Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kayaking for Inspiration

It was about 75 here in the desert this week, so a few of us, all artists, decided to go for an adventure down the Colorado River a couple of miles south of here. The water was like glass and we did 10 miles. It was the first time out for me in a year. Needless to say, I was hurtin' the next day, but energized! It's so quiet out there with no cars, no phones, no noise except the pairs of mallard ducks who quack by looking for some grub. We did see a beautiful Gray Heron that flew over and a very large hawk. It was nice to get out and into the natural and check out the rocks, shadows, and the sprigs of green now coming up. Guess Spring's here! That's the only way we can tell in the desert! Happy Trails to you!

"Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and there defines the spirit of which Nature herself is animated."
Auguste Rodin

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nobody's Perfect...

“They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they'd make up their minds.” (Winston Churchill)

s I watch the Olympics, my heart plummets when a skater, skier or snowboarder falls or fails at their attempts after a lifetime of diligent practice and study. All are in search of the 'perfect' time, balance, or trick. Many of us as artists search for the 'perfect' as well in each piece we create.
In reading the many art books, magazines, blogs and art sites, I find many who feel that skills in drawing correctly and precisely are the basis for great art, while others will prefer a quick sketch or no sketch at all. Some will say drawing skills are an unnecessary burden, while others, painstakingly, try to recreate with photographic accuracy. It made me think about my own philosophy and teaching art to others.

Whatever moves you to create a piece is the important thing, so go for it, but many who are new to drawing will sometimes try to copy exactly from a photograph or magazine pic for their drawings. They try their best to capture every detail with pencils and erasers in hand. This can be a good thing... to a point. For copying enjoyable things teaches us to really look at the elements of perspective, light and dark values, balance, and the design as a whole. It is a learning process in gaining skills to move forward. But some artists become dejected when their drawing falls short of their sense of perfection, or never stop copying. There are others feel who find drawing the shapes of objects more to their liking, and still others, who quick sketch just to get an idea or hint of what they have in mind in their sketchbook. Some are not concerned with any of it and just start from doodles to create a pleasing, overall design.

My feeling is that in order to draw, we must become Observers and Analyze what is around us daily. We rush through our days with little contemplation of the unique little things that surround us. If we'd just slow down and set aside an hour to observe and contemplate carefully, we can learn to set images in our "Mind's Eye" or to paper as a resource. If we Practice by drawing what we see, we can’t help but improve our skills and also veer off into new unexplored areas and really make our art our own.

A rare few of us will be "perfect" at something, but with discipline and daily practice, we can always improve on any skill. It's like anything else we've learned in life. Learning to walk, ride a bike, play an instrument, ice skating or snowboarding. None came easily without observation, discipline, drive and practice. Will our artwork be a masterpiece or a Gold Medal winner every time we put forth the the sweat and effort? Unfortunately not. You do it because you love doing it. But it's in the observing and habitual practice that our eyes open to what we've been missing. New creative ideas will come from this quiet contemplation of what surrounds us, and with these, new works.

There is no need to strive for the 'perfect' because each of us are individuals with our own unique sense of 'Seeing' the world. This, in turn, creates our unique style. It's what makes you and your art Individual amidst the many. "Seeing" is the key first step!
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." (Edgar Degas)

Quotes to ponder~
"We first make our habits, and then our habits make us." (John Dryden)
"When you work you learn something about what you are doing and you develop habits and procedures out of what you're doing." (Jasper Johns)
What is a 'daily' art habit of yours you can share?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Inaction vs. Getting Busy with Art

Today, I’m probably writing this for you, as well as me, because we all deal with inaction many times in our daily lives. We put things off procrastinating to the end. Hey, some of us really work well under this pressure, but some of us fall into a pattern and continue in a rut. I know I do at times. We’ll think our work as not good enough, not perfect enough, who would want to buy this? We reinforce this belief through our own ‘Self-Talk’ when we know darned well, that what we see as little errors in our work, no one else will ever notice. So either we get going and work through it, or we never get started.

