Saturday, 14 January 2012

Trying to be creative -- pt 3

Hello again -- sorry for the unplanned gap between parts 2 and 3 of this exploration of one set of 'ways to be creative'. Let's get going again with No. 18: Count your blessings.
'Count your blessings' by the wonderful Tilleke Schwarz:
I have sometimes followed another, related piece of advice which is to help yourself fall asleep by counting your blessings (it will start to sound as though I do nothing without being told to) but I had to stop as I felt as though I was tempting fate. If I've had a 'bad day' within the parameters of my world, it doesn't take long before thoughts of how much worse it could be threaten to become overwhelming. I may have had to deal with a disgruntled person at work, I may have had to sit in traffic both morning and night, but my kids are safe, I am warm and fed, etc, etc. And I have the absolute luxury of 'being creative', or trying to be.
     I'm not sure whether counting your blessings will actually contribute much to the creative endeavour, in any case.
     Anyhoo, homily over.
19. Get lots of rest.
Sleeping Woman by Tamara de Lempicka
Once upon a time I would have said that getting lots of rest was essential. Who can fully use their creativity when their brain hurts from lack of sleep? But having spent so much time over the last few years reading by the light of a tiny torch in the middle of the night because I can't sleep, I'd say your body (and mind) is able to get by on surprisingly little sleep. Mine is not an extreme case. I used to worry about not getting seven hours a night but after I did a trial programme with (which I'd really recommend, by the way, if you are seriously concerned about your sleep), and saw how much worse other people's sleep problems were (from the user forums) I decided not to lose any more sleep over it.
In fact last night by the light of my torch I was reading this brilliant little book about the history of holiday camps by Kathryn Ferry. The early days when it was men-only in rows of bell tents and the way that the first chalet camps were built by trades unions was fascinating. You can see a gallery of pictures from the book here.
     So, no one can go too long without rest, but, again, I'm not sure this is going to be my no. 1 priority, creativity-wise.
20. Take risks.
Are we talking about the sort of 'risk' you take when you mix up, say, a lovely acidy-green and splat it all over your canvas or are we talking about jumping-off-the-pier-just-for-the-hell-of-it kind of risks? I'm all for the former and NOT AT ALL for the latter.
     It was perhaps 'taking a risk' to take this old postcard:
And try to turn it into this HUGE oil painting when I had never used oil paints before. The painting is truly dreadful and is consigned to our garage in the roll of shame. You can see the original postcard stuck on the wall at the top (to get the scale):
I should just explain that I was doing (am still doing, in theory) a series of pictures based on old postcards where most of the detail was intentionally wiped out and only one or two lone figures remained. This one (below), in oil pastel, worked better I think:
This was the original postcard for this one:
I really want to get back to doing these. I like doing them. Unfortunately, the 'risk-taking' of the really big one put me off oil paint completely. So was the risk worth taking? Probably, yes.
     Now, going back to jumping off the pier and the like, I actually have a bit of an obsession with 'jumpers' [not the Sarah Lund kind -- although we finished watching the boxed set of The Killing 1 this week, at an average rate of 3 episodes a night, and it was awesome] and have been known to spend hours on holiday trying to get photos of kids doing just that. Here are a few:
At Abereiddy
At Solva

