Christmas Tree Creativity

Creating is a response to the gift of life. Rosalind Pinsent (from The Painter’s Keys)

There are all kinds of comments and opinions on Christmas trees that crop up every year about this time. Creativity is one example. A Christmas tree is a statement of creativity. That creativity comes in many forms. Some like to have a color-coordinated tree. Others are all about the lights. You name it and people have a creative expression with their trees. My tree is all about eclectic creativity. This year added some new examples.

I have never had a color coordinated or designer tree. I have an “artsy” tree. My tree has some childhood ornaments that I love, like the angel that got chewed on by the cat. One year I made a few elaborate ornaments. My first tree in my first apartment was done on a shoestring budget and decorated with cheap ribbon. I loved that ribbon tree! This year four very special little girls decorated my tree and added their own creativity to the mix.

Looking at my tree this year has made me want to celebrate creativity. This year adds a paper plate cut out Christmas tree and paper plate cut out snowflake, a light bulb with ribbon hanger, and two yard-ornament egrets brought in from the garage to become Christmas tree ornaments instead. The paper plate cut out Christmas tree hangs alongside a hand-tied bow from the ribbon tree. The light bulb ornament and paper plate snowflake are hung with some of the ribbon from that first tree. The egrets have a grouping of other items beneath them that I am not sure of the meaning of but love it. Each ornament is unique and special in its own way.

Christmas time is a time of being thankful for giving and receiving gifts. Creativity is a wonderful gift to be thankful for. A Christmas tree is evidence of that gift.

Beautifully Purposeful

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“Create we must, and respond to this dark hour.” Makoto Fujimura

The artistic process for many can be a compulsion, striving to express an idea, a thought, a feeling bubbling up from deep inside. The expression is often not consciously mulled over before erupting into reality. How much time is spent reflecting on the purpose of the churning creative urge before releasing the explosion? What if this flow of artistic need is consciously directed in such a way as to nourish the human heart?

Even in the midst of the direst of poverty, the soul seeks beauty. Anne Ciccoline of Creator, Created, Create and leader of Creative Communion, describes her trip to Nairobi where she was taken to Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa. Anne was captivated at the sight of a mud hut with an entrance adorned with strips of fabric and a tin can planter with a green vine growing up the side of the hut. Anne says, “…no matter how primitive or impoverished our shelter, we strive to make it beautiful.” Beauty lightens darkness as nothing else can.

The human heart longs for beauty.   Our darkest hours are brightened by the simplest of beautiful sights. When there is nothing else, there is still beauty. Artists have a gift. Are we seeking to use it in a way that demonstrates gratitude for the gift? What better expression of gratitude could there be than for artists to bring the longed for beauty to the hearts of others? Creating art to nourish the soul is a noble purpose, a goal worth pursuing. And that is a beautiful thing.

Mako Fujimura talks about his painting, “Golden Sea”

Feeling the Rain

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“Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.” Bob Marley (from Skinnyartist.com)

At the first sign of raindrops splattering on the windowpanes, most people run for cover. Or they unfurl an umbrella and search for the nearest shelter hoping not to get too wet. Still others stay indoors and refuse to come out until the rain stops. What if, instead of running, seeking shelter or staying indoors, people looked up to the dark overcast, forbidding sky and followed Gene Kelly’s example, and began to sing and dance. Instead of running for cover, throw hands up to the sky and let the rain pound down. What if, when the rains pound down on creativity, creative people jumped up and started to dance and sing.

It’s inevitable that the creative spirit will get drowned by daily life at some time or other. How long the drowning lasts, depends on the circumstances. Creative people, like any other group, hunker down and ride out the storm, hoping it won’t wash away too much creativity at the same time. A choice is made to hunker down. Nobody is forced to run for cover or unfurl an umbrella. They just do it because nobody wants to get wet. When it’s raining on the creativity parade, artists console each other and say sweet little nothings like, “don’t worry, the rain can’t last for ever.” What if the rain does last forever? What then?

