The quality that we call beauty, however, must always grow from the realities of life; and our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms, presently came to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadows towards beauty’s ends.
I don’t use prompts (writing nor drawing) often, because I have quite a long list of things I know I want to do, all ready…
But sometimes there are so many ideas that it’s hard to decide what to start on first, or which ones to include and which to leave out. Sometimes I need a wild card, a random way of decision-making that will, paradoxically, introduce restrictions and parameters to my ideas. So I did a couple of drawings in my visual journal, using words scribbled on pieces of paper and pulled out of a sandwich bag to get me started.
I’m going to call this an exercise in imagination and self-reliance. I’m a big fan of self reliance.
Creativity, as the word is being thrown about these days, is overrated. Creativity is a busy bustling-about, just making piles of stuff. It’s throwing together fancy papers, glossy magazine cut-outs, decorative clip art, rubber stamps and decal sheets that you bought, conveniently, at a shop specialising in the paraphernalia of today’s scrapbooking and mixed-media hysteria. It’s fooling yourself into thinking you make ‘art’ without having to do any of the drawing, come up with any of the images, make any of the mistakes, or face up to—and deal with—any of your own limitations as an artist. It’s following step-by-step articles on “How to make art” in magazines like Cloth, Paper, and $70-worth of Gimcracks (whatever!)
It’s raping and pillaging the past for beautiful things that you can use, not caring how they came to be, nor why, nor having any sort of personal connection to that beauty. It’s writing a post about a bento box of kawaii food, shaped to look like Hello Kitty and her telephone—with pink and yellow marzipan hairbows—and saying “OMG, that’s so wabi-sabi…so, like, zen and shit!” Junichiro Tanizaki just howled in his grave.
It’s pushing everything in the world—indiscriminately and ignorantly—through the filter of eye-candy.
The internet is plagued by this consumeristic, utterly soulless “creativity”…slap someone’s vintage photograph (you neither know nor care who the person was) on top of some paint daubs, edge it with bits of lace, fake ‘ephemeral’ ticket stubs and postage stamps, throw in some handwritten French for fuck’s sake, Japanese masking tape with cherries, some cheap Made-in-China embellishments painted to look like brass, rubberstamp a blackbird here, a flowering branch there, and then take everything to new depths of mawkishness by gluing a big word on (N.B. remember to choose the word for it’s color-coordination and not because it relates to the rest of the work!) that says either “Dream,” “Sing,” “Love,” “Create,” or “Paris.” Ubiquitous, banal words that have been stripped of their significance by this trivializing and indifferent “creativity”.
And everyone should imitate everybody else, so that one person’s work could pass for another’s, because the ideas all came from the same magazines and websites, the materials were purchased at the same shops. A horrible, beige-colored, homogeneous mass.
There. I said it. *evil chuckle* “Jee-sus, Nat, that was a bit harsh!”
My blog, my opinions. *laughing* I’ve gone right off the rails with this one, haven’t I? Heh heh. That’s okay, scares away the riff-raff…if anyone’s still reading this, I’ll be posting a polite—I promise!—piece about drawing exercises in day or two, over on my other blog.
Rather than reply to comments individually (and end up copy/pasting from one to the next), I’ll just tack this on here, where it can serve double-duty as a refinement.
You’re right, Carl, (see comments, please) and I’m not actually saying that there aren’t any creative people, bloggers or otherwise, out there. I’m really attacking that insidious consumer product, “Creativity”, with a capital C , that everyone is sort of being pushed towards, and that many embrace because it’s easier to do, after all, and less frightening than finding yourself alone in a room, facing the blank canvas. Everyone is creative. But it is an inner resource, you must reach into yourself and draw it out. You cannot buy it, and there is no need to look outside of yourself for it, because it’s not out there, it’s within you.
I am also attacking, on the consumer’s end of things, status anxiety. Often the kind of creativity-in-a-bottle that I write about, here, isn’t about the making of art, at all. It’s about wanting others to like us, it’s surrendering our personal growth in exchange for the warm fuzzy feeling of acceptance. It’s the pressure to make likeable art—safe, inoffensive, lighthearted— and maintain that “we’re all friends here” atmosphere. A lot of blogger art communities resemble, unnervingly, support groups or Sunday socials.
Status anxiety is the need to belong and be welcomed by a group; it’s the force that encourages a person to make things that will be popular and familiar to others, so that they will welcome you with open arms and call you one of their own. Nothing wrong with nurturing your community, but I am going to stick to my guns here and insist that making friends and making art are two different things…so know which one you really want and then, by all means, go for it! But if you set about making art that aims to please others and make yourself likeable, you will be enriching your social contacts at the expense of your growth as an artist, at the expense of your art.
Doris Stricher —whose work, please note, I neither understand nor feel drawn to, but whom I respect because it is so obviously her own fierce and uncompromising vision (This is important: Your work does not have to be liked by others, for you to be an artist…it’s not about being liked, it’s about being an individual, and it’s about integrity)—puts it succinctly:
“A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist.”
As for platitudes about not criticizing anything, my fave is : “I don’t think you’re a very good friend if you’re always being supportive. You also have to add criticism.” Jason Kottke (1973 – )
So I mean well, but it may not be what you want to hear, and that’s okay, because I need to say things, more than I need to be liked.