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Author Topic: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke  (Read 25023 times)

Claire

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Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« on: November 29, 2007, 02:20:51 pm »

This is going to be long, and to those of you not in the arts, it might seem like so much navel-gazing. So I'm warning you now, you can bail out and head over to the Guns & Gear forum or the Open Source Tech Gulch. But if you've pushed hard to overcome some personal obstacle, I'd like your advice.

It feels risky putting one of my oldest fears out on the line, as I'm about to do, but if I can't trust you guys, who can I trust?

Anyhow ... As a kid, I was about equally skilled in two areas, writing and art. I've had no training in writing at all; in fact, I was consciously smart enough to grok that getting trained would ruin me. That worked. But for whatever reason, I got a lot of training in art. I studied it three years in high school, then took both community college classes and private vocational school classes in illustration (paying my tuition via small scholarships and work-study). I never got a degree in art or anything else. But I was serious about that subject.

Today I have only a fraction of the art ability I had then. And that I regained only within the last 18 months through some sort of minor miracle (and the book The Artist's Way). But I have no joy in approaching art. I want to love it, but I can't. I want to do it, but I'd rather wash the dishes, pet the dogs, or play solitaire on the Internet. You know what I mean?

My abilities didn't just deteriorate over time from mis-use. They went suddenly, within the space of about a year while I was studying illustration.

I had a teacher I adored. And I took every class I possibly could with her, avoiding others. She was a kind, wise teacher in many ways and had also earned her real-world chops producing art for major corporations. A certain set of brand-name characters you probably grew up with are hers. Not the Pillsbury Doughboy or anything quite that famous. But you'd recognize them.

Anyhow, this teacher had her certain ways to do things, and all those ways were geared toward producing a kind of good but tame illustration. And that's smart. This was a trade school. The purpose wasn't to turn us into Picassos but, at very best, Bernie Fuchses, Seymour Chwasts, James Bamas, Peter Maxes, and icon of icons Norman Rockwell. (Who, as an aside, this teacher showed me was a far better artist than we like to give him credit for.) So we per pointed in certain directions. And certain techniques were required.

We did much of our drawing work standing at easels or sitting astride "horses" in costumed figure class or head-and-hands class. And we had to hold our pencils a certain way, palm down, with the pencil lightly resting between our thumb and forefinger, and the length of the pencil lightly enfolded within our palm. I couldn't do this. I've never in my life been able to hold a pencil even in the "normal" way, no matter how many times grade-school teachers instructed me to do so. In second grade I would change to the teacher's "proper" grip when she was watching, then switch to my own grip as soon as she turned away. My grip has a slight resemblance to a kid holding a crayon in his fist. But it works for me.

With this illustration teacher, I'd do the same thing: Do it her way when she looked, my way when she wasn't.

Thing is, she was right. The overhanded artist's grip that she insisted upon enables much more free movement, more flowing sense of line. But it also felt out of control to me. I really, really wanted to please this lovely teacher. But I couldn't.

Over the course of a year or so, I became so self-conscious I just plain lost my ability to do art.

At about this same time, I switched my irresponsible, hyper-forgetful, adolescent self to a young adult driven (and ruled) by the TO-DO list. These two things together took away my art ability. For years, I struggled to get it back. But every time I'd begin, I could almost physically see Mrs. _______ hovering at my shoulder.

I'm trying to get past this, and 18 months ago, I started to get somewhere for the first time. I was feeling so confident that I agreed to do several drawings of people's children or in one case a beloved young wife who had just died.

And just that quick, I lost it again and am back into struggle mode. I could absolutely NOT do art to meet anybody else's expectation, and I failed to deliver on several promises. I was very glad this month when I had to do another drawing this month (of somebody's pet cat, now at the Bridge). It made me confront this again. But so far, it's still a struggle. I may be okay with color and design, but I don't have a good drawing line, which is the foundation for everything, the litmus test of a good artist.

Can any of your artist, or anybody else who may have overcome an inner bar to achievement give me any insights into what worked for you?

