Creative vision and curiosity (part 4; creativity series)

On the artistic process and curiosity

Some times I am more creative than others. I am at my most creative when I feed my brain: read a good book, go to a nice park or the beach, in other words give myself experiences.-- Cathy Card, Watercolor, pencil, computer art,, www.

My best artwork tends to happen when I am in the midst of several different pieces, when I've kind of isolated myself for a little while and just gotten lost in it. To be successful at creating, I need to have the time and the energy, and not push myself. If I give myself plenty of time to relax from life, I am able to work on art. I definitely have blocks in creativity. What I generally do is either give myself a break (like a couple weeks or so) where I don't work on anything. More often than not, though, I'll focus on something else for a little while to refresh my mind, like sewing, cooking, reading, or just doodling some comics. -- Rachel Cabaniss, painter (acrylics/ collage/ mixed media portraits on wood)

Artists by nature...are supposedly nonconformists kind of individuals. We inevitably wind up trapping ourselves in these boxes, whether we realize it or not. And I think to a certain extent, that alot of artists do realize that they sequester themselves creatively and it is a safety net in order for them to do work that will turn out in a certain fashion, without having to invite any new challenges. I think to a certain degree, that is okay, if you are trying to measure a certain amount of growth, but in the end you have to find a way to shake off all of those constraints. I think that often manifests in creative blocks.. as well as a sense of apathy and sometimes depression, with alot of artists because they can't get things to happen as they keep telling themselves that it should, when sometimes they should just let go and let whatever be be as opposed to trying to hold fast to these rigid rules of how they should create things and what the work should look like once it's created. -- Drèk Davis, multiple media artist(mixed media, digital, writing)

I have to find something that is personal to me but also connects with viewers. I just always have an outlets, sometimes the outlet changes, garden, writing, books, etc. --Frank Hamrick, Photographer,

"Your best artwork" is an interesting statement. (on what makes the best work happen) I'm not sure my artwork is all that good, but I have a good time creating it. What I need is uninterrupted nearby.....and usually some music. I was never a big fan of Meatloaf but I recently started listening to his work. He has a great voice and I like cranking up his "Bat out of Hell" album when I paint. I've never had a block nor do I do any warmup exercises.-- Bob Hart,, creator of 9-11 Garden, currently working in 3d

For me, I have to have a sense of safety, space, both physical & emotional, an inspiration, the proper supplies (nothing like running out of an essential color in the middle of a painting!), coupled with the NEED to make art. Painting is something which can be kind of frenzied for me. I paint very quickly and I am kind of consumed by it until I am finished. I do sometimes need a bridge to get into the creative side of my brain. Being left handed, I wonder if there might be an advantage there, but music is also helpful. Once I start, it becomes timeless and I am in the art. Nothing else exists and I am always amazed when I am done. I'll listen to the same CD over and over again. It's me, the music, and the flow. When it's good, it's amazing. When it's bad, I feel kind of well, haunted. When it's not working it's sometimes because I've hit a creative challenge and need to either think different, or learn/re-learn a technique, or perhaps consult someone else. Other times, the reason it's not working is that I've lost interest in or I've lost my insight into what I found interesting about the subject. I used to stress over blocks in creativity, more, but I am working on letting that go. I think of blocks as being a necessary part of the creativity energy. If you use up all of your physical energy running a 10k race, then you'd need a few days to recoup, yes? So, I just go do something else. Creatively restful. It definitely can't be forced... Maybe that is the muse that artists refer to... --Robin Fay, painter, photographer, graphic designer,

For drawing and writing, I need quiet and good light – and then I enter a trance, complete the work, emerge from said trance, and stare at what I’ve done, wondering how it happened. For performing, I need a large, enthusiastic crowd. I have blocks all the time. I confess I’ve never been one for warmup exercises or any other kind of “exercises” in terms of writing or drawing. Sometimes I have to put the work down and return to it refreshed at a later time. Sometimes I can plow through by just writing anything until the words
are good again. For performing trapeze, I just practice one trick or sequence of tricks over and over again until the next step makes itself apparent. --Mary Jessica Hammes, Paper & Ink (comics); Fiber (quilting, knitting, wing); Performance (trapeze and aerial fabrics); Words (fiction),

Good chemistry knowledge, at least a field knowledge of how the clay and glaze materials act. Operating as a business necessitates deadlines, which means I have to have an acceptable product at a given time. So experimentation must be limited; there has to always be some amount of reliability. In any firing, there are pots with simple reliable glazes/shapes, and a few pots with new glazes and shapes with relatively unknown predictability. -- Will Langford, clay (wheel made, stoneware functional pottery)

