I was an artist for years but I did not really own up to it. I said that I was an artist but inside I did not believe it to a big part of me. I was also a mother, wife, teacher and more. All of them were even. As time went by, I wondered why my ‘artist’ self was not growing. Much later, I realized that I treated every part of my ‘selves’ evenly. I only allotted a certain amount of time to my ‘art’ self. As I let the ‘art self’ get more space in my life, my artist in me grew and got better. My artist persona took more of my time and my art grew.
Decide to be an artist. This is what you do:
1. Make a list of all the ‘selves’. This can be mother, father, care giver, mediator, daughter, son, etc…
2. Beside each self, write the percent of your life that it is…ie. 10% daughter, 8% student, 18 % artist, etc… Everything should add up to 100%.
Which of these parts could be smaller? Can you downsize some of these parts? Can you plan meals ahead of time? Can you shop once a week instead of three? Can you get a robot vacuum that works when you are not there instead of vacuuming yourself? These are just ideas to trigger you into finding time for your art.
Another example is the time you use travelling to your job and back. Are you driving? Get a recorder to record your ideas as you drive. Use your phone. I get great ideas as I drive but if I don’t get them down, they disappear.
If you take the bus, can you sketch or doodle your ideas? This is time well used. Can you doodle as you wait for children to finish their lessons? Can you doodle as you wait for your spouse? Or wait at the doctor’s office?
3. Add your extra time to your ‘artist’ self. This is time that you can be an artist. You can use the time to draw, sculpt, work out ideas and more.
4. The carving out of time for your art is part of being an artist. You need to allow yourself the time. You need to give yourself permission to be an artist and act like an artist. Say to yourself ‘I am an artist’ and then, just act like one. Do your drawing, sculpting or whatever you do. Do it now! Make time to do it now!
There are a lot of efficiency ideas out there. One book you can consult is ‘Eat that frog’ by Brian Tracy. What I gleaned from him is that you should do the job that you dread the most first. When that hard job is over, everything else is easy. Another person you could listen to on Youtube is @David Snyder. He discusses how you can change yourself to make things happen. You can also read this article on @Artwork Archive: https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/9-things-you-should-give-up-to-be-a-successful-artist. This article will suggest what you should give up to become an artist. You can also check out my class on Udemy.com: Basic information to get started in art -tip and techniques.
Looking on the positive side, it boils down to adding time to your art practice. Spend time with your artwork. Believe in yourself. You are an artist.
In this final blog about ‘Wired to create’ by @Scott B. Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (2015), I am going to follow their concept that artists or creatives should accept that they think differently because thinking outside of the box is a positive trait. Doing something that is different from what is traditionally acceptable is thinking differently.
Kaufman and Gregoire give the example of @Steve Jobs and his marketing strategies such as ‘change the world for the better’, as an example of thinking differently. Challenging the status quo. Henri Matisse was known for pushing the art world from post impressionism to modernism. He said that creativity takes courage.
Following your own path takes courage. Many artists did this; @Picasso, @Van Gogh, @Rodin, @Georgia O’Keeffe and many many more. There are a lot of examples of artists being rejected. Dr. Seus rejected 99 times. The first Harry Potter book was rejected 12 times. Creators create again and again and again. Thomas Edison had a 33% rejection rate for his inventions. Shakespeare had several failures as did Bethoven but the point is that they did not stop. They continued creating. According to Kaufman and Gregoire creative people learn to see failure as a stepping stone to success. They keep going and going like the famous energiser bunny.
Creativity is the natural result of risk taking says Kaufman and Gregoire. Artists are risk takers. We must not fear making mistakes. According to @Sir Ken Robinson, we, as a population, are loosing the creative trait because it is being educated out of us in the school system. Sir Ken Robinson argues that we’ve been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. If you want to know more about this, you can watch:
How do we become more creative? We can embrace our ‘messiness’ – our unique way of embracing the world. Creativity is not only about creative work but also about living creatively. Perception of a task can make it a problem or a challenge. Whether you think a drawing or a painting is a failure is largely a matter of perception. But there’s no getting away from the effect the feeling of having produced a failure has on you.You can become demoralised. You doubt your ability. Perhaps you start to wonder if you really have it in you to be an artist. Don’t go there!
