Expanding Your Creative Sources Helps Your Work

A quick but perennial trope of art making: look at as much as you can, read as much as you can listen to as much music as you can. The eclectic approach doesn’t just feed your soul and demeanor, it supports your work with multiple sources, like a well-planned essay.

With deadlines always approaching of various degree, the best defense against both writer’s block and well-worn creative paths is a continually growing list of other creators we admire. And whom we want to steal bits from.

Layers of Creative Existence

Few things are as satisfying as diving deeply into a realm of artistic experience you resonate with. Gaming, painting, books, film—there are depths beyond depths if you choose to explore beyond the surface experience of any art.

But, of course, it doesn’t change the raw experience any casual patron of the medium might have. It’s still the primary goal of any work of art to invoke some kind of reaction in the people who experience it. The filmgoer who watches The Green Book, say, shouldn’t be viewed as a lesser participant in the work than a scholar of cinema who understands layers of subtext and craft that went into the film’s creation. Most people don’t, after all. Every person deserves their personal experience without a requirement to study mechanics of creation or art beforehand, unless the thing is specifically designed for that purpose.

I think I mean to say that we can hope the deeper meaning behind our work is appreciated and understood by our audience. But a deep and personal connection, regardless of how studied the patron’s background, is the first and important thing in giving your work to the world.

Everything and Then Some

Games can give us new perspectives, always good for new ideas. The way we at things should be different than the typical.

I’ve always loved strange, artsy video games that mess with tropes or conventions. Everything, by David O’Reilly, is one of those. I’ve just begun, but it’s already my favorite game experience of the last several months.

The movement is odd, especially when you’re animals and objects. Flipping end-over-end to get around is a little jarring—disturbing, even. But that’s part of the charm.

Everything and Then Some

Games can give us new perspectives, always good for new ideas. The way we at things should be different than the typical.

I’ve always loved strange, artsy video games that mess with tropes or conventions. Everything, by David O’Reilly, is one of those. I’ve just begun, but it’s already my favorite game experience of the last several months.

The movement is odd, especially when you’re animals and objects. Flipping end-over-end to get around is a little jarring—disturbing, even. But that’s part of the charm.

Respect for Mark Hollis

Mark Hollis, front man and major songwriter for Talk Talk, died at 64 today Monday.

He was the driving force taking them from synth pop to post-rock to something else. All in the span of maybe 6 albums. Massive evolutions between each release. Brilliant songwriter and musician.

I bought Hollis’s solo album (1998) nearly a decade before I finally listened to it. I was waiting for the right moment, and I decided last fall that it was time. I was alone on a calm fall day, and I watched the sunset as I played it. It’s a very quiet, open record, the final evolution in his musical exploration.

Laughing Stock, Talk Talk’s final album, is not so different, but it’s more well known. Good work, Mark, all around.

When You Don’t Know What to Draw, Draw Rabbits

If rabbits is the thing that you keep returning to, then let that happen. Lately it seems that’s what I do. And it’s okay. Repeating yourself until you find the next thing or new path can lead to wonderful discoveries.

We don’t always have to be working toward the new thing. Sometimes we need to exhaust the possibilities of a path or subject we’ve been working on. The important part is that we’re continuing to do the work and sincerely exploring ideas.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Sick

There are mostly disadvantages to getting ill. If you’re feeling particularly bad, there are scary (scarily expensive) doctor or hospital visits. But usually, it’s just a drawn out discomfort that leaves you disoriented and dazed.

There’s an advantage for artists: it can help you see in new ways and think new thoughts. They may not be coherent thoughts, but any chance to break out of patterns and routines of thinking is good. Try to write things down or sketch ideas. Usually, you’re too weak or uncoordinated to do real work, but getting the gist on paper (digital paper, too) can help you see different ways to make things when you feel better.

Doing What You Know How to Do Is a Path to Sameness

What we want is to be different in some essential ways as we move our work along. We’re aiming to be better than we were yesterday, to change and to grow.

Actually, it’s best not to be specific about day-to-day progress or lack of it. There may be long periods where you feel like you’re getting nowhere, or even getting worse. But in the grand scheme, better than before.

But if you only ever do what you know how to do, you risk ruts and stagnation. It’s great to thoroughly explore mediums and idioms, but it’s in trying new things and new ways that we gather a storehouse of future possibility and potential.

Try new tools, new methods—your other hand if you’re not ambidextrous. Keep trying when you’re better, too. No dinosaurs. Art should be just as challenging and open as when you first started on your 100,000th piece.

Building Something, and I’m Not Sure What

There are a lot of moments in art where I have an idea for a project or series of things, but I don’t know if it’ll result in anything fully realized or not.

Creative life is full of false starts and failures. Sometimes there are successes. You need some of the former to discover the latter. I remember thinking a particular series of paintings I was working on in art school were going to be received well and progress in a predictable path. But then they ended up not going anywhere, or the execution didn’t match my vision. Sometimes, a project that became one of those little triumphs or breakthroughs wasn’t much of anything until there were two of them.

You just have to trust your instincts and your dedication, and keep moving forward, that’s all I can gather. And then you see where it’s gone when it seems like it’s finished.