I have to add another factor. Before "breaking" I had a frustrating level of talent, which I'm sure contributed to the problem. I was always the A-, B+ art student. The one that was good enough, but not great. When the school gave five scholarships to existing students, I was #6. There's a huge leap between being pretty good and being breathtaking, and I couldn't make that leap and can't imagine that I ever will. I am doomed, at best, to be the dreaded Above Average. That once mattered excruciatingly to me, especially because I was the "rotten kid" in my family and virtually the only approval I ever got was for art or writing. (My mother, though from an ordinary family, came from an extended clan with several nationally known arts people in it; she and her sisters watched our  generation, asking each other which child would be exceptional. I was quite often a suspect.  :ph34r: )

My ordinary skill level doesn't matter so much now; lord, just let me be competent! But the connection between doing art and somebody else inside my head judging me for it is a tough one to get beyond.

Thanks for your help!

Claire
« Last Edit: November 29, 2007, 02:27:42 pm by Claire »
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Bill St. Clair

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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2007, 03:42:08 pm »

I have very little experience with art, but I do have one experience to relate that may be relevant. Back in 1982, I had recently read a popular book about drawing that stressed the need to "see" what you intend to draw in a particular way before drawing it. See it as it is, as a two-dimensional image, not as your mind thinks it is out there in three dimensions. I was sitting in a chair in the living room one day, with one leg crossed over the other, when I noticed that I could "see" the image before me. I picked up a napkin and a pen, which were fortunately nearby so I didn't lose my vision, and did a line drawing of the scene. It was good. Unfortunately, I lost the napkin in one of my moves.
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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2007, 04:04:02 pm »

My experience as an artist is pretty much limited to playing clarinet up through my college years.  But this point I can really empathize with:

...Before "breaking" I had a frustrating level of talent, which I'm sure contributed to the problem. I was always the A-, B+ art student. The one that was good enough, but not great. ... There's a huge leap between being pretty good and being breathtaking, and I couldn't make that leap and can't imagine that I ever will. I am doomed, at best, to be the dreaded Above Average...

Yeah.  I was technically competent on the clarinet.  Made it to first chair in the University Concert Band.  I might have had the ability to be a lot better -- I don't know.

What blocked me was, basically, being embarrassed that someone would notice my playing.  I don't mean that they'd notice my mistakes, I mean that they'd notice me being good.  That's what scared me.  I didn't have the ego for that.

I've got some thoughts about why I'm that way, but I don't really want to get into public self-psychoanalysis at the moment.  :mellow:

But anyway, Claire, an idea just crossed my mind.  Suppose you draw something for yourself?  I mean, really just for yourself.  Pick out in advance a nice spot to hang it, inside a linen closet or in a root cellar or a medicine cabinet or somewhere where nobody but you will ever see it.  Then sit down and relax, and draw anything that you like.
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Joel

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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2007, 05:22:33 pm »

This is really long.  Sorry.  But you kinda touched a nerve.

Quote
Over the course of a year or so, I became so self-conscious I just plain lost my ability to do art.

Quote
I was feeling so confident that I agreed to do several drawings of people's children or in one case a beloved young wife who had just died.

And just that quick, I lost it again and am back into struggle mode. I could absolutely NOT do art to meet anybody else's expectation...

Quote
Before "breaking" I had a frustrating level of talent, which I'm sure contributed to the problem. I was always the A-, B+ art student. The one that was good enough, but not great.

I think I see a pattern here, Claire.  Who (whom?) are you trying to please?

Full disclosure: I am one of the happy few who owns one of Claire's drawings, a portrait of my beloved daughter.  And Claire, maybe you remember that you did two versions of that.  The first one was decidedly offbeat and I expressed no liking for it, preferring something more conventional.  But I'll bet I can guess which of those was your favorite.  If at this late date you think of either of them at all, I'll bet I know which one you remember with the most pleasure.  Because you created that one to please yourself.

I did go through something like what you describe.  I'm no artist, but since I was a kid I always wanted to write fiction.  I studied typing in school, back when that was something boys did at their peril, because if I was going to be Hemingway when I grew up I needed to know how to type.  God, I was awful.  Really laughable.  I lost heart several times, but kept coming back to it because it was something I just felt I needed to be doing.  By the time I was an adult I was writing stories that didn't embarrass me three weeks later.  I thought I was getting there.