Here are some web sites or articles that can help you:
If you can view the pieces you do from the beginning as just another part of your learning process, another step along your path, it becomes much easier to stay focused on improving, to let go and move on to the next one.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, I know. It’s not like you can change your approach to your work overnight. However, every time you have a failure, instead of seeing it as the end of something, see it as the middle of a longer project.
For me, my approach to what I do has changed gradually over the years. At the moment, although I draw every day, I don’t try to produce any finished pieces at all. I’m purely focused on practice, keeping my regular drawing practice habit going above all else. Funnily enough, some of what I produce now is more beautiful (in my humble opinion) than what I produced when I was trying to create beautiful, finished pieces.
Yes, lots of what I produce isn’t beautiful. Lots of it is throw away, just trying things out. Or even, on my most difficult days, just drawing so that I can say to myself that I turned up and did my practice.If I had any advice, I would just say ‘show up, work, don’t evaluate, work some more and try again when an idea isn’t your favorite. If you keep working you will find your favorite but if you stop, you will not.
Intuition is also the friend of creativity if you let it. There are many ways to stimulate your creativity according to the book ‘Wired to create’ by @Scott B. Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (2015). Known to us as a ‘gut feeling’, intuition is that unconscious nudge that pushes us into action or that nagging feeling that we should keep going without really knowing why.
Kaufman and Gregoire say that intuition is a form of thinking and it arises from the link between conscious and subconscious. We need both. This interaction between the two helps us think, reason and create. You have the conscious mind that is more effortful and controlled and the subconscious that may be faster and more sophisticated. Both are needed for the creative process. As we move between the two, we get flashes of insight. Studies have shown that different regions of the brain are triggered at different times in the creative process.
According to studies, Kaufman and Gregoire suggest that there are steps to creating that insight. A good mood helps as it broadens your attention. Focus on happier thoughts. It is important to note that like most theories, there are exceptions and some people get their best ideas in a bad mood. If you had to choose, which would you pick? I would go for the happy mood myself.
Build up your knowledge base of a particular subject you are interested in or stimulate your brain with a new subject and you will be on your way to priming your brain for action. However, there is one problem. In the book Outliers by@ Malcolm Gladwell
said that 10,000 hours are needed to master a skill. Sometimes, more than that. Check out this article:
After you have enough knowledge of your subject, there comes delaying action and playing around with ideas (which I mentioned in an earlier blog) and this is a necessary step. You should take the time to just let the moment happen. So, in my world, that means allowing some time to just play with the ideas. Let the ideas come and go. Make a small painting or two using your ideas. Discard the bad ones and keep the better ones.
The authors also say that you should also allow yourself new or unusual experiences. Explore you interests that you don’t usually have time for. If you like diving out of airplanes, go now. Explore interests that you haven’t spent time on yet like collecting fossils, for example. If you have always wondered how Persian carpets are made, look it up. These activities should follow your interests. The important part is giving yourself time to do them.The desire to learn and discover are more important than any other factors. This drive for exploration is what provides the raw materials for the ‘insight’.
The insight happens during what is called Flow. A flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone. At this stage, a person performs an activity, is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.
Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975, the concept of flow has been adopted by many creativity experts. Kaufman and Gregoire say that what disrupts the familiar is what leads to new ideas. A balance between the intellectual, imaginative, aesthetic and emotional realm is important for creative work. Habit and convention are creativity killers. But, to create change that will trigger ideas, you don’t have to move to another country, just try something new. Try new skill, a trip to art galleries, a new food, a new kind of movie, a documentary on something that you have never heard of before and so on.
Mindfulness and flow go hand in hand. Remember that mindfulness is focussing on what you are doing in the moment. The roots of Mindfulness come from Buddhism. Like flow, mindfulness became popular in the 1970’s. Artists like Leonard Cohen adopted Buddhist beliefs and started practicing the basic principles. Steve Jobs, co-founder, chief executive and chairman of Apple Computers, is another person who adopted Buddhist beliefs and mindfulness in particular.