At Charlestown, nr St Austell
 But I'm one of those people who anticipates disaster in their guts. I can't watch You've Been Framed because I feel in my viscera an echo of the pain of the people falling off stages and getting tennis balls where it hurts. It's torture. Similarly, it was hard watching all these jumpers for fear that they would hit a submerged bicycle or break their necks landing badly. You may pity my kids and imagine that they've been brought up in a cottonwool world of sitting nice and quietly while the other children tear around having fun, but I'm not as bad as that -- quite bad, though.
21. Break the rules.
Hmm, I'm not really for breaking the rules. Or only very very small ones that don't really count. When the riots broke out this summer, we sat at home watching it on television, very disturbed and telling ourselves that it was the end of society. We thought we were seeing the social fabric being ripped apart and, for a few nights, we thought it would never be mended. If you had gone on the rampage and grabbed for free the stuff that the culture tells you you must have, why would you ever delay gratification again? That the 'clampdown' did succeed in re-establishing the normal capitalist order seemed incredible as we had felt the momentum of the disorder would not be stopped so easily. Obviously there is a delirious pleasure to be had from breaking rules but the dominant order will reassert itself one way or another and then there's usually payback. I don't relish payback.
     In art it's hard to break the rules now in postmodernism anything goes. I like juxtapositions that don't feel right, as in this small painting I did a while ago:
The pink section is the pattern of a dress I used to have as a child
22. Don't force it.
Good one, Mr 29 Ways.
For instance, don't get too hung up on capturing 'jumpers'... I didn't get a single decent image out of this exercise -- D enjoyed it, though.
23. Read a page of the dictionary.
Oh indeed. Yes indeed. Many's the day that I open the dictionary at random, but quite punctiliously, and punctuate that day's conversation with pungent puns and punchy points. I can come across as a bit of a pundit, but my speech positively pullulates with puncta. No one dares to puncture my puncheon when I'm in the flow. I'm as pulsating as Pulchinello, as punchdrunk as a pullet. Pummel me now before I have a pulmonary embolism!
24. Create a framework.
I take this to mean that you try to set the creative work you do within a set of aims or ideas. You create meaning for your work by thinking about it and setting it in a context. This, I think, is a good way to approach projects and something I could do with doing more. Or, rather, it would be better if I stuck to one project at a time instead of flitting from one thing to another. I do have the beginnings of frameworks for my work, I have ideas about why I'm embarking on something or other, but I don't stay with each thing long enough to develop a coherent 'body of work', if I dare use such a fancy term.
     This, for instance, was a big picture I did more or less as an experiment a few months ago:
As I was doing it, I had all sorts of thoughts about the way that adults try to inculcate young children into 'norms' of behaviour by making them colour in images instead of letting them draw their own forms. I could easily have developed this, trying different media, using different source images, different colours, different compositions and so on, but I had too many other projects piling up and this all got left for another day. The trouble is, I don't have enough days.
25. Stop trying to be someone else's perfect 100%.
Ha. This one isn't a problem. I'm under no illusions that I'm anyone's perfect 100%.
26. Got an idea? Write it down.
YES! DO THIS. Is there anything more frustrating than the vague sensation that you have had a fantastic idea and forgotten it? Naturally it's the best idea you ever had. And now it's gone. I've lost so many ideas, I could weep. Ideas are also scary -- they have so much unrealised potential. If I look through my notebooks and see the ideas I've scribbled down, I know that I will never follow through on even one percent of them. I will die and they will die with me. That's a black thought. But even blacker is not keeping your ideas in the first place.
I write ideas down in my current notebook, then I try to 'harvest' them into a special ideas book. I'm just looking at this now to see if there's a page I could bear to scan and use as an illustration, but there's something so 'naked' about ideas in their first form -- they seem foolish, naive, and yet I know that they are precious.
I'm going to keep my funny ideas to myself for the time being...
27. Clean your workspace.
Photo taken at 10.32 on Saturday January 14, ie right now. I'm saying nothing.
28. Have fun.
Absolutely. What's the point otherwise? If being creative isn't fun, or, if not a laugh a minute, then at least satisfying and enjoyable, why bother? I know that when I'm happy making something, it's completely absorbing. I don't think about snacking, I don't need music or the radio on, I don't feel the cold, I don't notice the time passing. I know it's one of the best ways I spend time.
Trying to take photos down a kaleidoscope was fun
29. Finish something.
Yep. That would be good, wouldn't it?
Unfinished since 1978

strange unfinished necklace experiment
But the good news is ... I've finished this blogpost. Hurray. Thanks for coming along through this odd exercise. Has it been encouraging? I hope so. Looking forward to seeing all your creativity in the coming weeks and months.


Kitsch and Curious said...

Wow! More wonderful stuff to feast our eyes and brains on!

You have SO gotta stop dissing your own work, girl! The oil painting is wonderful. Looking at all the layers and depths, I suspect it might be even more wonderful in real life. Personally, I'm far too impatient to work in oil paint, and being accident prone, I'm not sure I should be allowed to use anything more permanent than child's poster paints in any case.

I like the juxtaposition painting too - but that might just be because it's got vintage fabric in it!!

Did you deliberately make the last 3 pictures echo each other? The kaleidoscope and the patchwork particularly. The colour patchwork effect is also there in your colouring in picture, now I look at it again.

And the necklace is marvellous - you always have something new up your sleeve, don't you?

LAC EMP 2020 said...

Jane, you are a marvel to have gone through the 29 ways so intently. Each one has been a joy to read especialy reading that page of the dictionary. Please get yourself published somewhere - if anyone knows how it must be you!!... and get yourself a gallery or an agent or something and make your art full time. You are a fabulous painter which such an eclectic range of interests you just have to be a 'success waiting to happen' How lovely to see Tamara again. Must go off an remind myself of her work.

Jane Housham said...

Oh my, I'm blushing now. You're both far too kind. Thank you SO much. That's really buoyed me up.

Gina said...

I have loved reading this Jane and can only echo what has been already said... you are an extremely talented artist, whether you are painting or writing.

Karen Pine said...

Jane, I love your blog! You are just as funny, enthusiastic and creative in the blogosphere as you are in real life. AND you are publishing our book and have been terrific fun to work with and incredibly professional, so a Whopping HUGE thank you to you too!

menopausalmusing said...

What a post! So much humour in it.

I always sit watching films of people who are "jumpers" as they jump into water from great heights and wonder who was the first to do it, and how did they know how deep it was?

Your workspace looks like mine, only tidier!

Unknown said...

wow, this is a overwhelming post full of creativity! I especially like the dress/electricity pic!

Carrie said...

Great post, I really enjoyed reading it. I'm glad to see I'm not the only person who has decades old unfinished work. Love that necklace, really quirky.