Then I took some really bad advice (at a writing class, natch) and spent a solid year writing what may well be the most cliche'-ridden, the most hackneyed, the most unbelievably bad novel in the history of American letters.  This book was positively evil.  But I was so convinced it was wonderful that before I came to my senses I copied sample chapters and submitted it everywhere.  And was buried in an avalanche of rejections. 

I'd sunk so much time and effort and emotional capital into that abortion of a book that I just couldn't see what I was doing.  I couldn't see why nobody else understood the book.  Then about six months passed and I re-read the thing cold.  Oh, my god.  Oh, my dear fucking god.  No wonder they rejected me.  I suck. 

I didn't write another word for over ten years.  If my very best effort could produce something of such surpassing, overwhelming, transcendent awfulness, it was over.  I'd never be published, and that was my only dream.  I really let it get to me.

And then six or seven years ago I started to get the itch again, only this time a lot of things had changed.  My marriage had tanked, my career had tanked, a lot of things had just burned down.  And I was starting to relax to the notion that it no longer really mattered what people thought of me; I didn't have to live for others anymore.  So I went at it with a different objective.  This time I was going to write because I wanted to write.  Sure, I'd love to be rich and famous as a writer.  It's a dream I have, but no longer an objective.  I love to write, said I, and so I will.  My first novel was an offbeat fantasy based in Bible-era Israel, just because.  It has never garnered one word of praise.  You may  remember it; we had an email conversation over it because you had the honesty to tell me you didn't like it and why.  That was okay.  I saw its flaws, but at least it wasn't embarrassing.

I took the lessons learned and wrote a second book, this time much more ambitious.  I really liked the way this book came out, even though it died on Amazon.  And you know what?  I still really like it.  It was the book I sat down to write.  And I knew I had arrived where I wanted to be, even if I never made a dime from it.  I like it when people praise my books.  But I'm not really writing for other people.  I'm writing because I like to.  I try to get better with every effort, because I want to write well.  But as for the opinion of others I apply the Wisdom of the Divine Ms. M:

FFFFUCK'EM IF THEY CAN'T TAKE A JOKE!!!

And you should, too.  I may be all wet here, but from what you wrote it sounds like you're worrying way too much about what others think of this or that.  When did the Third Assistant Demigoddess of Freedom start having anything to prove to anybody?

(And you know what?  Daughter liked them both, but she liked the first one best.   :threvil:)
« Last Edit: November 29, 2007, 05:32:44 pm by Joel »
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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2007, 06:50:06 pm »

Oh, Claire!
I do not know if the following will help, and it is being written in a state of semi-flow, but maybe some of the ideas will get through my fingers to the keyboard to the computer to the internet and come out as little photons where you are sitting at your computer reading them.  I hope so.....

I do a lot of art in a lot of different media.  I never feel pressure, and I am always in a state of happiness, flow, bliss, joy and beauty because I learned as a child, escaping my first art teacher to use my own head, that:

Everything I do is experimental, and fun, and an exploration;
Everything I do is to learn more about creating; :laugh:
Nothing I do is a "final product" because that would mean I have just died when I declare that to be true;

I hold no expectations that anything I do will turn out exactly the way I saw it in my head when I began the process.  I love the process, and actually, once I have finished, I do not hold much ownership for the product - with the exception of a couple of pieces I have done and kept over the years because they are representative of emotional passages in my life.

