Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Advice from Artists on How to Overcome Creative Block, Handle Criticism, and Nurture Your Sense of Self-Worth by Maria Popova

Found this today:
“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work,” Chuck Close scoffed“A self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood,” Tchaikovsky admonished“Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too,” Isabel Allende urged. But true as this general sentiment may be, it isn’t always an easy or a livable truth — most creative people do get stuck every once in a while, or at the very least hit the OK plateau. What then?
Not too long ago, Alex Cornell rallied some of our time’s most celebrated artists, writers, and designers, and asked them to share their strategies for overcoming creative block. Now comes Creative Block: Advice and Projects from 50 Successful Artists (public library | IndieBound) — a lavishly illustrated compendium at once very similar in spirit and sufficiently different in execution, in which Danielle Krysa, better-known as The Jealous Curator, asks artists from around the world working in various media to crack open the vault of their unconscious and explore the darkest elements of the creative process, from overcoming idea-stagnation to dealing with both self-criticism and external naysayers. In addition to sharing their broader thoughts on the demons and rewards of creativity, each artist also offers one specific block-busting exercise — a “Creative Unblock Project” — to try the next time you feel stuck.
But what makes the project particularly noteworthy is that while it features reflections from visual artists, most of their insights apply just as usefully to other creative endeavors, from writing and to entrepreneurship to, even, science.
One of the recurring themes in dealing with creative block, which a number of the artists articulate, has to do with mastering the right balance between freedom and constraint. Mixed-media artist Trey Speegle puts it perfectly:
You have to set up the narrow parameters that you work in, and then within those, give yourself just enough room to be free and play.
Many artists also emphasize the importance of stepping away from the work when feeling stuck — a strategy that makes sense, given how crucial theunconscious processing stage of the creative process is. Multidisciplinary artistBen Skinner captures this:
I know that forcing something is not going to create anything beyond mediocre, so I step aside and work on a different project until it hits me.

And then there’s the Buddhist-like approach of just letting the block happen rather than resisting it feverishly or grasping after an immediate resolution. Illustrator Ashley Goldberg reflects:
If it is a bigger creative block, I try to ride it out and just let it happen. I will still draw, but most pieces will end up in the trash, and that’s OK. I think some of the biggest bursts of creativity and artistic growth I’ve had are usually preceded by a big creative block.

When asked to contrast the state of creative block with its opposite, most artists describe some version of what psychologists call “flow”. Collage and mixed media artist Anthony Zinonos describes that optimal state: 
And yet this state of “flow” isn’t the same thing as the mythic divine inspiration. Illustrator Sydney Pink captures this perfectly:
The idea of divine inspiration and an aha moment is largely a fantasy. Anything of value comes from hard work and unwavering dedication. If you want to be a good artist you need to look at other artists, make a lot of crappy art, and just keep working.
But the most powerful part deals with the darkest underbelly of the creative life — criticism. Some artists, like painter Amanda HappĂ©, turn a deaf ear to naysayers and focus on satisfying their own soul instead:
It’s one of the most beautiful things about doing this — you don’t have to care. No one gets to have their say and have it stick. No one can wrestle the pencil out of your hand. You get to keep going in absolute defiance.
Ashley Percival puts it even more simply:
You can’t please everyone — people will have art that they like and dislike — the main thing is that you as an artist are happy with your work.
Ceramics artist Mel Robson offers one of the wisest meditations on the subject:
I think it’s important to remember that making art is a process. It is never finished. The occupation itself is one of process, exploration, and experimentation. It is one of questioning and examining. Each thing you make is part of a continuum, and you are always developing. You don’t always get it right, but I find that approaching everything as a work in progress allows you to take the good with the bad. You’re never going to please everyone. Take what you can from criticism, and let go of the rest. When it comes to constructive criticism, I welcome that and think it is important to have people you can discuss your work with who will give you honest and constructive feedback. It’s not always what you want to hear, but that is often exactly what is needed. It can be very confronting, but very useful.
This brings us to the most poignant question: How to unbridle one’s work, whether lauded or criticized, from one’s sense of self-worth. Collage and mixed-media artist Hollie Chastain reflects:
I think as an artist it’s very easy to [equate self-worth with artistic success] because of the nature of the work. If you think of art as a job, then your product is so much more than hours invested. The product is a piece of yourself, so of course if the reception is not the greatest, then it can feel like a direct hit to who you are as a person. I think this happened a lot more when I was younger and still finding my way around. I would doubt my direction when a viewer wasn’t thrilled. The trick for me is not to put more distance between my work and myself, but to close that gap completely. I can see myself in the art that I create, and that builds a wall of confidence.
When you put so much of yourself and your time into something, it’s hard to separate it from who you are.
Embroidery and fiber artist Emily Barletta reminds us that soul-satisfaction requires defining our own success:
I make art because the process of making art makes me happy. Being successful with it and doing it for personal fulfillment are separate ideas.
Creative Block. Complement with Brian Eno’s prompts for overcoming creative block, then revisit Bukowski’s bold poetic debunking of the ideal conditions and myths of creativity

Monday, May 25, 2015

Little Children Loving Love, Agnes Martin

Was thinking: what if these were the stripes of the flag?
And the title, Little Children Loving Love, their intended meaning?

