Something New

I have plenty of activities to keep me busy each day. But that doesn’t keep me from trying new things.

I like trying new activities and learning new skills. It potentially gives me new things to put in my ever revolving lineup of hobbies. At the very least it gives me one more thing to identify with. So far I can claim writer, poet, musician, programmer, geographer, cartographer, political scientist, photographer, mechanic, martial artist, hunter, Olympic (style) weight lifter, business owner, web designer, electrician and artist.

All of the above activities I’ve either done professionally, in an organized and/or official manner or on a scale large enough to significantly differentiate myself from the majority of people.

Recently, I decided to add to my art repertoire by trying my hand at acrylic painting and mixed media art.  Maybe I should focus on trying to hone existing skills but sometimes you just have to widen the hole rather than dig it deeper.

I’ve only done a handful of paintings so far. Although I like the results, I’m sure in a few months, after doing more of it, I’ll look back and recognize how simplistic and unrefined they are. But you have to start somewhere.

I don’t need to be the next Rembrandt. I just want to create things that are pleasing to look at and give me another outlet for creation.

As I refine my eye for color and feel for acrylic, I’ll keep posting what I make so the progression (hopefully not regression) can be seen and monitored.

Universal Art

Most tissue boxes have patterns printed
with wavy lines, paisleys, arcs or dots.
And colors ranging from simple to gaudy.


But few are perfect for my home and
why should they be? I mean,
unless every box had an infinite palate 
and a nuclear skin that could explode
into every shape imaginable how
could the tissue box artist know
what I need out of tissue box art?


There is no universal art in
my universe, that is to say I
have never found it so. But
I usually get lucky and
find a tissue box that works
well enough with my décor.

How to Overcome Creative Block

Creative block happens to everyone whether you’re a writer, programmer, salesman or builder. I’ve found the best way to overcome creative block is to do something else creative that’s totally different than the thing you were originally trying to do.

For example, if you’re stuck trying to write a chapter for a book, leave it and go sketch a landscape. On the other hand, if you can’t think of anything to draw or paint, go play the guitar, write a nonsense poem or try your hand at flower photography.

When you have creative block the problem is usually that you’re thinking too hard. You’ve allowed the “rules” of your art to put up a barrier to the creative freedom that you need to be able to come up with new ideas or develop existing ones. The exercises above give your brain permission to play and not be inhibited by the arbitrary rules it has placed on your original task.

When you go do your alternative artistic task, tell yourself that there are no rules. It doesn’t have to be good, presentable or even sensible. It just has to be you creating something new.

I find my original task is much easier to get started on after doing something different for a while. It’s amazing how quickly your mind can be convinced to abandon rules and embrace creative freedom. 

A few days ago I couldn’t get very far past just staring at the wall. I decided to get out my sketch book and draw something. Instead of starting with an idea of what I wanted to draw, I closed my eyes and just drew a squiggly line on the page. Then I started using the random shapes I’d created to sketch out whatever came to mind. I just kept adding to it until I decided to end it. Doing this opened me up to making other drawings and to doing some writing that I had been putting off.

Random Sketch

So next time you find yourself stuck for ideas or otherwise unable to do the task at hand, remember to pivot over to another task that you’re not so intent on. Loosen up your brain and you’ll be able to tackle any project.

 

The Fear of Making Nothing

Don’t be afraid of making something bad.

Be afraid of making nothing at all.

Jolie Guillebeau

The above quote really hit me. I’m guilty of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good all the time. I’ll sit down to sketch something or write something and five minutes into it I’m already judging it for not being good enough. It’s not exactly how I’d envisioned it or it doesn’t compare to someone elses work. So I end up quitting or starting over.

Instead I should simply be creating. The editing, the correction and the reworking comes later. It’s a lesson I have to keep teaching myself.

If you have a few minutes, watch Jolie’s TEDx talk below. She’s not only a great artist but an inspiring speaker too.

How Observation Influences Art

For my birthday yesterday I went to a lecture by mixed media artist Mary Robinson called Shifting Perspective. She talked about the role  our environment and experiences play in making art.

www.marysdrawings.com
I sat next to this enormous print during the talk. It was either inspired by the swamps in the authors home state of South Carolina or a crime scene in CSI New Orleans.

The writeup in the paper for the lecture used the word observation to describe this. However, I found it interesting that Mary never used the word observation in her talk (unless I was hearing but not really listening). We so often go through our days seeing things without really observing them. It takes a concious shift in thinking to truly observe our surroundings and understand what we’re seeing.

This is the same concept Maria Konnikova writes about in her book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. I wrote a post about this book a few years ago and just started re-reading it earlier this week. It surprised me to spot the apt description of this lecture in the paper on the morning of the talk.

We see things every day but we rarely observe. Yet true mindfulness and observation of our surroundings and interactions are so important for everyone from photographers to programmers and everyone in between. It allows you to discover new ideas, methods of implementation and more efficient strategies to accomplish goals. At the very least you’ll get better at Trivial Pursuit.