If you can, perhaps getting some plain old paper and a set of little water colours, and some nice bamboo brushes, and, holding the brushes correctly for sumi-e, which is sort of opposite of holding a pencil for drawing, you could just paint grasses, birds flying, whatever your hand and arm want the brush to do.  Play.  Play.  Play in beauty.  Play in happiness.  Do art only to bring you joy.  I do not think there is any other reason to do art but this purely selfish, self-centered- self-expressive reason.  Let it all be experimental and a learning.  Let it all be fun and nothing you need to judge.  Play.  You play will flow back into you and set you free.  You will find your own playful artist within you again.  Get some charcoal pencils and newsprint and just play on the paper, holding the charcoal like a pencil.  Play.  Have fun.  Let your body make the marks on the paper.   ^_^

I have seen you work - I think you will be able to play with much beauty and happiness.  When you can hold that state of flow and joy while you are doing your art, the art will flow through you and into what ever medium you are working, and it will have beauty.  And it will flow back into you and assist in the release of more creativity as well.

I do not know if this helps at all, but it is my best suggestions based on my own life of art.  Play.  Experiment.  Have fun.  Create for your own joy.  I occasionally take commissions, sometimes big ones, but only because the commission matches an image or idea I have been carrying around in my head anyway, and now I have a chance to manifest it into existence AND get paid for it!  :laugh: :laugh:
But if no one paid me, I would probably do it anyway, eventually, just for the fun and joy of it.  Then someone would buy it later.  Or I can give it away with happiness.

When you sell what you create, that is good, but I do not think art should ever be about pleasing an audience or making things for another person other than you, yourself, your own vision and need to manifest that vision through your art:  creativity and manifesting into existence your own internal reality is what art is about.  Play.  Have fun.  Play in joy.  Your work will be appreciated by those with the eyes to see the same beauty you were experimenting to express when you were playing to create and manifest your vision into existence.  Play.
ff

« Last Edit: November 29, 2007, 07:07:30 pm by feralfae »
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spatter

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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2007, 08:30:50 pm »

Quote
Suppose you draw something for yourself?  I mean, really just for yourself.

Amen.

I am going through a wonderful period right now.  I just bought a building (part residence but can use the back for a shop).  For the first time in my life, I'm fixing up and decorating JUST FOR ME.  No boyfriends, children, mother, husband (well, he's around sort of).  Just me...and it's wonderful.  If my amateurish oilcloth curtains (the only fabric I could think of that the cats couldn't destroy quite so fast) look a little different...well so what...I'm going to work on them until I like them. 

The entire front of the house is just mine...the kitchen is the way I want it, I'll have my sewing machine and crafts table in the "front" room, my bedroom is a little nook without a door, my sitting/knitting room will be set up just for me and I have a whole room for my clothes and linens.

Bottom line is I'm feeling a creativity that I haven't exercised since I was in high school.

Most people spend their early lives pleasing and/or caring for others...parents, employers, teachers, significant others, children.  Then they spend their middle years pleasing/caring for employers, elderly parents, significant others...  At some point some of us are lucky enough to have a few years to care for ourselves.   I think that's when the latent creativity blossoms.

How many artists don't come into their own until very late in life?  Grandma Moses comes to mind, but (forgive my weak knowledge of art history) I know I've heard of many others.

Consider your art your own.  Your own techniques, your own results.  Enjoy the process...and hold the pencil your own damn way.

Spatter
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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2007, 10:19:51 pm »

This is going to be long, and to those of you not in the arts, it might seem like so much navel-gazing. So I'm warning you now, you can bail out and head over to the Guns & Gear forum or the Open Source Tech Gulch. But if you've pushed hard to overcome some personal obstacle, I'd like your advice.

It feels risky putting one of my oldest fears out on the line, as I'm about to do, but if I can't trust you guys, who can I trust?

Anyhow ... As a kid, I was about equally skilled in two areas, writing and art. I've had no training in writing at all; in fact, I was consciously smart enough to grok that getting trained would ruin me. That worked. But for whatever reason, I got a lot of training in art. I studied it three years in high school, then took both community college classes and private vocational school classes in illustration (paying my tuition via small scholarships and work-study). I never got a degree in art or anything else. But I was serious about that subject.

Today I have only a fraction of the art ability I had then. And that I regained only within the last 18 months through some sort of minor miracle (and the book The Artist's Way). But I have no joy in approaching art. I want to love it, but I can't. I want to do it, but I'd rather wash the dishes, pet the dogs, or play solitaire on the Internet. You know what I mean?