How about refusing to hunker down? How about leaving the umbrella behind?   How about getting wet? Raining on creativity may be a signal that the artist has not being doing enough singing in the rain. The artist is so busy running for cover that the thought of stopping to sing and dance has never occurred. The next time the creativity parade gets rained on, turn toward the rain and check out what it feels like. Does it taste? Or smell? Tune in. It could be the rain is just watering the next creative idea. Jump in. Play Gene Kelly. And pity the souls who prefer to hunker down while artists are singing, dancing and a lot more than just getting wet. There’s no telling what creation may come from feeling the rain instead of running for cover.

 

Weekend Inspiration–Nature Inspired Inventions

Fun and amazing inventions inspired by the humble gecko and other small creatures.  Nature is so amazing and always a great source of inspiration and information.  Its fascinating to me to see how inventors come up with their ideas.

Routine Eccentricity

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“Its important to keep the eccentric spirit alive, because when that goes, the work will go.”  Nicolas Cage  (from The Painter’s Keys)

Do all creative people have eccentricities that stimulate the creative juices? Some artists have elaborate routines they must go through before they can create.  To others it may be as simple as always starting a painting with a particular brush, or drawing with a particular pencil.  Some writers have the computer in a particular location or must always have a particular beverage at hand.  The list could go on and on.  Is this simple eccentricity or is it something more?

The website 99u.com has two recent articles (here and here) on the creative process and mundane routines.  According to writer and professional creative coach, Mark McGuiness, these mundane routines are what actually may be the trigger for the creative juices to start flowing.  McGuiness, a trained hypnotist, believes the routines artists go through before beginning work may be setting up what he calls a hypnotic trigger.  The more often the artist performs the routine the more intense the trigger becomes.  The articles give a number of examples from famous creative people, like Truman Capote and Ingmar Bergman.

Many people think of artistic types as just a little bit crazy likely because of a lack of understanding of the process of creativity.  All those sly little remarks about artists and their eccentricities are obviously from people not “in the know.”  Perhaps they should be enlightened.  Better yet, keep it a secret.  It adds to the idea of the artist’s mystique.  Who doesn’t want a bit of the mystique hanging around?  So crank up those eccentricities.  The work just may depend on it.

Pearls of Rebellious Creativity

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“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.” Albert Einstein (from Goodreads.com)

Where, oh where is today’s creativity? Is creativity the new buzzword so mainstream it has lost its true meaning? A number of town criers are raising the alarm of an acute loss of innovation due to an epidemic of destructive or dying creativity. The community of artists, writers, musicians, photographers and other creative types are traditionally the keepers of creativity. Is it possible the keepers are letting innovative creativity sit around and get soft and flabby?

A number of writers have taken up the subject of The Death of Creativity in the last few years. In an article for FastCompany.com titled Death of Creativity=Death of Innovation, Kaihan Krippindorff laments the loss of innovation as the inevitable result of the lack of creativity. Krippindorff highlights an article that appeared in Newsweek in 2010 on the subject. Some alarming statistics are beginning to show up. According to both articles, creativity in the U.S. has already sharply dropped and does not appear to be slowing its decline anytime soon.

On the other hand, books on creativity are on the rise. However, instead of addressing the problem, these books seem to be sugar coating the issue by offering simplified pat answers. Acculturated.com has an article by Mark Tapson, titled The Death of Creativity. Tapson discusses an article for Harper’s by Thomas Frank, saying, these happy creativity -encouraging books are leading to a “monetized and commercialized creativity” that will be equally destructive to the process. Tapson puts forth the theory that creativity is born in rebellion. To mainstream the idea of creativity will make it less innovative. These books, according to Tapson, are “de-radicalizing” creativity leading to an acute flat-lining of the source of energy needed to incubate ground- breaking innovation.

Creativity as a mainstream buzzword lacks the resistance of rebellion. It moves with the flow instead of swimming upstream. For creativity to produce pearls of innovation, it must be formed in the friction of the oyster shell. As long as we are comfortable in our smooth grey creativity, there will be no irritating bits of sand to cause the formation of colorful pearls. How boring is a life without pearls! Time to throw some sand.

