Many people are suffering form creative anorexia. Just like our bodies need nourishment to survive, our souls need nourishment to flourish. Living a healthy life requires that you fill your creative reservoir. Many people view this type of activity as unproductive or wasting time. But to be healthy, it’s important to feed your inner artist. This will also help you become more creative in other activities as well.
I remember when I was in college, I would get an assignment for a design class, and the first thing I would do was to take a walk about and look around. I went to stores to look at packaging, or to the bookstore to peruse magazines and books. I’d look at color schemes and design layouts, and even things that didn’t necessarily relate directly to the assignment. I’d take notes, and draw things out. I had no particular agenda, just putting visual images into my mind for marinating. This would help stimulate ideas. Some would come in handy for later assignments.
After college, I got a job working as a designer. Wanting to be industrious, I felt it necessary to work at the computer all the time. I felt that wandering around looking at things was not exactly productive. At first, my creativity seemed to flow just fine. I had new ideas and concepts that the clients loved. After a while, I ran out of ideas. Wanting to still be productive, I developed a bag of tricks that I knew clients would like. I figured they didn’t really know I could do better. But I knew. I struggled to figure out why the fresh ideas had stopped.
Seeing my frustration, my boss at that time took it upon himself to educate me in the practice of creating balance in my life. He would give me little excursions to go on and tell me not to do any work on the weekends. He would ask me what I had done for fun. During the workday, he would tell me to get out and take a walk. I went out and walked around downtown and started looking at different shops and environments.
My boss understood the creative process and encouraged me to continue to put images and experiences into my soul so that I could be more creative.
I started taking art classes which got me back into making art for non work related purposes. It was while doing these extracurricular creative activities that I began putting together the business idea of Art Village. You never know what creative endeavors lie within until you stop and let your creative self speak to you. I believe that no matter what occupation you’re in, in order to do it well, you need to take times of creative rejuvenation. Do something out of your daily routine.
I encourage anyone who is feeling blocked for ideas or stuck for answers for a particular problem, or just feeling overwhelmed and stressed, to get out and go on an artists date. For an experiment, this week, decide to block off an amount of time to feed your inner artist. It could be for one hour or one day. Write it on your calendar. This is your time to take your inner artist out. If you are too busy to carve out a tiny piece of your time, then that is all the more reason to do it. If you can do it this week, make an appointment for next week and the next. Arts Saves Lives!
This week, I was talking with some friends of mine about art, life, finding a voice and making stuff. As we talked, the question came up. Is there a difference between art and craft? And does differentiating between the two even matter? There seem to be many opinions on this subject. I interact with many people who participate in a wide variety of activities at my studio. I find elements of both art and craft are present. I also think both are necessary to foster inventive thought and create a safe environment to take creative risks.
Some people place different media into categories of art or craft. I notice, when I go to the bookstore that animal cartoon drawing is in the art section and pottery is in the craft section. For the longest time I thought they didn’t carry any books on clay. Then I found the craft section with all kinds of inspiring books.
Some say that craft is functional and art isn’t. Can something functional also be considered art? A person could use oil paint to create an inspired and thought provoking image on a canvas. They could also use oil paint to paint that same image on a chair. Is the chair with the scene painted on it craft because it’s functional or art because the image painted on it is inspired? It’s difficult to label the work by just observing it.
I think, an element of thought and inspiration is usually present in order to call a work art. However, it can sometimes be difficult to see that from the outside. We can see examples of this in history. The impressionists ran into this dilemma when they submitted their paintings to the Paris Salon in the 1860’s. Their paintings looked like unfinished sketches that were common at the time. But the artists were expressing a new philosophy of painting light and capturing fleeting impressions of a specific moment. Even though they looked like unfinished practice runs to the art critics, their philosophy and new ideas expressed in the works created a revolution in the art world at that time.
Craft is important because it gets a person making something. The technical part of learning a craft is necessary to move a person toward their art. When I was in high school, PBS aired the Bob Ross Painting show every Saturday. I admit some of the first paintings I ever did in oil were in front of the TV. I learned to make happy clouds and mountain peaks adorned with cheerful trees and tranquil lakes. Using Bob Ross’s proven method, I could create a beautiful landscape in less than half an hour. As I look back on those paintings, I don’t consider them works of art. I was just copying and learning techniques. I enjoyed the process and painting those paintings were the springboard to growing and advancing as a painter. Since then, my paintings have become my own expression. If you ask me about my paintings, I have reasons for my approach and subject matter. People may like them or they may not, but I believe them to be art.
I have seen the same transformation at my studio with our customers. People begin by painting a mug or plate. Then, they sign up for a pottery class or painting class. As their skill develops, they begin making artistic choices and expressing their individual ideas and art is made. It’s very cool to see.
So how can we judge what is art and what is craft unless we understand the intent of the artist? I believe that everyone is an artist because everyone has something to say. I don’t think it is necessary to bog ourselves down trying to define what is art and what is craft. Make what you like. Your art will find you. Express your voice in whatever medium that speaks to you. It’s important. Art Saves Lives.
I recently saw a video clip that was made decades ago about what life will be like in the future. It said that by the 1980’s technology will advance so far that people will only have to work two hours a week and the rest of the time will be leisure.
I don’t know about you, but that is not my current reality. It would make sense, that as we swim in the ocean of shiny technology and labor saving devices, people should feel relaxed and energized all the time. However, people seem to be more worn out than ever before. Why do so many of us feel exhausted at the end of the day? One word can sum it up – stress. When we are stressed, our brain sends signals to our bodies to release adrenaline that, when released continually, causes muscle aches, irregular organ function and gastrointestinal problems. It is physically draining. Our bodies are doing hard manual labor and we don’t even realize it. Many of us live in a sustained stressed state. Our bodies were not made to withstand that kind of continual activity. Eventually, our bodies will rebel by forcing us to stop.
So what can we do to bring more relaxation in to life? One way is to engage in some kind of creative endeavor. Make art. Find a change of scenery. New visual experiences are relaxing and can jump start creativity. Take a class, read a magazine you wouldn’t normally read. Go out to lunch with someone new. Go to a gallery or museum. Grab a sketchbook and draw, or paint. Doing things like these helps us become more relaxed and think more clearly. It gives us room to find creative solutions to life’s challenges. When we are stressed, we can’t think clearly. Our minds get foggy. Making art and being creative clears the fog. When we are in the act of making art, our minds give us space.
Also, making art makes us feel good, whether it’s painting, making pottery, sewing, cooking, or gardening, when we engage in creative activities, our minds shift.
When we engage in a creative work, our brain triggers a more relaxed frequency. This energizes us. It is much healthier to take matters in to our own hands and deliberately take time to rejuvenate than to wait for our bodies to cause a crisis.
There was a time when relaxation came to us more naturally. The workday would end and people would come home and relax. With the increase in technology, our days have been extended. It never has to get dark. We can be in constant communication with clients, co-workers, friends and family. With cell phones, and email, we are inundated with information. People are working all the time. Or running around in constant frenzy. There never seems to be enough time and life never stops. We need to make it stop, for our own good.
People tell me all the time, “but I’m not very creative.” That’s the whole point. It’s in the doing that creativity shows up. Feed your soul first and your soul will give you something back. Art Saves Lives!