Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Fun, Fun, Fun!

It sounds obvious, but if a project is fun, I'm much more likely to work hard and dedicate myself to finishing it. The great thing about creative projects is that they tend to be fun from start to finish purely for the fact that they are creative - I'm currently working on my March piece for the Creative Every Day Challenge (details here) and after having my head stuck in books and journal articles for the last few weeks whilst finishing some assignments, I'm really enjoying cutting, pasting, painting and generally behaving like a five-year-old in playschool!

However, can such fun be implemented in a place of work?
Fortunately, my experiences suggest that yes, it can (surprising really as I used to work in accountancy and am currently working in a safety office - neither places instantly shout "fun" do they?!) Only today, whilst attempting to create handouts about a 'manual handling' course, I was giggling away with my colleagues (I cannot remember why now, but it was funny at the time) and yet at the same time, the task was completed quickly.

Barbara Corcoran, founder and CEO of The Corcoran Group states that creating a fun environment for employees is "the most underutilized tool in the tool belt" and her leadership style has encouraged employees to stay with the company for 10, 20 and even 30 years.

I know that the chances of me lasting in an environment that is dull and routine are pretty slim, to none. So when the job-hunt begins again, I know I'll be on the lookout for a place in which I will feel comfortable and relaxed so that I can do the best work of my ability.

On a separate note, a friend showed me this video, which really made me giggle. It's an amalgamation of various newsclips from the BBC in January 2012, editted by Cassette Boy - very creative! (Apologies for the occasional rude comments!)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Suffering for your Art : The Daemon Genius Outside Us

Where does our creativity come from?
Is there something inside us, or is it sent to us from an external force?

I came across a video on the TED website, where Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) talks of creativity, creative individuals and the creative process. The full video can be seen on YouTube here or on the TED website here.

In this talk, she makes a valid point; does success, and the pursuit of success, (however an individual defines it) act as a precursor to anxiety and stress?

How many times have you thrown away pieces of work, or hit writer's block? Is the anticipation of what others may think a huge influence on your own views of your work?

And is she right that by thinking of creativity as an external power, are we able to push some of that negativity away?

Elizabeth refers to what the Ancient Greeks called the 'daemon' and the Ancient Romans referred to as 'genius' - both external forces that visited a person for a specific period of time in order to inspire something. Creativity was not seen as an inherent part of personality, but as a gift from a superior being/God.

I particularly liked the section of the talk when Elizabeth talked about the poet Ruth Stone:

I have mulled over this for a little while, and come to the conclusion that I love the idea of creativity being an external part of us; something that I can share the burden and priviliges with. In some ways, I see it as quite therapeutic to externalise something I thought was internal (and makes me feel better about talking to the walls!) This is not to say that it should not be valued, or that creative individuals are lacking in ability; I believe that certain individuals (in this case, creatives) are more open and susceptible to hearing/seeing/feeling the inspiration and therefore use it to be creative. It is just refreshing to think about things differently, and as creatives we should be open to doing so.
"Maybe [artistry] doesn’t have to be quite so full of anguish if you never happened to believe, in the first place, that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you. But maybe if you just believed that they were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you’re finished … it starts to change everything." Elizabeth Gilbert, February 2009. http://www.ted.com/speakers/elizabeth_gilbert.html

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Perception, Perseption, Persepshun

I am now going to ask the dreaded question "What Is Art?"
This question cropped into my mind whilst finishing a piece inspired by the February challenge. As I wondered whether the figure was watching a new day dawn or an old day sleep, I began thinking about how perception influences art and creativity.

I confess that I am not, in any way, a fan of "contemporary art". To make a sweeping generalisation, on the whole I find it uninspiring and borderline lazy (the piece that jumps to mind is a canvas painted blue that hit the news several years ago. Just plain blue. One colour over a large blank canvas... I could have done that, and I am not an artist). Whilst I appreciate there will be a meaning/message in the artwork, I simply have lost any enthusiasm to find out what it is. I like to be drawn in to a piece, to wonder at its complexity or marvel at its simplicity.

But there are others who pay millions of pounds for something that I wouldn't buy as an image on a bookmark.

Surely this varied perception though is what makes debate around art so interesting?

For example, is graffiti art? Years ago I would have said 'no', but whilst living in Brighton I saw some fantastic pieces of graffiti, my favourite of which is:

There was also the infamous Banksy piece of the two policemen kissing:

I have come to the conclusion that these pieces, possibly because they can be captured as a consumable image, have now crossed the line into what I perceive to be 'art'. (More on consumerism another day!)

So what about this?:

I took this photo in "graffiti street" in Melbourne, Australia (I forget the real name!) In the middle of the city centre there is a tiny lane, full of graffiti. It is ever-changing as new artists add their own tags and images and take over the space once dominated by another piece. Looking at this photo, my gut reaction is "what a mess!" but at the same time something draws me in. I took several photos of the bins, as the 'TG' tag was written out as The Ghetto/Train Game/The Gang and various other slogans - every bin had something different etched on it.

If we assume that graffiti is art, would I be able to call myself creative if I had scrawled something on one of the bins? Would that have made me an artist (or criminal!)? After all, there is a saying "imitation is the highest form of flattery" - would I have been honouring the original artists by copying their work? On that note, what is creative about copying another idea? Or is it about the interpretation of the idea? Would I have been more creative if I had not used a standardised graffiti font? How do we measure the value of anything as a piece of art?

I do not identify myself as an 'artist' (in the fine art sense). To me, art is something that I cannot recreate; not a bucket of paint thrown at a wall (oh, how many times I have wanted to do that!), nor an unmade bed (just a daily occurence), nor a pile of bricks (that would be my genuine attempt at bricklaying). But then, if everybody thought/felt the same about art and its creation, the world would be a rather dull place.

And by no longer dragging my heels through contemporary art galleries I am freeing up that space for those that really want to be there.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Mixing It Up! (Challenge: March 2012 - 'Mixed Media')

I finally completed my piece inspired by the February theme 'Night'. After some appalling scribbling, I settled on using watercolours to create a sky scene with the sun just visible over a horizon. Then I added the figure of someone looking towards the horizon. The piece is titled 'Perception: Sunrise, Sunset' as I am unsure which part of the day it resembles - or whether it resembles the beginning of something or the end of it... I'll let you come to your own conclusions.

The end result is not quite how I saw it in my mind, but I think I need a bit more practice with a paintbrush before my hand-mind co-ordination improves!

The new theme in the www.creativeeveryday.com challenge is 'mixed media'.

My gut instinct is to create a 3D map of my travels in 2010-2011... Watch this space!