Spark: How Creativity Works

“Work comes out of work.” ~ Richard Serra

This memorable quote leapt out of the pages of Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein, the producer of Studio 360. The book, which chronicles the creative process of many of today’s creators, is filled with little nuggets like this to inspire you.

As you know, I am all about the process – the creative process that is! While the finished product is a feat, for me it is the process that is really intriguing.

That’s why this was the first non-school related book, in a long time, that I not only read but devoured. From the first story that takes us on a journey with the artist Chuck Close as he discovers his renowned painting style despite his physical and learning challenges, I was hooked. According to Close,

“Inspiration is for amateurs, and the rest of us just show up and get to work. But so much of it comes out of the process…”

The rest of the book continues to explore the creative process, in all its forms, with examples from writers, architects, musician, and actors alike.

There are stories on how artists have dealt with adversity, created modern alchemy through their work, worked with partners and collaborators and just got to work. In this last chapter, the writer, Isabel Allende discusses, in fascinating detail, her ritual of starting a new work each year.

This book provides a deeper look into the creative process of some of the most intriguing contemporary artists and is a must read for process lovers.

  • How have your life experiences influenced your work?

Lessons From a Creative Genius

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear a real creative genius speak. Ann Hamilton has been one of my art heroes, since I attended graduate school and studied public art in the same city Ann had moved back to only years before.

Her large scale installations, with an amazing attention to detail, have fascinated me, so when I saw she would be speaking at the Cleveland Museum of Art, I cleared my schedule and made an intention to be there.

The trip and the experience were definitely worth the wait. Ann delighted the audience with a historical trajectory of her work and infused it with inspiring tidbits that I was able to capture in my small notebook. Here are a few of them, along with my interpretations:

“Work is created through acts of (our) attention.”
This pretty much sums up not only her work, but any work that we do as creators. It is truly the focus that we put into art that makes it come to life.

“Making (work) is falling open to possibilities.”
Another accurate assessment of the creative process. If it were not for the possibilities we would not be able to create anything. A nice reminder for all creatives.

“(You) need to be uncomfortable to make work.”
How many times have you waited for the right time to create or the perfect idea to fall from the sky? Probably always. And how often has it happened? Probably never. Work is hard and you need to be uncomfortable to find the friction to create.

“Follow your questions and trust the things you don’t know.”
None of us has all the answers and that is why questions are so important to the creative process. Start with your questions and see where they lead. You may be surprised by the result.

  • What lessons have you learned from a creative genius?

Image Source: the-colossus

Creative Building Reuse

Yesterday, Parade magazine published an article on a creative building transformation that has taken place outside St. Louis, where a struggling enclosed shopping mall has been turned into a thriving arts center. If you haven’t read it yet, check out Can Art Save a Mall?

It’s a good example of how an existing building, and once popular destination, can be reinvented instead of torn down. One of my other favorite creative building reuses is the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA. Once an actual torpedo factory during the early part of last century, the building now houses three floors of working artist studios, galleries, an art school, and a museum.

As the economy struggles and more buildings become and remain vacant, I wonder what other creative building reuses will emerge.


Creative Advertising

Have you seen this commercial for BMW?

I just saw it a few nights ago. It was one of those rare times when I actually stopped and took notice of a television commercial, because it was so creative. I was captivated by the use of a car and paint to create a large scale art work seemingly inspired by Jackson Pollock and Abstract Expressionism.

Art in the Park

Yesterday, I had a fabulous day strolling around the square in Medina, OH for their annual Art in the Park sponsored by the Medina County Art League. If you are a regular reader, you know there are two things that I absolutely adore: art fairs and inspiration. Well, Art in the Park did not disappoint and provided me with both.

I am not sure how I have missed this art fair in previous years, but I am glad I found it. Set in a charming town square, this art fair had plenty of arts and crafts to delight the eyes and a performance stage in the town’s gazebo to add some musical flair.

One of the artists I discovered, Kathleen Green, won an arts prize at last year’s fair and this year did not disappoint with her gorgeously painted renderings of county life, including colorful clothes drying on a clothesline.

