Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fostering Creativity

It's been too long since I last blogged and this post has been in my drafts folder for a long time and its really funny because the topic of creativity and fear of not being perfect has held me back from publishing it.  So on that note, I am publishing what I have in a rough form.  I could keep tweaking it and figuring out images to add, but by holding it back it is creating a backlog of drafts in my Blogger account, so here goes...

A bird sitting in a tree 
is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not on the branch but, instead on its own wings.  
Always believe in yourself.

I am always amazed at how many people (friends, family, strangers) who, when they learn I am an artist,  say to me, "I am bad at art" or "I'm not artistic/creative".  It makes me sad every time I hear this which is a lot.   I truly believe everyone is capable of creative thought and expression, and like yoga, it is about practice, practice, practice in addition to letting go of the fear of failure.  Creativity, like anything (sports, music, math, writing, etc), comes with practice.  I think what happens is people get this idea that you have to be born with a talent for art.  I disagree with this.  Of course, certain forms of art, like other things,  may come easier to some and there may be some inherent raw talent...but is it because they are more "skilled" or just more practiced and thus more confident??  When I hear one of my daughters make a proclamation like "I'm "bad at math", it gets me so frustrated!  I have seen them struggle with something and as soon as they believe they aren't good at something, the confidence waivers, the anxiety builds and there is more chance of not succeeding.  True confession, I am guilty of such statements as well.

So, when it comes to art, my mantra is just start.  Don't worry about the product.  Make whatever form you can.  Build sand castles, make cards with your kids, doodle, play with clay, paint, draw, photograph, design...  When we think of creating as play, I think we can get back to the time of our youth before doubt and fear of "not being good enough" got into our a time when we didn't worry about how our art stacked up to those around us. Of course, it is easy for me to say what I should do, but actually putting it into practice is sometimes harder than that.  I struggle daily as an artist with negative my art good enough, original enough, worthy enough? I often think  to myself "am I a real artist"?   Even with gallery representation and a solid sales history, I still question my art.  I'm pretty certain many artists have these thoughts, at least occasionally.  I think what is key is not to let those doubts stop you from practicing.  I think a lot of Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, about putting in the hours. This year has been my year to ramp up the hours after cancer forced me to take a break.

The picture is of when I finally got back to my art studio.  I decided I would feel less pressure for perfect sale ready pieces if I painted with water based acrylic craft paints on paper (as opposed to expensive oil paint on surfaces like canvas or board).  This also allowed me to make a lot of images quickly in more in a kind of "practice" way.
So, kind of funny...I ended up being quite happy with these "low stress" practice pieces...probably because there was no pressure to be perfect and I was totally relaxed.  I heard a short piece on creativity this week by Ira Glass which really makes sense!

I am also attaching two of my favorite Ted Talks about this process.  Each one is really great and has a message that will help anyone start the practice of creativity or get out of a block.  

Kelley talking about creativity

Elizabeth Gilbert on TED talking about creative genius



Julia R. Berkley said...

Whitney, I'm right there with you. Trying to shed the need for every piece to be salable. Trying to work in more "play" out of which comes all sorts of ideas. I'm not really there yet, but am heading in the right direction, anyway. More power to you!! Thanks for sharing your journey.

Whitney Alexanderson Heavey said...

Thanks Julia! It sure is a process. I kind of wish I could just paint and have someone else decide when they were finished. If I had a dime for every good painting I ruined in an effort to "finish it"...