Moving Days and Changing Views

It’s always hard to work my routines into such a big anxiety- and stress-inducing event as moving house, but I’ll still be giving it a shot. There’s value and relief in hanging onto whatever steadiness can be had on a metaphorically stormy sea.

One of the reasons for keeping a sketchbook on you at all times (or whatever notebook you’re drawn to—ha! Drawn!—for your medium and your thing) is to be ready to work on creation or making when its time. Not just when inspiration strikes, but to order.

It’s well demonstrated that creativity can be made to order by habitual attempts. Even when your best equipment is all boxed up, a moment to get out of the world and into your vision is good for you.

Drawing Is Being Human, and Seeing Reality

This article on Quartzy reviews D. B. Dowd’s new book, Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice. The article makes much of the idea that drawing is a kind of learning, which is somewhat true, but limited, I’d argue. Instead, I think there’s great value in championing the idea of drawing as a tool for many aspects of life, and not just the province of artists and fumbled attempts to imitate the pros.

Near the beginning, it says drawing should t be limited to the artists. But I’d say that misses the point, at least for me. Drawing is for all of us because to make art is human. We are all artists by nature. Most of us just lack refinement and practice in becoming connected to our creative cores and in utilizing various techniques of creation.

It’s well worth reading, and I hope it’s another bit of inspiration to start or keep working on your thing.

Reverse Groundhog Day(s)

I noticed the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day pop up on Netflix, and it occurred to me it relates to a regular art-making practice in a backward way.

While Phil Conners relives the same day over and over again, we live new days, but try to do this (usually similar) creative thing over and over.

The trick we attempt is in getting better at making, and just as Phil slowly gets better at being a human being, we get gradually better at bringing out our visions and expression.

This is every day, if you want it.

Color Suspended: the Bright Spectrum of Emmanuelle Moureaux’s Work

Layers of cut out kanji, suspended in midair, fill a large room in a saturated sequenced spectrum

Universe of Words, by Emmanuelle Moureaux

Moureaux is a French artist living in Tokyo, Japan. Her work is largely comprised of intense, spectral displays, which I’m forever drawn to. Her work, particularly the 100 Colors installation series. From her bio:

She uses colors as three-dimensional elements, like layers, in order to create spaces, not as a finishing touch applied on surfaces. Handling colors as a medium to compose space, her wish is to give emotion through colors with her creations

Her Instagram page is full of joy in color.

https://instagram.com/emmanuellemoureaux

Okay, but Can You Not, and Then Will You Just?

I do these periodic posts about the habit—making a daily or near-daily creative practice part of your routine—as much for myself as for you. Because I’m not trying to teach or prescribe formula from on high or by edict, I’m just as crabby and fallible about getting to work as anyone. We all try, we all fail. There are times, and they come more than once, when you feel you don’t have the strength to make stuff.

It’s only in those moments you have to fall back on tricks and training to push through the wall. The daily habit gets you through because you’re used to it, and it’s too uncomfortable to not do a thing.

“Just do it,” Nike’s simple and best slogan, can work for easy dark moods. For worse blocks, there’s the 5 Minute Rule. You tell yourself you’ll just work on art for 5 minutes, and usually it kicks you into gear. It can’t fail, because even if you drop it after 5 minutes, you’ve worked on your thing that day. You win.

Give it a shot, and get used to denying your inner denier.

The Many-Varied Colleagues and Associates

One of the benefits of art school is your fellow students. They can easily become your peer group, or better yet, your collective. There’s a moment of opportunity when you meet a few other creators who have a connected aesthetic. If you’re lucky, you can parlay that into a shared movement. It’s a chance to get attention for what you do, based on a packageable meme of some kind. It’s the equivalent of a “school,” i.e., the Bauhaus or—if you’re feeling really generous—the Impressionists.

But even if you’re not trying to form a movement or project what you do as something important, it’s good to have a lot of eyes on your work at any given time. Your fellow artists and your friends are cheerleaders and supporters as well as critics and sounding boards. You’ll have a better idea of what connect with other people the more you share your work. And connection is what you’re after. Making work for yourself alone is fine, but resonance with others is what makes art deeply important for us all.

So Many Fire Irons but You Can Handle Them

Because they’re not red hot, gettit? Cheese aside, there’s an advantage to working on several things in parallel. I’m not against extreme focus, but if you’re the type to be scattered, scheduling creative stuff in blocks—or just picking up where you left off when you notice the thing—there are a couple advantages to it and you don’t have to apologize or despair for this habit.

People asking what your thing is might want a pat answer. Sometimes, there isn’t one: you do a lot because you’re interested in a lot. You’re a Carl Sagan of art. Sagan was an astronomer. But he also wrote books. He hosted and co-wrote a popular tv series. That series spanned geology, physics, and chemistry, among many other things, as well as astronomy.

Having many creative loves, or many ideas that demand you work on them now, is perfectly fine. Maybe you could finish a thing sooner if you focus on that one thing. But would you have as much fun?

Another Just-a-Sketch Post

Because I ran out of day getting into this little drawing. The pull of Flow, the siren song of getting lost in creation is the best drug, truly. It’s just tough to get started on the trail after so much self doubt and hesitation.

We all have it, or nearly all. You just need to keep reminding yourself to start, to give the blank page a little chance. Most of the time, you get something you can flow into, for a time.

The New Perspectives of Old Minds (Yes, Post-40-Something): Billy Idol Edition

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw1oM7LBbxE

For weird, synchronistic and untraceable reasons, I got Flesh for Fantasy, above, there, stuck in my mental earholes earlier in the day. When it was released, I was in high school, and had eclectic taste even then. But though I respected Idol’s presence and abilities as a songwriter and singer, it didn’t seem particularly special.

Now, through a lens of 35 more years of listening to music, it’s scintillating. There are beautiful tones and colors on guitar and guitar synthesizer both. The song is very dynamic, rolling from the sneering shouts of the chorus, to the soft whispers of verses. It’s not characteristic of much music then or now, when so much production isn’t allowed to breathe and rest, it’s balls-to-the-wall sound and—if you’re lucky—silence.

An advantage of age often mentioned but not appreciated, maybe, is wisdom. Along with that is a sense of perspective. Things look different through a lens of decades. Art of all kinds can be reassessed like this. Sometimes things you thought were great turn out to be paper thin. And—if you’re lucky—some things turn out to have great depth.

Looking at the Old Stuff for Fun and Profit

By the above, I mean profit creatively, not financially. One reason to keep old work around is that it not only gives you benchmarks for where you’ve been, it also informs your present work. Sometimes it’s inspiration, a kind of creation recycling that sparks new ideas from old. Some of the time, it steers you away from habitual mistakes. These things are worth experiencing and knowing.

Sketchbooks are the main thing artists keep. But as much as you have room for isn’t a bad thing to hang onto. Dominic Cretara, my main life painting professor, used to say we shouldn’t throw out anything for at least three years. By that time, you’ve progressed—if you’ve kept working, of course—and gained perspective and new skill.

Don’t look too soon at the bottom of the pile, but do look.