Friday, June 11, 2010
Inspiration Friday: Scratching my creative itch!
The first steps of a creative act are like groping in the dark: random and chaotic, feverish and fearful, a lot of busy-ness with no apparent or definable end in sight.... You need a tangible idea to get you going. The idea, however minuscule, is what turns the verb into a noun - paint into a painting, sculpt into sculpture, write into writing, dance into dancing. (Twyla Tharp - The Creative Habit)
The habit that Tharp uses to approach her blank page she calls scratching. Like scratching a lottery ticket to uncover your prize, or as Tharp explains it "It's like clawing at the side of a mountain to get a toehold, a grip, some sort of traction to keep moving upward and onward."
I love this notion of scratching. What gets me started on a piece or project? How is a seed discovered and then planted? How do I coax creativity out of its dark cave?
As much as I tend to be an orderly, organized person, I am discovering my need for some sort of controlled chaos in order to free up my creative juices. My own personal scratching technique is to be sure I have a couple of projects ongoing to turn to when inspiration strikes. If nothing else, in those seeming lulls of creativity, I have to remind myself to do some prep work. Using this means readying my materials like gesso-ing some journal pages or postcards, shifting through my photo files and uploading pictures to Flickr, or cleaning out my materials bins and discovering new scraps of background papers, magazine clippings and other ephemera that I have collected and which may spark an idea.
When working, I like to move around from project to project striking when inspired. Often when I am working on one piece, I have an idea for another piece and while something is drying or when a piece is marinating, I then move over to a second or even third piece. I am finding my postcard paintings are fantastic vehicles for scratching an idea or image or color scheme that may move into a larger format later on.
Other ways I scratch or stretch out my creative muscles include drawing up inspiration from nature:
Children's books are great sources for inspiration. An image, character or technique pops out at me while reading to Cowgirl and I secretly stash that book away in my art space to peruse and explore later on. (Oh yes, I steal freely from Cowgirl's collection!) The illustrators of children's books are some of my favorite artists and their imagery and styles appealing to the child in me.
Paying attention to Cowgirl's stories is another way I mine for artistic gold. Her imagination and spin on the seemingly ordinary always has me rushing for my journal to jot down ideas. A series of images based upon the antics of our otherwise lazy dog Moose has been particularly fertile ground. Cowgirl has a wonder spin on language: reading the weather section in the paper, she will inform us "Today is sunny, tonight is moony ..." She loves me "all the numbers" (which means a lot) and is wise to the times when I am trying "egg her up" (her interpretation of "buttering someone up.") Lots of good visual puns there!
Any kind of movement - taking a walk, free form dancing, yoga - are all ways to shake off the cobwebs, get the blood flow moving to the brain and stimulate some fresh thinking. Tharp writes about this and it is amazing how I can begin my yoga practice with my mind all cluttered, confused and tied up in knots. Even 15 minutes of movement and focusing upon my breath has the incredible effect of resetting my mind so thoughts flow freely and easily. (Yup, got my bit in for 21-5-800!)
Of course a huge place to scratch is here online. You all are some of my favorite sources for ideas, challenges, and projects. I sometimes wonder if my best pieces of writing are over in someone else's comment section! But as I read and write in others spaces, I often find myself typing my way into a new topic to be explored here and in my written journal.
My absolute favorite way shimmy into creative flow is to watch How To videos. For a mega-normous dose of creative juiciness, any video from the always inspiring Connie of Dirty FootPrints Studio has me humming and buzzing with art making potential.
Oh yeah, can you feel that?! Aren't you ready to hop to ASAP? (And if you feel inspired but intimidated, then I encourage you to check out Connie's newest e-course offering entitled BIG. I'll be there along with some super wonderful art lovelies painting our hearts out this July. And just to be clear, Connie does not know I am posting her video or writing this. I have grown so much as an artist - there, I said it, I am an artist! - and a huge dollop of gratitude is owed to the generosity of Connie as a teacher and as a fellow traveler on this crazy path of art and yoga. Okay, love letter over ♥)
Anyone who meditates will tell you, once you start scratching, the itches become endless. Not what you want when sitting on the zafu trying to focus on the breath, but hallelujah YES! when surrounded by paints, pencils, paper and pen.
What ways do you scratch for creative ideas? Thinking about your scratching habits, it is useful to have your list handy so the next time the paper seems especially white, you have your habits ready to move over the hurdle of that blank page.
Meanwhile, I ask you: Isn't ecstasy supposed to come before the laundry? I'm just wondering where mine went ...