Tuesday, March 27, 2012

God is in the Details

On this, the 126th birthday of the famous international architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, I'm celebrating by thinking about creativity.

I have often made the claim that everyone is innately creative, not because everyone can paint like Picasso or sculpt like Donatello or build fabulous buildings like Mies van der Rohe.

Rather, human beings are creative because it is the spiritual imperative of all human beings to create.  This is a theme I have been exploring as a recovering creative and as a person who coaches others in creative recovery.

Claiming our own creativity is key to living a whole life, as it is just as much a part of our existence as our occupation is, or our relationships, or our families.  People make very complicated arguments for this or against it, but I believe that the desire to engage the creative process is so strong that we can take very simple measures to jump-start it.  It lies not far below the surface.

In honor of Mies van der Rohe's axiom, "Less is more", here are some simple suggestions to spark your own creative process.

1.  Think of a boring task you do routinely.  Ask this question of yourself:  "If I were interested in this, what part of it would interest me?"

2.   Buy a fruit or vegetable you have never prepared before and learn how to prep/cook/serve it.

3.  Consider a vexatious problem or dilemma.  Promise yourself that it will be solved, but that at the moment your job is merely to relax and breathe.  Walk around the block, take a hot shower, or soak in the tub.

4.  Consciously choose a different route to work or school every day for a week.

5.  On a plain sheet of paper, draw or just make marks with your non-dominant hand.  Do this non-judgmentally and without worrying about results.  Breathe deeply.

6.  Look through a kaleidoscope.  Notice the colors, patterns, and changes.

7.  With kiddie crayons, color in a coloring book, using unconventional colors for familiar things-blue hair, red trees, etc.  Color outside the lines if you want.!

So that's one to try for every day of the week.  I don't claim these will turn anyone into Picasso, but they will make you feel more like smiling and just might put you one step closer to realizing your creative potential.  Happy birthday, Mies! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It is Thursday and, happily, I have no classes today which is not the same thing as having no class today.  On the heels of a wonderful little winter storm I am noticing that the sky is a clean-scrubbed blue up above the clouds.  I asked my painting professor just what formula  I would have to mix in order to replicate its depth and intensity.

These are the things that launch one-hour conversations among painters and get us completely distracted from otherwise productive lives.  When you steep yourself in the bubbling cauldron of creativity you discover not only how strong you are, like Eleanor Roosevelt's proverbial tea bag, you also discover the severe limitations that come with having to live within the parameters of conventional time.  Suddenly, 24 hours per day become 12, or even 8.  Weeks contain 3 or 4 days:  the ones spent not painting or planning to paint or dreaming of painting or buying new paint or discussing paint are just somehow not in the week.
They have escaped to a world of other pursuits, the unreal plane populated by all things non-painting.

Even when not painting I live in a color theory and composition world.  I notice that I make plates for my breakfasts, lunches, and dinners resemble faces or landscapes by different artists.  Today's was an essay into the non-objective and begs the question "What would happen if a portrait-on-a-plate had no recognizable features but used only color, line and form?"  This is the kind of question that has landed artists in loony bins for years.  It was also Wasily Kandinsky playing in my head.

I'm not sure how many hours I've been working.  The clock indicates I've been here just under 25 minutes, but it also seems that the creative breakthroughs are always the work of hours and days and weeks and yes, even years of dreaming and exploring.  So over a plate of scrambled eggs and mushrooms a new relativity has become manifest.  It must mean it's time to quit doing non-painting things and do what's important.

But lest we think that time spent in the world of imagining is time misspent, remember this:

"Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.  Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning."   -Gloria Marie Steinem

And, for those who are curious:  a sky like today's begins life on canvas with pthalo blue and cobalt, or maybe 2 parts cobalt, 8 parts titanium white, and 1/2 part cadmium yellow light.  Happy painting!