If we work through the negative Self-Talk, everyday, telling our brain Positive things, then positive things will be achieved. The first thing we must do is get started and make it a daily habit. Find our couple of hours a day that is ours and no one else's. No phone calls, no visitors, no interruptions. It’s our time and share it with no one. Then pull your materials out and get going. Habits become part of our routine, so make it your daily routine. As we work, surely, Negative Self-Talk becomes a little demon to artists. It sits there on our shoulder, peering over at what we’re doing saying things like, “Oh, this is terrible; you just can’t do this, It just doesn’t look right; This won’t work, you’ll never be any good.” Now just look at all the negative words we push on ourselves without thinking about our own precious creative psyches... Terrible...Can’t... Doesn’t... Won’t... Never. IF YOU BELIEVE, YOU WILL ACHIEVE! Make this our motto to chase the demon away.

Take a step back and instead say, “ This is different; I CAN work around this and try that; this looks like it could work for that other project, how can I re-work this and create something a bit more out of the ordinary?” It’s all in the Positives and how we perceive our worlds! And Positive Self-Talk can also become a good habit!

Motivation is the push, and Positive Self-Talk is our action. We must Act on our indecisions, procrastination and self-doubts. This moves us through those little dark days. I try to create a new mind-set of asking myself, “Why am I putting this off? Why am I unhappy with this piece I’m working on?” When we can analyze the “Why”, and motivate ourselves to work through it, then talk to ourselves and our work Positively, then Positive things will happen.

So, if the pitfalls of indecision strike you daily, for weeks or months, don’t despair. Get busy by: 1. Setting a goal for the day by writing it down and sticking to it; 2. Make an appointment with yourself and your creative destiny daily; 3. Self-Talk the Positives and replace every word of negativity that the Demons on our shoulders tries to throw at you. We will find enjoyment, new ideas, and especially Courage. We’ll create the Positives during our appointments with our creative selves, and it will soon pass over to other areas in our lives where procrastination and indecision reign. Art and Positive Self-Esteem and Confidence in ourselves is hard work and it must be practiced daily. Believe and Achieve!

What techniques do you use to work through the doubts?

Monday, February 1, 2010

I'll Follow the Sun

The positives in life will always outweigh the negatives in my Mind's Eye. I was born in the Berkshires of Connecticut and lived on a small, but working farm. We had little. No car, no television, no new toys to speak of, my mother made us all our clothes, and my father was an ace carpenter. We did have a large radio though, where we could sit and listen to stories. Kids today might find this a terribly negative life, or think I must be at least 100 years old! It was 1955. But it was the most positive, and I am so thankful for it! Like the morning rays of sun popping over the landscape, every day was a new day, filled with an adventure! You cannot miss what you never had! You learn to create, make your own playthings. You learn to appreciate the beauty in the smallest things. We need nothing but the positives in our minds to create a host of activities. My father taught me to write and draw before I was in Kindergarten. My mother taught me to read. It was a home with little, but a love of learning "by doing" and so much imagining going on, that I can't remember 'not learning' something new every day or creating my own outlets by using a pencil or torn papers to create who knows what.
Dawn coming up over the trees and hills, and Sunsets slipping away behind the mountains have intrigued me since my earliest childhood memories. When my small fingers could pick up my first Crayolas of yellow, red and orange, it was each Dawn, as I went to the barn to help collect eggs from the chickens with my sisters, that set my day! It's pastel pinks, light mauves, blues and creams across the sky always captured the "Seeing" part of my brain. I'd stand there memorizing the colors that I would set mentally to recapture on paper. I'd start meticulously with my father's carpenter pencil trying to create the cloud cover across the sun and sky. I would lightly blend and then vigorously crayon the bright sun, and never in the lines! Sunshine has no limits, and neither did I! The big whitewashed barn was my foreground to the East.
When the day was to come to it's end in summers, and Sunset blossomed in the West, the rest of the family would be busy with daily chores. I'd sit in the cool, green grass amidst the wild buttercups...getting properly comfortable and aligned... with paper on a piece of thin board and crayons. I was four years old, and knew then that I loved art! I'd set my eye to copy what I saw in color, the trees or the hills.
Still, to this day, too many years older, I still create a homage in my own way for the Sun, whether the Dawn or Dusk. It's absence can set our moods, and it's energy gives us life and food. It warms our bodies and our souls, and for some of us, it brings out our artistry. No longer with Crayolas, but with torn papers in my collage works, I try to recapture those childhood, Mind's Eye, memories. I'll always follow the Sun!
What could you use, if suddenly, you had no materials to create with and no stores nearby?