Weekend Inspiration–Gratitude

Do we, as artists, reveal to the world what there is around us to be grateful for?  We see, hear, and feel the beauty that may be missed by others, especially those caught up in the rat race of the busyness of life. For myself, I forget to approach each canvas as an opportunity to express gratitude for the beauty I see.  When searching for inspiration, perhaps the best beginning is to start with an expression of gratitude for the good fortune of artistic creativity.

Weekend Inspiration–All we are saying…….

This 20- minute lecture by Dr. Gil Dekel is worth a listen.  The feeling at the end is, “How awesome creativity is!”  What is the artist really saying in each and every painting?  Dr. Gekel tells us.

Let Them Make Art!

“ I gave them paint.  All it takes.  These politicians make things too complicated.”

Elena Thomas (from Artists Talking in A-N)Screen shot 2013-10-12 at 10.46.49 AM

Put a group of people into a room full of art supplies and watch what happens.  People find ways to create things.  They experiment with materials, forms, and limitations.  They solve problems.  They begin to talk to each other in different ways. They even bond.  And, generally, they have fun.

Bob Bates is the founder of Inner City Arts, an organization to provide art -making projects to urban youth.  Bates, in an interview with It Magazine believes the process of creating art leads to better self- confidence.  Bates states, “Making art requires thinking and decisions: what color will I use, how can I make this stand up, how can I make this stronger, quieter, brighter, more bendable.”  The self -confidence comes as they see the evidence of how they solved the problems in making their individual art.

A research study by Julia Kellman of the University of Illinois, Urbana, found that people facing life -threatening illness were able to begin opening up and talking about their illness as they participated in art making projects together.  The group bonded in the process of making art, leading to a greater feeling of safety to expose personal feelings and talk about what they were experiencing.

Lisa Phillips, writes in The Artistic Edge, “Artists are constantly pushed to explore unchartered territory.  The truly great ones are those that produce new and exciting work that has never before been created.”  Artists are always, by their very nature, pushing for improvement, to do something better than the last creation.  Each piece is a learning experience that leads to the next one.  Creativity begets more creativity.

As artists know, art making brings about creativity, problem-solving and bonding.  It could be a very child-like, simplistic answer for much bigger problems.  Picasso is frequently quoted as having said, “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain one when we grow up.”  Wouldn’t it be a hoot if all politicians were required to go into a room full of art supplies with orders to make art?  What a lot of problems would then be solved!  However, as the old saying goes, “If wishes were horses .….”

Reference:

Kellman, J (2005). HIV, art and a journey toward healing, one man’s story. Journal of Aesthetic Education. 39(3), Fall 2005

Stormy Weather

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Louisa May Alcott (from The Painter’s Keys).Screen shot 2013-10-09 at 10.14.24 AM

Artists can be hit hard in times of austerity but is it necessarily all bad?  Can tough times be also, times of heightened creativity?   Artists can look upon tough times as an opportunity to do new and exciting things.  Break new ground.  Do something not done before.  Find new tools to navigate the storm.

Seeking creative ways to sell art is one method of fighting the waves.  The author of Artbusiness.com states, “rather than seeing tough times as obstacles to their career success, see them as opportunities to tap into your creative strengths and reserves.”  How an artist does that is as unique as the artist him/herself. Possible methods include dropping prices, changing selling venue, seeking new non-traditional methods of selling and horror of horrors, changing artistic style.  It depends on what works for you and where your market is.  Experiment and get creative.

The BBC News Magazine asks the question, “Do hard times equal good art?”  The writer gives argument to both sides of the question.  Many well known artists have lived hard lives with tough times.  Others lived in the lap of luxury.  Some artists, myself included, create better under pressure.  Again, the answer, most likely, lies within the individual artist.  With examples of both types throughout history, does it really matter?  Good times or bad, the point is to carry on.

Some artists deal with the storms of tough times by turning them into their work.  Looking at the incredible energy of Joseph M. W. Turner’s ships in stormy waters, it appears the painter knows a thing or two about storms.  Though Turner achieved success with his painting, his personal life was not without turbulence mainly during his childhood, (read more here).  Perhaps his storm painting was, at least partially a metaphor for his own personal storms.

To get through stormy weather, it seems the best action is to seek navigational tools by digging ever deeper into creativity.  And after the storm, smooth sailing ahead!