Sunday, January 11, 2009

Steps for Creative Success

Cynthia Morris poses an interesting question on her blog, Original Impulse. She responds to the question, "How do I set aside judgement so I can create?"

That's a question I wrestle with every time I step in front of my easel. There's always a fragile balance between what I might want to try, and what's expected of me. As I confront the blank canvas or paper, the voices in my head begin their song. "Who do you think you are!?! Do what's easy! Go for the sure thing! What will your family say?!"

There's the safe and comfortable formula that produces, maybe not a winner everytime, but at least a certain probability of success. And that's fine. It's great to know I can crank out a piece that most folks will find acceptable.

And then there's a deep yearning for something...different.

Morris suggests three things: the first is to do what you love doing. Engage yourself in your "work". In my case, submerging myself in the act of painting, whether it's oils or pastels, seems to separate me from the expectations of others - and myself. It's in this "other world" that I can make decisions about what and how I interpret this universe, irrespective of it's commercial or artistic value. Squeezing out oil paints, mixing them into little piles, watching the colors merge one into another ... ahhhhhhhhhh

She also believes in the idea of admitting the fear...and doing it anyway. I'm all for this attitude. I'm pretty much a scaredy-cat, and have learned over the years to agree to something, anything, right away, and then panic about it later. Once I'm committed, I'm, well, committed. Nike had it right. Square up your shoulders and go.

Morris ends with the concept of self control. Remind ourselves of why we love what we do, and then do it. Shrrrrrr. Ignore the critic. Mmmhmmmm. If I had self control I'd be a size, er, smaller. This one is easier said than done, I'm telling you. Artists aren't typically Rocks of Gibraltar in the ego department. However, she's right. Silence the inner whiner, the critic that sounds suspiciously like your mother. Stand before your easel, or whatever it is that you stand before, and believe in yourself. (It's either that or get a job in the food service industry.)

Here's an addition to her list.

Use it up. That's right. Use it up, use up the paint you've bravely squeezed out onto your palette. Having said that, I realize this works only for painters. And bricklayers. Anyway...

For some reason, the act of using up paint that would go to waste anyway seems to allow me to ... I don't know...relax, to quiet that inner critic and just ... enjoy the process. See how the paint moves off the brush and pile up on the surface. Feel the heft of the paint on the brush, and watch it mingle with pigments you'd never allow it to mingle with otherwise.
After a session using pastels, try reaching into the pile of sticks you've accumulated from your last painting, stand back and go for it.

I'm not saying that everything I create using this effort will be a success. But it does free me up to relax and try some things I might not have tried otherwise. It allows me to circumvent judgement and experience the artistic process in its loveliest form.

What do you say? How do you remove judgement from your artistic process?

Wildflowers 2009 12x9 oil
Red Sky 2009 5x7 oil
Reflections 2009, 5x7 oil


Sarah said...

WOW,WOW,WOOOOOWWWWW!!!!!! This discussion is wonderful!!!!! Your new paintings...oh, my gosh!!!!! Gorgeous,gorgeous,gorgeous :):)
I can't wait to see you on Friday.

Sarah said...

I forgot...
Your one painting is so abstract. I couldn't believe my eyes!!! You are complete inspiration for me:)

Nancy and the fatties said...

So many of these issues have been whirling around in my mind lately, too! Whether to paint what I love, or square my shoulders and try something new. Maybe I'll work on silencing the inner whiner first...thanks so much for sharing this Patty. It's exactly what I needed on a Monday.
Gorgeous, inspiring paintings, as always!

Karine said...

I LOVE the abstract one!!! "Reflections". That looks pretty different for what I've seen you do...Congrats!

Does this mean I am supposed to do something representational???

Cynthia Morris said...

Thanks for sharing my article and thoughts with your readers. I know this is a HUGE issue for all of us who create.
One thing I will add. The reason I so enjoy making visual art is how it quiets my mind. When I am drawing or painting or collaging or doing calligraphy, it's my intuition that's leading the way. I love the opportunity to let my big brain sit on the sidelines for once.
And I love your paintings. If this is the result of shushing your inner critic, keep going!

Patricia said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. It seems that self-judgement is a big issue with us artist types. I'm noticing that the closer an exhibit gets, self-judgemental I get. It's certainly a challenge to deal with!