My abilities didn't just deteriorate over time from mis-use. They went suddenly, within the space of about a year while I was studying illustration.

I had a teacher I adored. And I took every class I possibly could with her, avoiding others. She was a kind, wise teacher in many ways and had also earned her real-world chops producing art for major corporations. A certain set of brand-name characters you probably grew up with are hers. Not the Pillsbury Doughboy or anything quite that famous. But you'd recognize them.

Anyhow, this teacher had her certain ways to do things, and all those ways were geared toward producing a kind of good but tame illustration. And that's smart. This was a trade school. The purpose wasn't to turn us into Picassos but, at very best, Bernie Fuchses, Seymour Chwasts, James Bamas, Peter Maxes, and icon of icons Norman Rockwell. (Who, as an aside, this teacher showed me was a far better artist than we like to give him credit for.) So we per pointed in certain directions. And certain techniques were required.

We did much of our drawing work standing at easels or sitting astride "horses" in costumed figure class or head-and-hands class. And we had to hold our pencils a certain way, palm down, with the pencil lightly resting between our thumb and forefinger, and the length of the pencil lightly enfolded within our palm. I couldn't do this. I've never in my life been able to hold a pencil even in the "normal" way, no matter how many times grade-school teachers instructed me to do so. In second grade I would change to the teacher's "proper" grip when she was watching, then switch to my own grip as soon as she turned away. My grip has a slight resemblance to a kid holding a crayon in his fist. But it works for me.

With this illustration teacher, I'd do the same thing: Do it her way when she looked, my way when she wasn't.

Thing is, she was right. The overhanded artist's grip that she insisted upon enables much more free movement, more flowing sense of line. But it also felt out of control to me. I really, really wanted to please this lovely teacher. But I couldn't.

Over the course of a year or so, I became so self-conscious I just plain lost my ability to do art.

At about this same time, I switched my irresponsible, hyper-forgetful, adolescent self to a young adult driven (and ruled) by the TO-DO list. These two things together took away my art ability. For years, I struggled to get it back. But every time I'd begin, I could almost physically see Mrs. _______ hovering at my shoulder.

I'm trying to get past this, and 18 months ago, I started to get somewhere for the first time. I was feeling so confident that I agreed to do several drawings of people's children or in one case a beloved young wife who had just died.

And just that quick, I lost it again and am back into struggle mode. I could absolutely NOT do art to meet anybody else's expectation, and I failed to deliver on several promises. I was very glad this month when I had to do another drawing this month (of somebody's pet cat, now at the Bridge). It made me confront this again. But so far, it's still a struggle. I may be okay with color and design, but I don't have a good drawing line, which is the foundation for everything, the litmus test of a good artist.

Can any of your artist, or anybody else who may have overcome an inner bar to achievement give me any insights into what worked for you?

I have to add another factor. Before "breaking" I had a frustrating level of talent, which I'm sure contributed to the problem. I was always the A-, B+ art student. The one that was good enough, but not great. When the school gave five scholarships to existing students, I was #6. There's a huge leap between being pretty good and being breathtaking, and I couldn't make that leap and can't imagine that I ever will. I am doomed, at best, to be the dreaded Above Average. That once mattered excruciatingly to me, especially because I was the "rotten kid" in my family and virtually the only approval I ever got was for art or writing. (My mother, though from an ordinary family, came from an extended clan with several nationally known arts people in it; she and her sisters watched our  generation, asking each other which child would be exceptional. I was quite often a suspect.  :ph34r: )

My ordinary skill level doesn't matter so much now; lord, just let me be competent! But the connection between doing art and somebody else inside my head judging me for it is a tough one to get beyond.

Thanks for your help!

Claire


I can really relate to this. I loved drawing as a kid and always got compliments on it. I was average to good in academics (mostly because I ws bored, lazy, and it wasn't what I felt like doing) and my mother road my ass for not keeping my grades up, but I excelled in art and music stuff. But when I took Arts and Crafts in 7th grade and had to stick to the projects outlined by the teacher, i couldn't do it well...it wasn't what I wasted to do and was putting me in a box so to speak. My grades were average in any art/crafts class I took from then through highschool because the projects were not what I enjoyed. The fact that my grades weren't wonderful and the push by my family members to take art classes because "you were always so good at at" made me stop wanting to draw at all. I think part of that was that I disliked my mom so much, that her pushing me to do anything made me automatically go another direction.