My most recent success is a piece that I managed to create and submit to a show (just the other day) without over-analyzing it OR worrying about it after I sent it along. It's important for me to realize that, because right now, I'm in a phase of detoxing from working in the gallery system (immediately after having received my MFA), and trying to minimize the overly-critical lens with which I have viewed my work, and the work of others. Although I certainly learned a lot about technique, I don't know if getting my MFA was the best thing for me to do creatively, because I've since had to un-learn so many things that, I felt, made my work really formulaic, and my description of it pretentious. (To that I should add that it was through no fault of my instructors or colleagues, most of whom were great people and good artists, but the culture-at-large demands so much documentation, promotion, and hustling that it is very easy to become
alienated from the process of making the work itself). So, really, I'm re-learning my process of creating work, and trying my best to not fall into the critical traps that constipate my thought process, or produce things that feel like they aren't integrated into my own voice. I certainly do have blocks in creativity. These usually come when I become preoccupied with who will be looking at my work, and how someone in particular might judge it. I find that when I'm frustrated, if I'm trying to come up with a solution for what I'm working on, or if I'm seeking inspiration, the best thing to do is just relax and NOT DO ANYTHING related to my work--it's better to just do something that I find pleasurable or mind-clearing. Then, when I return to my work, I am more refreshed and creative than if I just spent my time struggling for a solution. But of course, if I'm under a tight deadline, and don't have the luxury to do that, I just plow ahead and try not to beat myself up about what I've chosen to do.. -- Mandy Mastrovita, graphic design, writing, mixed media.

By just losing myself in what I am doing. No distractions, usually late at night. I can get carried away. I will paint until I pass out in my bed with paint all over me then wake up the next day with something that looks better than I remembered. I have extreme blocks of creativity. I don't do well with deadlines. Sometimes I get so creative I would paint my cat if it stood still long enough. Then other times I could go months and think maybe later, next week. I also have to be inspired sometimes by other artists or the time of the year. Holidays make me feel more creative because of all the materials available to you.-- Jennifer L. Matias, painter(Acrylic, oil, interior design)

I can work under almost any circumstances except for a migraine headache. Seriously, some of my funniest things have been written when I was so depressed in real life that I could barely function. I actually think I have a lot more talent than I do actual CREATIVITY, in the sense that if someone else puts a prompt in front of me, I feel more comfortable than if I've got to come
up with my own idea. This is much more true of my cartoons and illustrations than of my writing. I have a bad tendency to take creative blocks way too much to heart, and think, "ALL MY TALENT IS DRIED UP." Ideally, though, what I do is ignore the giant creative block sitting in the middle of the metaphorical room, and read or knit or paint a piece of furniture or do SOMETHING that
provides me with an artistic outlet without my having to come up with a terribly original idea. -- Jasmine Odessa Rizer, writer, pen & ink,

To have a successful experience, I need to have a lot of space to spread things out. I've found that things turn out best when I have a flexible idea in my head of what I want the final project to look like; things don't usually turn out the way I think they will. I get blocks very frequently. I usually just take a break.-- K.R., collage/mixed media/assemblage

Art happens. You might be more familiar with what an athlete might call "the zone." It is the place were I go when I loose my connection with me and become the work. It might happen in a studio, in a diner, on the street curb. DO I have blocks? I'm the master of blocks! But really, are we ever really "past" them. OR does our work just take new forms? Just because we are not painting doesn't necessitate we are not creating..boy that rationalization just kinda fell flat...let me know if any one can tell you how to unblock. All I know is keep banging your head against that brick wall block until you break through. Not a pretty or easy thing to do. -- Sarah Margaret Stubbs, painter (oils),

Time to create seems to be my greatest need. I have plans for more quilts than I'll ever be able to make. My most successful quilts are the ones that have a deadline; then I have an excuse to give myself the time to create (and to take the time away from chores and other activities). If I come across a problem as I'm working, I usually take a break or move on to a different project. Meanwhile, my brain is working on the problem and I'll usually find a solution when I least expect one. One of the good things about not having enough time to make quilts is that just letting a problem sit while I do my day job sometimes gives me the distance I need to solve a problem. -- Marty Tanner Hughes, Fabric arts, quilter.

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robin fay is an artist, web designer, web junkie and serves as the editor of moonshine.

An archive of robin's articles is located here.

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