Tag Archives: artists

20 Seconds to overcome fear

rothko at Seagram

Marion Milner, a celebrated child psychoanalyst wrote of her own creative anxieties in her book On Not Being Able to Paint (Heineman, 1950, but still available). Fear is embedded in much of the writing on creativity, mainly because creativity is a public expression of internal life. It is a form of exposure, and ever mindful of judgemental others, we often are more afraid of what this exposure, than the actual creative results themselves. In most cases, despite self doubts, we are proud of our creativity, but know where it is deficient — we’re just nervous about hearing that from others.

Milner’s point rested on various assumptions about preconditions for the production of a work of art itself, namely technical mastery of materials. This is obviously in contrast to whether the creative results are personally satisfying, or articulate well what we are thinking. Art is form of expression, not just a meander across a canvas or a lump of clay deformed by idle hands.  This despite some art being of this form, of course.

Henry Peacock, in his excellent book  Art as Expression (Whalesback, 1995) observed that of his art students, the ones that drew well were the least creative as artists, as they were more intent on replicating the form of what they saw, whereas those who drew less well were more inclined to engage with and interpret the external world. Peacock’s book is important as it is provides inspiration for people to explore their creativity without the fear and anxiety of mastering technologies first (like pens and ink, and paint or clay).

All these issues are well-addressed in Art and Fear (Image, 2001) an excellent tonic by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

Taken together, the fear that drives many to avoid creativity is actually self-imposed and has no bearing on whether we are actually able to express ourselves through various artistic approaches.

I would like to encourage creative souls to shrug off their attachment to what things look like and think about how to let your inner perceptions work. The art world has its cycles, from loving the realistic paintings, with figurative precision through to inscrutible abstract constructions which for many may bring on a headache. Abstraction is the true form (sounds like a mantra…), it excites and challenges the mind, is obviously much harder to do, as it requires real honesty and elegant presentation of complex inner thoughts. For others, it is easier to paint the vase and the flower and I accept that for many people this is enjoyable and satisfying. I’m only saying, there can be more.

Art methodologists and historians may see artistic periods like the tide — new ideas come in and wash away the old. Once done, it can’t be done again. Some think of it as the shock of the new, as all art history must be constantly rewritten from the perspective of current artistic tides. That does not mean that these perhaps passe modes of expression have nothing to say, otherwise why do we keep them on show in art galleries and museums.

You need to look at a work of abstraction for a least 20 seconds in order for your brain to decide that you are really interested and then it starts to process in detail what you’re looking at. Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself.

 

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The Magpie revisited

The Russian “United Art Rating” is an artist rating service of the Artist Trade Union of Russia and which uses the following scale for rating artists

artist at work

(nationally and internationally) [source here]

  • 1 – an artist of world fame, tested with time (for more than a century).
  • 1A – a world famous artist.
  • 1B – a high-class professional artist with remarkable organizational skills, who is popular and in demand.
  • 2A – a high-class professional artist with a bright creative individuality.
  • 2B – a high-class professional artist, recognized and in demand with the art-market and public.
  • 3A – a professional artist with a recognizable individual style.
  • 3B – a professional artist, recognized and asked for in the art market and by the public.
  • 4A – an established professional artist with creative potential.
  • 4B – an established professional artist, who is in demand in the art market.
  • 5A – a formed professional artist with creative potential.
  • 5B – a formed professional artist.
  • 6A – a forming professional artist with creative potential.
  • 6B – a forming professional artist.
  • 7 – an amateur artist with perspective evaluation of specialists.
  • 8 – an amateur artist.
  • 9 – an artist-beginner.
  • 10 – an artist-scholar.

I like the fact this scale enables me to distinguish between artists qua artists and artists that focus on the market. The categories also distinguish creative aspects (A) and one category higher than the same artist with a market focus or popularity (B). This helps distinguish between the pull of the market from the push of the artist.

What they don’t give away is how they assess creativity, innovation, but perhaps that is best left to them, but I would dearly love to look inside this assessment ‘black box’.  I think the Artists Union would approve of my notion of magpies, and may even agree that there are vampire artists.