I was the same way with reading. I enjoyed reading what I wanted to read at my own pace, but in 5th grade my teacher was one of those speed reader freaks and pushed that on the class. She singled me out at times as I was not one of those go with the flow types and I was not able to change and read with her new forced down my throat method. I hated reading until the last few years where I started reading again for pleasure. Now I find I can read faster and still comprehend as well, but this was accomplished on my timetable and to my liking, not someone elses.

I still don't draw now, just don't have too much of an interest and the thought of starting it up now, drawing, and it not being up to par in my own mind (someone else thinking it's good won't matter since i'm a perfectionist with my crafts), well this just makes me not interested.

Now crafting on the otherhand, I love it! I crochet, make beaded jewelry, lanyards, I even started sewing. I have several projects going on at once so i don't get bored. I get compliments alot, but being the perfectionist I am though, I don't always agree, even when i know it's good. I have taken apart crocheted projects almost all the way to fix mistakes done early on, can't leave it that way. But I enjoy it all sooo much, even the frustration that can come withit. I believe this is because I am doing it as a hobby, doing it because I enjoy it, I'm doing it for myself. I don't care really if others like it, most of the stuff I make is never seen by most.

I enjoyed doing hair and make up until I decided to go to cosmetology school so i could do it as a profession. That year of school, although i learned some good stuff, it took the enjoyment of it out of me. I stayed in the profession a few years but it just wore thin and working with women was a pain in the ass. I loved the customers though, so much learned and so many good storis and conversations. But having to do things someone elses way and working for a boss that decides your hours and pay scale, that is stifling for someone like me.

I think for some of us, like me, trying to do something we enjoy or are good at, trying to do it by someone elses method ruins our abilities. Classes can be good for certain things like learnign some different techniques, but for the most part hobbies and abilities are learned and strengthened through trial and error. Do it for yourself and your own enjoyment, take other peoples opinions out of the quation....much more fun and satisfying.
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Shrike

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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2007, 11:32:17 pm »

Claire,
Your passion for art is all you need. However, I suggest you try drawing for yourself for a little while,
without the pressure of having to be creative under the demands of a commission, as it can be
overwhelming sometimes, in terms of delivering your best. Pick a few subjects that interest you -
and it doesn't have to be a person or animal, unless you really enjoy the subject matter - and just
draw at your own pace and without any outside pressures from anyone.
I'm a professional artist, by trade, and I can tell you that one of the most important guidelines to
becoming the artist you long to be is shear repetition, in other words, practice, practice, practice.
It took me thousands of hours to reach even my meager level of expertise, but I got here because
I love the creative process, even if I'm not the best out there. Doing it over and over, though, will
take you to that next level, just keep at it. Above all, enjoy the journey, which is the point in the
first place.
I work primarily in the computer graphics field, but spent twenty-five years as a traditional artist and
I still continue to draw and paint in my spare time. I suspect I'll be doing so until my physical self
no longer allows it.
Trust yourself, Claire. No one is stopping you from being an awesome artist but you. Unleash the
passion. Let the fire rage. To Hell with anyone who tells you you can't do it.

God Bless,

Shrike
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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2007, 09:47:27 am »

Let Dizzie Gillespie be your model. Everyone who knows how to play trumpet properly could see his embouchure was terribly wrong. Yet few in the history of the instrument played any better. While firm cheeks are a must to get a decent sound, Dizzie's looked like he was holding an apple in each.  Put a picture of him over your brushes, then do it your way.  Don't let technique get in the way of your expression.
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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2007, 01:00:00 pm »

But anyway, Claire, an idea just crossed my mind.  Suppose you draw something for yourself?  I mean, really just for yourself.  Pick out in advance a nice spot to hang it, inside a linen closet or in a root cellar or a medicine cabinet or somewhere where nobody but you will ever see it.  Then sit down and relax, and draw anything that you like.