Image Medina County Art League

Art Bar: Part II

In a previous post I gushed about Art Bars never even having tasted one. Their concept of combining fair-trade chocolate bars and fine art seemed to be the perfect pairing.

Well, while I was in Los Angeles and visiting the gift shop at the Huntington Library I bought one: dark chocolate with coconut. Not only was the chocolate yummy, but the artwork inside was captivating: a miniature reproduction of an original sepia-toned silver gelatin print by Meg Birnbaum. The tiny little artwork also included a brief and well-appreciated interpretation.

Finally, a portion of the proceeds from Art Bars goes toward art education, including the International Child Art Foundation.

  • Interested in submitting your art work?

Image Ithaca Fine Chocolates

The Creative Power of Kids

Last week I taught about seven art classes in a row for kids in kindergarten through third grade. It was part of a Cultural Arts Day at an elementary school. I’ve participated in this program for the last three years as an artist.

This year, I noticed something interesting about the students. Normally, I have a mix of grades, but this year I started with the kindergartners and finished with the third graders. This progression gave me the opportunity to observe creative expression from the youngest kids in the school to the oldest.

And what did I notice?

The youngest students were done with the project the quickest, while the older students finished just in time or not at all. I wondered why this was. Then I realized it was because the kindergartners had less inhibitions than the second and third graders. The older kids spent so much time analyzing the colors they chose and filling in all the details. Yet the younger kids went with their intuition and just had fun coloring.

Waking Up Your Inner Artist

Spring is a great time to wake up your inner artist after a long winter. This year, I pulled out my Everyday Creative Cards for 30 Ways to Wake Up Your Inner Artist by Eric Maisel, a tool I have never used, despite them sitting on my bookshelf for years.

Since each card has a different inspiring message and activity, I decided to start by randomly selecting one from the deck. The card I chose happened to be one on growing creative by creating today. A quote at the top declared:

“Today is the best day to create. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow isn’t here.”

I had a little difficulty with the first task, which was to do some creative work. I thought about creating a mini collage, but then realized I didn’t have enough time to pull out all of my images and supplies to complete one, so why start it in the first place?

Instead, I decided to focus on the second activity: respond creatively to life. It seemed like something I could fit into my busy schedule. So that day, I focused on observing as a creative tool. I really paid attention to even the smallest details throughout my day. I noticed the colors of houses and looked at the clouds in the sky comparing patterns. It made me appreciate my surroundings in a creative way. It turned out to be even more fulfilling than creating an actual piece of art.

  • Look for artistic connections as you respond creatively to life.

Twitter Tips for Creatives

I am a recent convert to Twitter. I resisted the temptation to join, because like most people, I didn’t understand the benefits of tweets.

Last month, I finally took the plunge and joined Twitter. Once on the site, I immediately got hooked on finding other creatives to follow and reading their tweets and checking out their links.

I also found this article on Tweetable Art: 10 Twitter Tips for Artists. Some of the suggestions like linking to works in progress and your blog are pretty standard social media marketing, but I really like the idea of starting a collector’s club by setting your account to private and offering discounts to those who follow you. Don’t miss the comments section where there are even more tips.

Flash Forward

When I first started this blog, one of my goals was to highlight creativity in the international, national, and local spotlight. I realize I have been a little lax in the last area.

I hope this post makes up for that. On Friday, I attended the opening of Flash Forward at SPACES here in Cleveland. Well, me and about several hundred other also people attended. This is the first time I’ve been to an opening here that was so crowded I could barely enjoy the art.

However, I did have a chance to check out works by two up and coming artists, each who use traditional materials in very non-traditional and creative ways.

The first is Jon Nathaniel Cotterman, a local artist working in glass. What is so interesting about his work lies in the way he deconstructs glass goblets. Cotterman reuses the pieces to create box-like sculptures transforming their original decorative and utilitarian purpose into art.

The other artist is Yumiko Goto. She works in ceramics and her work is based on nature. One of her most stunning pieces is an installation of many ceramic containers nestled together to create a new larger piece of art that you can move around and admire.

  • What could you create out of ordinary materials?