In more recent times, mindfulness has been used to increase functioning abilities in executives in order to increase concentration and flexibility in every day life. Mindfulness is also linked to greater memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The goal is to be present when those good thoughts arrive and remember them.
So what can you do? Kaufman and Gregoire present some interesting ideas that some of their research revealed. One person in their study wrote down one item every day that caught her attention or was ‘interesting’. This was material that made her more present in her life and made her notice what was around her. She was a seeker of interesting and a collector of interesting things.
What can we do as artists to imitate this idea?
-Draw one item a day.
-First thing in the morning, look outside. Draw the feeling.
-Take 5 minutes in your day and stop. Close your eyes. Smell.
-When you eat a new food, eat it slowly. Draw it.
-Sit for one minute and look around you. What do you see? What catches your eye?
Going back to the beginning, intuition, flow and mindfulness are all interlinked. Observation is the one skill that is closely linked to creativity. According to Kaufman and Gregoire, the one skill that creatives need to disobey is acting with awareness, because it restricts mind wandering, one of the key components of creativity. So as artists if we work on our projects, we work them one at a time. I have a hard time doing this. Mixed media work needs time to dry so I tend to work on 3-5 projects at a time but there is one point in the painting where I focus on just the single work. This is near the end of the project. I let my ideas flow just for that one work. Your challenge is to try this and see if it works for you. Find the right routine that will lead to better and better work.
Passion is not enough, sensitivity is not enough and intuition is not enough
For creativity to happen, more has to happen. You need passion, intuition, and solitude, according to the book ‘Wired to create’ by @Scott B. Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (2015). Kaufman and Gregoire say that most creative people can recall a time in their life where they saw, heard, sensed or tasted something that made them decide that ‘this’ is what they wanted to do in their life. They discovered their ‘passion’. In that person’s self, the individual and the activity intertwined to become one. The authors believe that this is what propels people towards their destinies.
However, the next step must happen. The individual must take steps towards that ‘passion’ and find the element in it that best suits them. A person needs to choose, develop the skills and be willing to put in the time needed to develop the skills. At the same time, the person needs to find a way to integrate that passion in their lifestyle.
Within the passion, there are moments of inspiration. First the person is inspired by something (a role model, an idea or an experience) then we start to see the possibilities of this change or idea. Kaufman and Gregoire say that the person is ‘awakened’ to the possibilities. The next step is important. Taking action or working towards that idea comes next. In there we must add a step; preparation or the development of skills. This means learning the skill needed to transform the idea or develop the passion.
If, in the development of the skills, you realize that you don’t have the muscle strength to become a wood carver, is there a way that you can take the same idea and use different materials. You need to try to develop the skills to find out. Moving in that direction does not guarantee success with the project. The ability to modify your idea and use different materials for example, is part of the creative process.
Kaufman and Gregoire say that inspired people are more likely to do more work hard because they are more driven. The idea or inspiration and the work ethic need to work together. The authors agree that not only does the person need to love the dream, they must love the process of becoming the person who can sculpt or paint. Perseverance in achieving that goal is essential. The person needs to be able to hold onto that goal for a long time in order to achieve or realize it.
Hope, according to Kaufman and Gregoire, is a driving factor. A hopeful state of mind pushes the person through tough moments or stages. People approach their goals not only with hope but with strategies that lead to success.
Solitude. No, you do not have to be a hermit. Kaufman and Gregoire say that a ‘room of one’s own’ is a basic need for most creative people. Some people make their own ‘room’ by getting up early or staying up after everyone else is in bed. Creatives need alone time but they are not necessarily lonely. The solitude gives the mind space to reflect, find meaning and connect all those different ideas floating around in their heads.
One book that describes this very well is Quiet by @Susan Cain (https://www.quietrev.com). Cain describes best the creative’s need for time away from the masses. A capacity for solitude is a sign of emotional maturity and it is a skill that can be learned.
Creatives tend to work alone and this is needed time for reflection. The mind needs time to settle down in order to ‘reflect’ on the day or the project. Internal reflection can also be done when the body is doing mundane tasks like washing dishes, laundry or other activities that are more or less automatic.