(Whether or not you label yourself an artist,) You Are

This Memorial Day I stumbled upon:

I love you very much, take care of yourself, your family, friends, and anyone that crosses your path...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why do I not feel like an artist anymore?

I haven't felt like an artist for months.
I've heard of writer's block; could it be that I have artist's block?
I don't know - is this what mild depression feels like?

I consulted the I-ching last night, with the question: What is the nature of right now? Why does everything seem so crazy? How is this leading to workshop?

The trigram was:
#20  50. Ting, p. 193 The Cauldron

The second trigram was #2   44. Kou,  p. 170 The Meeting

It was very accurate.

Here are some things I've been working on this week. I feel a lot of pressure to work on things before leaving for workshop. I realize this is self-imposed pressure. I have had mild panic attacks a few times a week for the last few months, and have to seriously talk myself off the proverbial ledge. I don't know what that represents...

And after reading the terrible headlines of Arctic drilling, refugees out at sea that no one wants, and worldwide rampant rape, I'm having trouble finding value in my work or its relevance in relation to all of this. In addition to being very turned off by the art market world - seems like an eternity away from the kind of work I believe in and propose to make...I feel like I'm in the Dark Ages. Maybe I'm in the wrong time, or the wrong location. I don't know why I feel so isolated in my beliefs and interests?

I was working with shifting my perspective slightly, and placing the two slightly different renderings next to each other.
Starting with my son, who never stays still, seemed like a fair place to begin. 
However, how is this idea not just like Roni Horn?

And then there is the following through with the combination of sculpture and painting like I started two years ago. I still don't really know how to continue with that work. I've lost so much connection to myself and my process. I feel lazy. I don't feel like an artist, and my work doesn't really bring me any joy. When I say I'm an artist I feel like I'm lying. The small amount of connections I make, if any, when I'm in studio disappear very quickly when I resume the rest of my life. I know this blog is called art, life no separation, but right now my life feels very separate - very fragmented, with little or no sense of artistic continuity. I feel like a lot of things are separated in my life. I feel separated from my life.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Syllabus (Thanks to Laura Mack's example)

Introduction to Art History/Art Appreciation

Tereza Swanda, Art Instructor

~Jiddu Krishnamurti, Think on These Things

~Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Course objectives
The class will provide an overview of art history from various perspectives. Art Appreciation introduces the importance of art in today’s world and the purposes art has served from prehistoric through modern eras in a variety of cultures both Western and non-Western. We will place art in context of the family, politics, religion, sexuality, social protest and entertainment. We will cover fundamental line, space, perspective, light and color, and practice drawing, painting, sculpture, photography as well as video for some. Progress will be made through exercises, slide lectures, demonstrations, discussions and homework assignments.

Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:
1.       To slow down, focus on what is in the moment.
2.       To recognize something, in oneself, from the process of another.
3.       Learn how to read, VISUALLY, when at times we are unable to express it in words.
4.       Learn to analyze and critique not just the art, but social constructs; political, social, economic, THE SELF.
5.       Learn to reconstruct, in a ‘natural’ way.

We will learn basic drawing skills.
We will develop visual literacy, recognizing brushstroke, line, gesture, color and the emotions that are applied to each.
We will see from a broader perspective- Use principles of linear perspective and atmospheric (aerial) perspective and foreshortening in the establishment of an illusionistic 2-D space. Distinguish light from dark in figure/ground relationships.
We will view all media and distinguish formal as well as psychological, ephemeral, political, spiritual elements of each artwork.
The course will enable students to gain an insight into the significance of creativity in its many physical manifestations
We will conceptualize and render light, shadow and volume through appropriate technique and by judgment of value and contrast.
We will distinguish between objective and subjective art.
We will use standard art vocabulary to critically analyze artwork at a fundamental level. 
The goals covered in 'Art Appreciation' are communication, critical thinking & problem solving, society & human behavior, science & technology, aesthetic perspective, historical perspective and information literacy.

Studio Rules
Respect the space and the space of learning. Think in these terms all the rest make perfect sense.
·         The classroom which at times will turn into a studio must be kept clean. This is a shared space. Leave it cleaner and tidier than found.

Suggested Reading
Henry M. Sayre. A World of Art. Pearson Education, Inc. New Jersey, 2013, 2012, 2007.
Howard Zinn. People’s History of the United States. HarperCollins Publishers, NY, 1980, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2003.