 :laugh: Yes, the crawl space under Cabin Sweet Cabin would do nicely, thank you, Mr. Bill.

And thank you all for the suggestions and encouragement -- and for not trouncing me. After I posted the opening rant yesterday, I said to myself, "Claire, what the hell were you smoking, to strip yourself so naked in front of people like that? At your age, it's not a pretty sight!"

But you guys showed yourselves worthy of my trust -- and no surprise there.

I'll respond to some specifics in other replies (some in PMs). But a couple of general observations.

Yeah, what is it, Mr. Bill, with that business of being "talented, but ..."? I don't quite understand what you mean by the fear of people seeing how good you are. What did you fear they'd do? Or what did you fear you'd have to do? Was it feeling unable to live up to their expectations?

There's something about being very good, but not great that's crazy making. I mean, I'm sure dozens, hundreds, of people envied you your clarinet talent, as they've envied my art or writing abilities. To people who can't play a note (me, for instance) your level of talent looks like heaven on earth. People who can't draw a stroke might say, "What the hell are you whining about? Count your blessings!"

But oooh, that being good, but never good enough ...

The other thing is ... you guys who've told me, "Just do it for yourself" are right, of course. Shrike, MidnightBlue, feralfae, spatter, Joel ... to the extent that you do your art out of joy or personal passion now, you have a great secret. Shrike, I've seen your work and you remind me -- in the very nicest way (and I hope you don't mind me saying this much here) -- of one of those boys in high school who always filled his history or English notebooks with drawings of rocket ships, space aliens, wild animals, and futuristic weapons. And there you are, making a living doing it bigger and better. I mean, that's the way to do it; you live what you love.

But I realized when you say, "Do it just for yourself," that I long ago lost the key to knowing what my self (my real self, not my ego-self) wants. I hear you guys say that and I think, "But to do that I'd already have had to banish those critical ghosts who are looking over my shoulder." Until I get rid of them, nothing I did would please me, because those ghosts of old teachers and relatives are internalized now. How to banish them?

Claire
« Last Edit: November 30, 2007, 01:14:29 pm by Claire »
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

Claire

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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2007, 01:05:53 pm »

I can really relate to this. I loved drawing as a kid and always got compliments on it. I was average to good in academics (mostly because I ws bored, lazy, and it wasn't what I felt like doing) and my mother road my ass for not keeping my grades up, but I excelled in art and music stuff. But when I took Arts and Crafts in 7th grade and had to stick to the projects outlined by the teacher, i couldn't do it well...it wasn't what I wasted to do and was putting me in a box so to speak. ...

I was the same way with reading. I enjoyed reading what I wanted to read at my own pace, but in 5th grade my teacher was one of those speed reader freaks and pushed that on the class. She singled me out at times as I was not one of those go with the flow types

I still don't draw now, just don't have too much of an interest and the thought of starting it up now, drawing, and it not being up to par in my own mind (someone else thinking it's good won't matter since i'm a perfectionist with my crafts), well this just makes me not interested.

This is such a sadly typical story. I wonder how many children have had some passion or talent crushed out of them by inappropriate teaching methods or the expectations of authority figures? And what's odd -- especially when it comes to creative talents, I think -- is that having adults expect too much can be just as harmful as having adults tell you you're no good. (Come to think of it, the two often go together, "Why are you failing? You should be better than that! You're choosing to be a loser!"

We are a weird species.

I understand how you can enjoy your crafts (even as a perfectionist) when you have only bad memories of other kinds of art. Somehow, the pressures on crafts are less than on what we perceive as "fine art."

Yep. Strange species.

Claire
« Last Edit: November 30, 2007, 01:07:50 pm by Claire »
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2007, 01:12:28 pm »

Let Dizzie Gillespie be your model. Everyone who knows how to play trumpet properly could see his embouchure was terribly wrong. Yet few in the history of the instrument played any better. While firm cheeks are a must to get a decent sound, Dizzie's looked like he was holding an apple in each.  Put a picture of him over your brushes, then do it your way.  Don't let technique get in the way of your expression.

