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Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

Glass AppleI attended an event in Harvard Square a few nights ago in which the prolific novelist Joyce Carol Oates read from her latest novel, Mudwoman, and answered a variety of questions from the audience.  When asked if she kept specific routines for her writing (for example, a goal of 500 words per day) she said that she didn’t, but that she liked to hold images in her mind before writing about them. She described waking up and lying with her eyes closed for 20 minutes or so, and just turning an image or an idea over in her mind.

I found myself closing my eyes and imagining doing this, realizing it is similar to what I sometimes do when I wake up from an unusually curious dream. For me, staying with an image or an emotion upon waking helps the rest of the dream events unfold like a long cord unraveling.

Oates went on to say that it is her practice to try to hold and turn over these images without putting words to them, and letting the words come later when she is sitting down to write.

Since hearing her talk about his, I have been thinking that there must be some sort of visual art equivalent to this process she uses for writing. The night before I heard her talk, I had purchased a copy of Digital Studio, a magazine put out by Somerset. I pick up a copy of Digital Studio a couple of times a year when I have the urge to feed my experimental spirit. It isn’t that I have been lacking in inspiration. I’ve been making art any chance I get and having fun with it. But sometimes I just want to shift a little bit in another direction, without necessarily even thinking about it in those terms. Which is what led me to the massive arts-related magazine rack in my neighborhood, and to taking home a nice thick issue of artistic images to soak up. The images featured were (and usually are) collages, some made from photographs, some made from free shared images available on websites like Polyvore.

I liked the collages very much, but found that many of the images used by the artists in the magazine didn’t quite resonate with me. So what were my images? The day after Joyce Carol Oates’ talk, I began to look around at objects in my home that I especially like. Pretty things. Things I just like looking at. Out came the camera, and I began to take photographs of them from various angles and in shifting relationship to one another. It was an opportunity to spend time just turning them over in my mind, studying and appreciating their qualities.

"Pretty Things" mixed media collage, Copyright © 2012 Paula Ogier

"Pretty Things" mixed media collage, Copyright © 2012 Paula Ogier

I downloaded the photos and opened Photoshop, placing the photos, layer upon layer, onto a deep orange and white multi-layered pattern design I had recently made. I added another pattern into the mix, this one with orange, gold and turquoise. As I layered, I adjusted the transparency of each layer so that the layers beneath could be seen, and I erased in and around many of the images to bring forward what I didn’t want to be as veiled. When I was done, 15 layers later, it was like rising to the surface of a pleasant dream and stepping tired but happy onto the shore of the topside world.

I liked the piece very much, perhaps because it felt true to me. Making it was like letting that long cord unravel, beginning with the urge to find some fresh inspiration, and following it to its eventual end. But the end is always a beginning, too. What’s next, I wonder….?

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Cat Bennett

The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind, by artist Cat Bennett, was the subject of yesterday’s post. Today I get to welcome Cat Bennett as a guest blogger here at Boston Art Images.

Thanks, Cat, for sharing the following thoughts with us.

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It’s All Good!

Every Saturday morning I teach drawing. I begin every class with an exercise in which we can’t be judged—like scribbling or drawing upside down. These explorations level the playing field because there’s no right way to scribble and because no one does a totally accurate drawing upside-down. It’s a way of practicing, seeing what’s possible, focusing our minds and training our eyes.

It’s so important to see drawing and art as a practice. Keep a pencil and sketchbook on hand and set aside a few minutes every day. Showing up every day builds momentum—there’s no other way. It teaches us to know ourselves, grow our strengths and enter the realm of pure creativity with ease. We all get so screwed up from our years of being evaluated and graded in school. We sometimes wonder whether we’re good enough or if our work matters. We often think that every time we put pencil to paper we have to do something “good.” Trying to do something “good” can stop creativity in its tracks. To be really creative, and to draw with confidence, we have to make mistakes and go where we’ve never been before. That’s messy.

Creativity is an organic process—one thing leads to another.

Of course, when we’re drawing, we can notice those niggling thoughts that drift through our minds. Especially the ones that say, “This is terrible!” or “I’ll never be Picasso!” It’s true, we will none of us be Picasso or Damien Hurst. Whatever we think of other artists, we can only be ourselves. That’s freedom! Negative thoughts come to us all and we can just let them go. We might notice too that a great artist like Matisse left plenty of mistakes in this work. He knew that the strength in his work would overcome any weakness. It will in ours too.

When we make a habit of drawing, it can liberate our creative selves by giving us a chance to reconnect with pure exploration. We’ll soon bring the attitude of inquiry to all of our creative work. When we do this, we soon connect with this beautiful free part of ourselves again. And that’s where art comes from.

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Thanks to the very creative Paula Ogier, for her beautiful review of the book and for giving me this space to add a few words!

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If you’re looking to give your creative spirit a fortifying shot in the arm, and frankly, even if you aren’t, I recommend artist Cat Bennett’s The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind (Findhorn Press, Scotland, 2010). Upon immediate inspection, it’s a lovely book to behold, generously laden with drawings and paintings by Ms. Bennett, her contemporaries and her students. The images meander from quirky to dreamy, from humorous to contemplative, and from sparse to luscious. The even sweeter surprise is the simplicity and kindness of this book’s message: creativity need not be about producing a final and polished product. It is inherent in all of us, arising quite willingly with openness and acceptance of its distinctive voice. Reading it, I remembered a time in my life, decades ago, when I would get together with a friend for the evening, put on music, and the two of would just begin to draw. Often, there was no specific goal as I was being drawn myself down a path, and sometimes one that materialized in what someone many years later described to me as a “happy accident.”

I have happy accidents a lot in my art, and I hope to never stop having them. I’m not against being guided by an artistic vision — I typically am when I’m working on something — but I’ve learned the wisdom of letting the road twist and turn when something unexpectedly moving happens.

The Confident Creative offers drawing exercises to loosen up our occasionally rigid minds, such as drawing upside down (the image is upside down, that is, not you), drawing with your non-dominant hand, drawing with shapes, or drawing from your imagination. They are not new ideas, but gently and simply explained, they have the ability to open up space in the mind and let the reader find the relaxation in unedited creative exploration. My experience is that something profound happens in this space, and I like the respectful way that The Creative Confident encourages this process. In some ways I see it as a kind of prayer book, affirming the joy to be found in being alive and confident of our own expression.

Cat Bennett lives in the greater Boston area and teaches drawing in her “Saturday Morning Drawing Club” at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown, MA. Her career as a professional illustrator began more than 25 years ago at The National Film Board of Canada. She went on to make short animations for CBC Sesame Street and Nickelodeon TV. Her illustration client list includes The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Time Magazine, and many others. For me, it’s touching to see that someone with so much drawing experience under her belt still understands the beauty of letting the hand follow where the mind and spirit wander.

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