1.     Participation is mandatory. All students are expected to contribute to classroom discussions and critiques. We learn a lot from each other, and ideas are generated from other ideas. Important components of participation include being on time and adding to the class discussion. A slide show and demonstration occurs at the start of many classes. (Also, check google drive daily as assignments will only be posted online.)
2.     Come to class prepared to work with all necessary supplies. Reminders are on the schedule.
3.     If a class is missed, find out what was missed, and what assignments were due.
4.     Homework is a component of this class. Expect 3-4 hours outside of class per week. Assignments must be complete, presentable, and on time. Extensions will be considered for unusual circumstances, but must be discussed in advance. If an absence happens on a due date, bring the assignment to the next class.

Academic Adjustment
If you feel you may need an academic adjustment for any type of disability, please see me before class.

Receive points for every in-class assignment and homework projects.  Evaluation will be based on the following criteria:
1.       Demonstrated grasp of key concepts, presentation, and creative solutions.
2.       Prompt completion of assignments.
3.       Class participation (see Requirements #1). Extra credit/make-up work is available.
4.       A reasonable sense of effort, wonder, and enthusiasm.
Final grading is based on accumulated points during the term. 90-100 =A, 80-90=B, etc.. Number 4 (above) will determine where you fall when you are hovering between two grades.

The following is an example of a prior grade sheet for this class:
Assessment criteria

Week 1
1. Identify slide (7)
Research the times and content of the artwork (2) Write about it’s relevance to you (3), How much can you read visually?(2),

2. Hand gesture, homework (7)
Direction lines (2), Contour(2), Shading and contrast (3)

3. Reading Krishnamurti (7)
On Love, (How we see) (2), Discussion (5)

4. Compare and Contrast Artwork(7)

Analyze 2 pieces of work (2), Identify each (1), What era/eras are they from? (1) How do they relate? (1) What is your interest? From what perspective are you writing? (2)

5. Zentangle/doodle (7)
Absorption(4), composition (1), variety and quality of line (2)

6.  Reading excerpts from People’s History (7)
Choose a struggle from History (1), Find and read about it in People’s History of the US (1), Present it in class in connection to an artwork- poster, drawing,  (5)

Week 3
7. Image and text (7)
Look through contemporary media, online, commercials or magazines (2), What is the message?(1), How are the advertisers/politicians portraying that message visually? (1), Who is the audience? (1) How would the image read in a different context, another time? (2)

8. Collage, Mixed Media (7)
Concept, Message (4), Use of color (2), Use of text (1),

9. Analyze an artwork that uses image and text – It can be as simple as the title of the work and the artwork (7)
What is the political, social, economic message of the piece? (2) Who is the audience, time and what is its impact? (2) Presentation (3)

Week 4
10. What is color? What is light? (7)
Color wheel, (1) Complements and  neutrals, charts (2) Observing the natural world (4).

11. Research Impressionists, Rothko (7)
How did various artists think of color? (1), What era did that thinking reflect?(1), Presentation/Discussion (5)

12. Readings on connections between spirituality, science and art  (7)
Choose an artwork that exemplifies what the Dalai Lama is talking about in the article (2) Present the image and justify the connection (4) Discussion (1)

Week 5
13. Goya’s Humanity (7)
Study the process of one artist (2) How did the process reflect the different developmental stages? (2) What were some conclusions after a lifetime of work, if any? (3)

Week 6
14. Self evaluation (7)
Use of visual vocabulary (2), writing and grammar (2), honest assessment (3)

15. Final- Trip to the Institute of Contemporary Art  (10)
Discussion (5), Presentation on one artist (3), Sketching (2)

Absences: After 2 absences, final grade will go down 5 pts for every missed class

Lates and early departures: Every two count as an absence

Extra credit
Attend gallery reception (2)

Total points/grade (108) Includes extra credits

If you want to know anything, ask. Use my email or see me in person. Please talk to me if experiencing difficulties in the class, if current grade status is needed or if a large amount of absence is expected.

Materials List, Cost
 $15.00 covers all material
Drawing paper/sketchbook- your choice but no smaller than 9 x 12 “

Pencils or woodless graphite pencils: 6B (softer pencil), 4B, 2B, HB, 2H (harder pencil)
Kneaded rubber eraser

Masking tape
Camera/mobile phone

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Study of the Son
In relation to Goya loosing many children in infancy/childhood and the softness he painted him in. 

Being with Children (Instead of just looking at.)

Seeing and showing what is there.

Difference in Light.

Disasters of War -

Order and Disorder (MFA) Preview-
What was chosen? What was not? For what audience? What do we have to learn from Goya now?


(One of) the books that changed my perspective, "Men, Masculinity and Love"

bell hook's "The Will to Change Men Masculinity and Love"

Monday, May 11, 2015

Principles of design

Friday, May 8, 2015

Post-mortem Document I

Capital Cleanse,
Capital Change

-Take current currency

-Sculpt out of soap, mold

-Melt old scraps/leftovers or create soap from scratch (Look at images in "more from the kitchen."

-Pour into molds, freeze and distribute in all public restrooms

-Pointing to any current discrepancy in wealth
(i.e. Whom do we support?
Who is left out?
Who holds most capital? Power?

-Point to those who do not, those who are oppressed.