Sensitivity. Kaufman and Gregoire advocate that sensitivity is a gift. According to research, sensitive creatives have higher levels of awareness, see their world with heightened awareness and are more autonomous. For example, they might see ‘brighter’ colors or detailed textures.
Heightened sensitivity can be a challenge and an asset. Kaufman and Gregoire note that it requires spending more time alone. Creatives need to block out this sensitivity sometimes and at other times focus on it. To the sensitive mind, there is more to observe, take in, feel and process. Sensitive people pick up on small items or changes in their environment that others miss. Creatives also process things more deeply. For example, they are more affected by caffeine, medication and pain than others. The result for some is also a roller coaster of emotions and they need to channel that energy into something that is meaningful for their lives.
Do you want to know if you are a sensitive person? Ask yourself:
You absolutely abhor violence and cruelty of any kind. …
You‘re frequently emotionally exhausted from absorbing other people’s feelings. …
Time pressure really rattles you. …
You withdraw often. …
You‘re jumpy. …
You think deeply. …
Sudden, loud noises startle you. For more information you can go to:
Sensitive people detect changes in their environment faster, see detail more, are more sensitive to people’s expressions. Kaufman and Gregoire say that experiences of extreme adversity show us our own strength. As creatives, we are more sensitive to our environment. We feel more deeply. Adversity affects us more. However, that also gives us more material to work with. Being more aware, we are in a position to go beyond just what we see, touch, feel and experience.
Buddhists believe that anything that challenges you makes you pull yourself together. Growth after adversity. Kaufman and Gregoire quote research that says that 70% of trauma survivors report some positive psychological growth and it makes us more creative. Creative work can be a way of exploring and giving expression to that meaning according to Kaufman and Gregoire. Creativity doesn’t require adversity. It is just that adversity makes us more aware and being aware of our environment is part of creativity.
We reconsider things we took for granted, for example. We are forced to evaluate our life differently or ask questions we would not have asked before. We go beyond our limitations into another realm of thinking. In Finland this is called Sisu; the ability to face extraordinary circumstances, courage, resoluteness and an action mindset.
Creativity can also be a coping mechanism during a traumatic time or after a traumatic time. Kaufman and Gregoire say that when we engage in creative activities we tend to become involved or absorbed into the action. And entering a flow state that gives us a sense of control, enjoyment and accomplishment. Kaufman and Gregoire also say that creativity is also a sign that growth has occurred and is an expression of healing.
Adversity need not be a traumatic death. It can be reading a challenging book and finishing it. If this book challenges your basic beliefs, it is considered a challenge. Facing this challenge can lead to change. Kaufman and Gregoire tell us that the best way to get a creative boost is to take a risk and be prepared to fail.
As an artist can you challenge yourself to do something new like:
-Go to some new galleries
-Go visit some artist studios
-Go plein air painting
-Use some new materials or colors
-Go dumster diving for new materials at the Reuse Centre
-Watch some videos by master artists
In the next blog I will talk about intuition…See you then.
Sleep is the fuel for your creative process. Nothing else beats boosts creativity better. According to Sherry Baker in ‘The power of sleep’ (The secrets of creativity, New York: Centennial Media,2019), scientific studies show that keeping regular sleeping hours is the best. Skimping on sleep and pulling all-nighters will harm your brain and creativity even if you sleep extra hours later.
Problem solving is better if you get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Art is all about problem solving. Remember when you decided to finish your painting by working into the wee hours only to discover the next day that you had wrecked it? Most artists have done this. The reason is because your brain needed the sleep to solve the issues. Your brain needed time to rest and think.
According to this article, if you have a problem what you need to do is to wonder about the solutions to your problem before going to sleep. Your brain will work out ideas while you sleep. In the morning, you may have a solution. With the extra sleep you got, you will at least be able to come up with solutions rather than stand there and go ‘duh’ because you are too sleep deprived to come up with any ideas at all.
Most artists have extensive amounts of small tasks that they need to do for their art business. According to Baker, don’t keep all those details in your head. Write them down. Just the act of making a list will help you sleep better and make better decisions in the morning. Keep paper and pencil on your night table.
