens for this article, posted in part eagerly anticipating the May 18 Artist Survival Kit workshop on Artistic Practice: Motivation, Discipline & Busting Creative Blocks.

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