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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Creativity Does not Just Happen - Artists Learning to Create Ideas

I get asked a lot of questions about creativity. How or why do particular ideas happen? Is it easy or difficult to find new art concepts? How can you create 10 sculptures in a month without burning out your creativity? And most important "What is your process???"

So lets talk about process. First of all its important to understand that I don't consider myself an artist with ideas. I consider myself an idea man who translates those ideas into art. With that in mind, the technique of art is not the most important aspect of my work. Its the idea first. And translating that idea into art second. 

Whats the difference you may ask? The difference is all in the mindset. I walk into the studio looking to take an idea or concept and bring it to life. The harder the idea is to translate, the more enticing it is for me. 
So my mind is in a constant flux state of seeking for the next idea. 

I see ideas everywhere. There is no process to it now. There was once, when I was younger I had to learn how to control my brain and start to see everything around me in a new way. Now its an automatic process that I probably can't even control anymore.

I'm not bragging. I'm just stating a fact that for me, I live and breath the creative process. Its not as grand as you might think. For a poor starving artist, many of the ideas I conceive are far beyond my means to accomplish. But my mind does not shut down just to please my budget. 

Consider for a moment a world where nothing you see is concrete. Everything you see can be turned into something else. Every item you might see is an idea for art. 

Here is a good example. Earlier this evening I was grabbing for the last Coca Cola from a 12 pack case in the refrigerator. As I removed the empty container and set it on the counter I suddenly no longer saw the box. I saw the rectangular shape first. Second I saw lots of rectangular boxes stacked into intricate shapes. Then I began to consider how lightweight the cardboard was and how it could be supported and made stronger. 

I could have kept this up all night. Now consider that all this took place in an instant. I was not standing in the kitchen staring dumbly at the box for ten minutes. It was a flash of inspiration. 

Is it a workable idea? Thats not the point. The point is to train the mind to consider everything around you as a potential idea. Was it a waste of time to get this idea from a soda box? No because the idea is now filed away for the future. The next flash I get may not be possible if I hadn't had the previous idea. 

If you've not read about my article on the cube brainstorming, I highly suggest you do so after this article because it directly relates to this process of filing ideas and using them to create other ideas.

In a way thats what this is all about. Rarely does an idea come fully formed and of itself. Instead its a compilation of dozens if not hundreds of other ideas blending together to form whole.

Consider that art is exactly the same. A piece of art isn't just a single idea. Its a merging of techniques, color, materials, etc. that form the whole. 

Idea generation is exactly the same. 

I see a lot of these self help brainstorming websites that talk about the process of brainstorming and doing so in a business setting. Their concepts are not wrong but it seems they always overlook one vital thing. That a good idea doesn't come from a single thought. A more effective brainstorming session would involve multiple sessions over weeks and months where original ideas could be thought on and regenerated and merged with newer ones. 

People who think they can just start brainstorming and find earth shattering ideas are deluding themselves. 

I sometimes call myself a transdisciplinary artist. When you look at the definition of this kind of art, you realize its about taking every bit of information from around you and translating it into your work. It spans many boundaries. I saw someone define it as a mental meat grinder where you shove as much and as many types of meat into the grinder to produce one hell of a cosmic sausage. 

But this is the creative process. 

If you spend your life in your studio without any external stimulus you will paint the same thing over and over again. You will see the same tree that you saw on your first adult camping trip when you were 16 and you will in turn paint that tree over and over again in variations. But if you take time to read a book of botany you may learn much more about trees. If the book as pictures you gain even more knowledge. You in turn start painting a wider variety of trees. But if you never took the time to read that book, you might be stuck in the same zone forever.

Now no person is totally isolated. We have information coming at us from million directions every day. The problem is that we haven't trained our minds to see that information in a new way and to process it into our work. If something makes a large impression on us (like that first camping trip when you were 16) then we may translate that image into art. But most humans just rely on those large impressions instead of training themselves to see the tiny things too.

So how do you train your mind? 

The first step is in making a conscious decision to start viewing your surroundings in a different way. This is a commitment. It can't be approached in a nonchalant way at the beginning. 

Set a goal. I will look at ten things in my day to day life in a different way. I will seek to see that object in a new way and envision how it can be used. You may say "well i'm just a painter. Why would I want to envision how to use a Coke box?" 

Remember that its not in the use you put it towards, but in the envisioning process of seeing the regular every day objects around you in a new way. If you can train your mind to do this, then later when you wish to use the process to generate ideas for your own art, it will come more easily. But this is where you begin. 

The pitfall is falling in love with your own ideas. Remember that most ideas by themselves aren't worth too much. Its in the way you combine these ideas with others that amazing things occur. There will be a tendency the first time you see an object in a new way to going running off like a madman to tell the world what you discovered. Stop! Step back, be analytical. Rather than getting heart palpitations. look at the idea objectively. Analyze it like Spock would. Balance it, scrutinize it and then file it away. Trust me, you'll know when something combines with other ideas to form something truly unique. 

 If you do this daily, there will come a time when you stop forcing yourself and you suddenly realize you had a flash of inspiration that you did not have to force. This is when you've reached a new balance in how you view the world.

This is not new age shit, even if it sort of sounds like it. This is the pure training of the mind to become an idea generator. 

Once you get there, constantly challenge yourself. Push your boundaries. Transform your personal world to look at everything in a new way and you'll be amazed how it changes your world. 

I'll write more on this later but your questions and thoughts are always appreciated and will be answered. You may even get a few new ideas you want to share back. And don't forget to read that brainstorming exercise


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