 :laugh: :laugh: :laugh: Ah yes, I've seen those Dizzy Gillespie chipmunk cheeks. Good reminder of how the "musts" can get in our way. Or not. Like the bumblebee who flies because he doesn't realize he's aerodynamically incapable.

Or the marvelous Aubrey Beardsley, who was too weak and sick to be any kind of traditional "great artist" and so became a master of the sharp little pen and ink drawing. Or Sister Kenny who, not knowing what the symptoms of polio were supposed to be, saw symptoms differently than the doctors of her day did and saved children that they could not.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2007, 01:20:57 pm by Claire »
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

Claire

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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2007, 01:18:21 pm »

I have very little experience with art, but I do have one experience to relate that may be relevant. Back in 1982, I had recently read a popular book about drawing that stressed the need to "see" what you intend to draw in a particular way before drawing it. See it as it is, as a two-dimensional image, not as your mind thinks it is out there in three dimensions. I was sitting in a chair in the living room one day, with one leg crossed over the other, when I noticed that I could "see" the image before me. I picked up a napkin and a pen, which were fortunately nearby so I didn't lose my vision, and did a line drawing of the scene. It was good. Unfortunately, I lost the napkin in one of my moves.

Ah. Yes. I think that's why one typical image of an artist shows him measuring something in the air with a paintbrush or framing his subject in a box made of his thumbs and forefingers. It's very true, as far as technique goes. The relationships between objects and parts is different than what our minds tell us it is.

(Did I just say something about us being a strange species?)
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

Dare2BFree

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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2007, 01:21:29 pm »

Quote
But I realized when you say, "Do it just for yourself," that I long ago lost the key to knowing what my self (my real self, not my ego-self) wants. I hear you guys say that and I think, "But to do that I'd already have had to banish those critical ghosts who are looking over my shoulder." Until I get rid of them, nothing I did would please me, because those ghosts of old teachers and relatives are internalized now. How to banish them?

I think you've answered your own question here.  You banish those ghosts is to learn who you are, what you like, what you want - for yourself.  If you're more tuned into the voices of ghosts, then you're not listening to your own internal voice.  


I have to run right now, but I will post more on this later.  I just wanted to get this thought out there before I forgot it :)
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Re: Creativity and the All-Important Drawing Stroke
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2007, 01:34:53 pm »

I think I see a pattern here, Claire.  Who (whom?) are you trying to please?

The ghosts. The terrible, haunting ghosts of course.

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And I was starting to relax to the notion that it no longer really mattered what people thought of me; I didn't have to live for others anymore.

A blessing of the gods.

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My first novel was an offbeat fantasy based in Bible-era Israel, just because.  It has never garnered one word of praise.  You may  remember it; we had an email conversation over it because you had the honesty to tell me you didn't like it and why.  That was okay.  I saw its flaws, but at least it wasn't embarrassing.

It definitely wasn't embarrassing. Not at all. And in fairness I've got to point out that while the book had structural flaws (as I perceived it), it was an interesting story. AND it was equally interesting that nearly everything I perceived as a flaw was something you had added after the fact -- as if you were trying to improve something that maybe didn't need improving.

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I took the lessons learned and wrote a second book, this time much more ambitious.  I really liked the way this book came out, even though it died on Amazon.  And you know what?  I still really like it.  It was the book I sat down to write.  And I knew I had arrived where I wanted to be, even if I never made a dime from it.

Yep. And that second biblical book was terrific, too.

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And you should, too.  I may be all wet here, but from what you wrote it sounds like you're worrying way too much about what others think of this or that.  When did the Third Assistant Demigoddess of Freedom start having anything to prove to anybody?

Um ... I'd say from the time I was about 13.

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(And you know what?  Daughter liked them both, but she liked the first one best.   :threvil:)

 :laugh: Well, now that's a pretty good irony. Good on her. She's probably right that the first rough drawing was a better piece of art. But it didn't look like her, and that drives me crazy.

Claire
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi
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