Too many ideas lead to artists waking up in the night. What this author also suggests is that you write down any ideas that come to you during the night. Quickly jot them down or record them with your phone then go back to sleep. In the morning, you can analyze those ideas to see if they apply to your current challenging work issue.
There is a whole section in this article on writing down your dreams. The author says that it takes time to develop this habit. First thing in the morning, jot down your dreams. At first, there may be only a few words or ideas that you will remember. Eventually your mind will retain more of the dreams you have had. Dreams can then be analyzed to see if they are trying to tell you how to solve your problem.
I have to admit that I have not been able to remember dreams. However, sleeping eight hours a night as much as possible had helped me a lot. The more rested I am, the better my ideas are, the easier I can solve problems and the more patient I am with ‘challenging’ people. Sleeping well and more has done more for me than anything else. I found that the regular my sleeping hours were, the better I performed in my art making. So, if I was to give any advice, it would be: Get some sleep now!
The Butterfly effect is a theory that originated with a scientist named Johann Gottlieb Fichtein The Vocation of Man (1800). He says “you could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby … changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole”(Wikepedia). The theory was examined by other scientists primarily in relation to the weather over the following years and into recent times.
Ray Bradbury explored the concept in his fiction book “A Sound of Thunder”, a 1952 short story about time travel.The whole concept was further investigated by E. N. Lorenz, who proposed a mathematical model for how tiny motions in the atmosphere scale up to effect larger systems.
People have loved this idea and have let their imaginations run wild. For example, can the flapping of the wings of a bird in Canada affect the weather in Texas? The theory became known as the Butterfly Effect. The butterfly has become more of a metaphor for small gestures affecting change. Will recycling at your own house affect the environment? Will walking more and using the car less affect the air quality over time?
Recent applications of this theory have been in relation to people and their behaviour. If you do a kindness to someone today, will it affect tomorrow? There is much debate about this whole theory and it has been relabelled as a ‘Pay it forward’ concept. Be nice now because it will affect your future.
Do you believe this theory? Opinions vary but I tend to agree with the Butterfly Effect. For example, imagine that you are stuck in traffic. You are in the right lane and this lane has to merge to the left because there is construction on the side of the road. You wait patiently for the car on the left to let you in. Not a single car lets you in for about ten minutes. How do you feel? Will you go home and tell this story with a twist on how people are so unkind? Your kids will hear this and pick it up. The world is unkind. Another scenario shows you waiting in line to merge but you only wait one minute or so. The driver that lets you in smiles and waves. How do you feel? You go home and tell this story. Your kids pick up the message that people are nice and helpful. Your world is looking better and so is theirs. These examples point out that small every day events lead affect not only you but everyone around you.
Imagine the effects happening to hundreds of people and changing attitudes. Am I exaggerating? Change does start with you. How can you apply this to your art practice?
According to Fichte, dynamics, even small ones can affect long term change. What long term change to you want? Do you want to earn more money? Do you want more painting time? Do you want your reputation as an art instructor to grow? Step 1 is for you to decide what you really want. Write down three items that you really want for your art practice.
Make four columns for each item. Column one is what you want to do. For example, do you want to have more shows for your work? Under column 2 is where you want to show. Column 3 is the date when they take proposals. Column 4 is when you get the application form and fill it out. Making columns like this leads you to take actions that will lead to you achieving your goal.
This is your Butterfly Effect. The small action of making a series of columns listing your goals is like the small butterfly wings making enough wind to eventually create a tornado down the line. Your small actions towards your goal will lead to you showing in the galleries that you want down the line. Belief in yourself is essential but more important than that is the willingness to take action. No matter how good you are as an artist, if you never pick up a brush or show your work to anyone, nothing will happen. You will never be known as an artist if you do not start with actions that lead to others knowing about you.
Action speaks louder than words. Are you willing to bat your wings like the butterfly? That is the question. If the answer is yes, you will achieve great results. But, it will take time. Persistence is also the key to success. Consistently flapping your wings will lead you to achieve your goals. Are you willing to try? I hope this helps you .