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Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Art of the Mind

A dear friend of mine had a birthday recently. We were concerned for her because her cat who she was deeply attached to was dying from cancer and this would probably be his last few weeks on earth. A melancholy birthday to say the least.

I wanted to create something special for her and I announced my intentions to my partner to create a sculpture of the cat. The day before the birthday came and I still had not started it and my partner in his subtle way said "were you still going to do that sculpture". In other words, your almost out of time dumb ass, get on the ball.

I grumbled and said I was working on it and stomped away. But I stopped and thought for a moment. I wasn't just giving an excuse for work not done. I suddenly realized I really had been working on it, for several days actually. I was building the piece in my mind.

No that is not an excuse either. I'd literally from the moment I first thought about the idea been building it. I'd discarded several forms, selected materials, realized my own limitations and skills and had come full circle back to the work table with a fully formed sculpture in my head.

Art for the artist is built as much with the mind as it is with the hands. If I had not taken the time to build the piece mentally first, I would fail at building it as an object later. I suppose this is a fact that I'd always known, but I was looking at it in a different way. It is also a fact that I do not have experience in animals. To create one in sculpture form meant that I absolutely had to look at it mentally first. There was a much greater potential to screw it completely up.

The other thing I realized at that moment was that the mind building portion was what in the end took the longest. Once I knew the form it should take, and the materials I should use to put it together, the actual construction of the sculpture would go quickly.

I know some artists create off the cuff. They just look at the canvas and let it appear beneath their fingertips. This works particularly well in the world of abstract painting. But to think through a piece first and to place as much creativity into the idea as you do into the construction is infinitely satisfying and I think in the end creates a much better quality piece of art. I am not saying that in order to say pieces thought out are always better than pieces created on the spur. I just think if you place your mind into a piece that in the end the depth and quality are palpable. If you are just slinging paint onto a canvas because you know the steps you were taught in college to make a good tree, then it might be a fantastic tree, but one with little soul to it. (No offense to tree painters)

But it really struck home to me how much creativity of any kind is cerebral. We may think our hands are the most important aspect of what we do as artists, but indeed its how and what we think up first that lets our hands do the work.

For me personally, to think through a piece of art is part of the pure joy of creating. I cherish finding something unusual like a strange piece of driftwood and just setting my mind into figuring out what it should become. 

I think it answers another question I've always had. I get people that ask me about my techniques for coming up for ideas. In response I've created several tutorials for brainstorm and idea building. But I find that many people just don't grasp what I write. I always thought it was just because I was a crappy writer. But I think now its because before you can use some of the techniques I write about you have to grasp that art is of the mind first. 

Many that go through art school come out only learning technique. They do not learn how to make the mind function in idea mode. So when they are done they grasp the technical but they do not grasp the mental games artists must play with themselves in order to create good art. 

Self taught artists on the other hand I think have not had the mind conditioned out of their work. They explore more easily and they aren't afraid to let their imagination wander. So while there is a place for school taught artists, there is also a place for the outsider and an artist can learn from both perspectives.

Take a look at how your mind creates. You may find it as valuable as learning a new technique.



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