Now, how can we apply this to art education to ensure that the ‘vampire’ art schools are distinguished from truly inspirational educational environments. Then I’ll be even happier!

For those so inclined, it is known that there are historical chains of connection between Nobel laureates and innovative research work. Would it be possible to chain link the artists together (apart from the traditional approach to grouping artists in schools as such) to identify particularly productive chains of innovation and association.

 

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And from a child … true abstraction

Aelita Andrea is very young and yet she is showing us what goes on in the mind of a child through her art. See her website here.

No pictures for this one. You just have to go and enjoy the insight and enthusiasm she shows for her work. Likened to a young Jackson Pollock, some describe her work as a combination of Absract Expressionism and Surrelism. Perhaps more of the former, than the latter.

And let’s reflect on Picasso who opined that he spent a lifetime trying to paint like a child.

What is just a delight is her chosen form is abstraction, some further evidence that the natural, unsocialised mind is comfortable with the abstract. It is only through the destructive process we call primary and secondary education, that our natural creative inclinations are stilled, in some cases forever.

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The Magpie Index to Assess Autonomous Creativity

What is a magpie and what has it got to do with artists?

English: A juvenile Australian Magpie (Cractic...

An artist? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have posted and written about how people learn to be artists by copying the art of other artists. As I put it, a bit like copying Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare thinking it will help you be a better writer. I see students copying paintings in art galleries as essentially learning to steal, not developing autonomous and authoritative creativity.

The history of art is full of copyists, fakers, as well as artists whose work has been appropriated by less creative (usually male) others. And there are artists whose work fills the sidewalks of cities, with dreary scenes, painted in predictable formats to fit in the luggage of tired tourists who need evidence of the visit.

And there is the art that stops us in our tracks, and changes our world forever: we weep in its power, reflect on it, are challenged by it, never bored, are overwhelmed by its subtley, timelessness. It is  the shock of the new. This is not the shock of the shock itself; the sort of things kids do by writing dirty words on the side of buildings to get a rise from the neighbours, or swearing in front of the parents — mere juvenalia and the sort of art produced by students in art schools who churn out starry eyed people whose greatest shock in life will be the realisation that they will never be famous.

So what about magpies? Well, don’t they steal shiny things, and hoard their ill-gotten harvest? Don’t some artists simply thieve away, copying others, depending on other creatives for inspiration?

Languages are full of words which writers get to combine any way they like, as long as they don’t deliberately copy another person which we call this plagiarism. We often hear sequences in one musical composition that occur in another, but a different context, but without formal references, but inspiration is evident. In the same way that we don’t footnote every word we use, we must acknowledge some creative ownership of sequences of words produced by another person.

So, when is an artist like a magpie? When they pretend to be creative, and importantly, when they lack autonomous creativity, in themselves, and depend on being stimulated solely by the work of others. A harsh standard perhaps.

And when is an artist not like a magpie? Now that is the interesting question!

Email me with artists assessed against my Magpie Index and let’s see what we have.

The Magpie Index

The Magpie index has these ‘chunks’: 1: thieves, 2-3 copiests, 5-7 creators, with 4 the transitional score:

1: thief: unrepetentent plagiarist, counterfeiter/faker

2: copiest: mostly copied work, and little evidence of underlying messages, work is mainly mute or pointless

3: copiest: some interesting ideas, and evidence of having something to say, but may be immature and perhaps too ‘on the nose’ to have any deep impact

4: maturing: evidence of creativity that comes from within more than from others; this is a transitional score between copying and creating

5: creator: mainly original art work with evidence of some, perhaps only glimmerings, of something to say

6: creator: frequently challenging work, evidence of original perceptions and ideas being presented, work is thoughtful and worth more than 20 seconds of your time

7: creator: autonomous, original, changes fundamental perceptions, evidence of authority, strong though not always evident messages

A final note is that the Magpie index is not ageist; younger artists are as likely to fail as older artists. Or to put this another way, older emerging artists are as likely to score 5 and up as the hot young things that fascinate the ‘art establishment’.

‘nough said.

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