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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Artist Statement: A Necessary Evil?

An email I received from an online art gallery said I needed to fill out my profile with an Artist Statement. Their reasons for asking for it made sense. Art collectors want to know the story behind you and and your art before they will spend their hard-earned cash on your creations. Still, it doesn't make it any easier to write.

As with any resume or bio, definitely include relevant training and experience. It's hard for me to read bios that refer back to irrelevant childhood incidents. This is not the time to pour out all the details you should probably discuss with a therapist. I don't agree with the theory that all artists must suffer in order to produce "significant" art, and even if you have, it isn't up for public distribution.

My email suggested that I should include information on where I was born and raised and where I currently live. While (hopefully) I don't think they want me to hand out my names and address, does it really matter whether I create my art in Chicago or Miami? Except maybe for color choices??

They said that the artist statement is a basic description of your works and your reason creating them. Again, I understand the theory behind that, however, I believe the response to art is so personal that I don't want to tell someone how they should feel after viewing my art. Either they like it and buy it or they don't. I'm reminded of something I learned early on when teaching art to young children. You never ask them about the cat in their painting because it usually isn't a cat and you get the "you're stupid" look. You should say instead "tell me about your painting." After which you can get a whole explanation that sounds vaguely like their "artist statement."

Which brings me back to the key points in writing a statement:
  • Keep it brief
  • Don't over-share
  • Keep it relevant
If you're having any trouble writing your artist statement, please share in the comments!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Respecting Children's Ideas

"Teachers who respect children's ideas help them learn to think and solve problems for themselves. Children who feel free to make mistakes and to explore and experiment will also feel free to invent, create, and find new ways to do things."

So says Mary Ann Kohl in her article "Fostering Creativity" which I came across on the Early Childhood News website.

Some years back I became a Visiting Artist at a local grade school. I was paid by a non-profit parent's group to come up with an art curriculum and teach it to first and third grades. Why? Because the school district cut "extras" like art and music claiming there was no money in the budget for things that weren't important.

I wish I could say this is no longer happening, but I can't. The mindset that art doesn't matter as much as other subjects is still out there and it needs to change.

Mary has some good ideas in her article on how teachers and parents can foster creativity. To see Mary's entire article, click here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

99U Conference: A Conference About Ideas

"The goal of the 99U Conference is to shift the focus from idea generation to idea execution. Providing road-tested insights on how to make your ideas happen. We bring together some of the world's most productive creative visionaries & leading researchers to share pragmatic insights on how ideas are brought to life."

Run by Behance, a place for you to sell your artwork, this conference runs April 30 to May 1, 2015.

Website: http://conference.99u.com/

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

To Be Creative, Take A Hike

As if we needed one more incentive to exercise, a recent Stanford study found that walking is a good way to be more creative. And you don’t have to walk around the block to have that great idea, walking on the treadmill seems to be just as beneficial.
The key takeaway here is to get off your butt, since any form of walking beats sitting down. The genius flows whether you’re pacing the room or whether you’re hiking the seashore.
The so-called “walking desk” where you surf the net do important stuff on your computer while walking on a treadmill is looking more and more like an ideal way to boost your personal creativity.
For more on the article, click here:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Find Inspirational People to Inspire Your Creativity

Watch the winners give their acceptance speech at any award show and you'll hear a list, (sometimes a long and boring one), of people who have helped the award recipient along the way.

While there's no doubt that there are people in our lives who have already exerted an influence on us, whether good or bad, this isn't something you should leave to chance. If we are lucky enough to have had a teacher or mentor that has inspired us to do great works, then that's good. If not, we have to find our own.

Inspirational people don't have to be our closest friends or relatives, although how lucky are you if they are. They can be someone in history, or in the media spotlight, or in a local business. You can have as many mentors as you want or need.

One of my personal inspirations is the artist David Hockney. I've never met him, but for several reasons he is someone I look up to. Born in the same English county of Yorkshire as me, his energetic and colorful paintings are something I greatly admire. His globe-trotting life, living and working in locales in Europe, America and Asia, is a testament to getting out of your own comfortable place and exploring other cultures. His art spans paintings, prints, photography, faxes, digital art, and costume design, a reminder to let your art find its own expression whatever format that takes.

In your own experience reading about key individuals in your field, taking workshops from them, or analyzing their work for creative inspiration, all combine to being a positive inspiration in your own work. If you haven't yet found one person who inspires you, I challenge you to find one. Soon.

David Hockney Official Website

Thursday, July 31, 2014

You Need to Connect to Create

Creativity doesn't happen in a vacuum. Creativity depends on creating links between different things to come up with an entirely new thing. As an example, a car once was referred to as a "horseless carriage" because someone thought to add an engine to a horse cart.

To dream up some ideas, you need to have as many varied experiences as possible, but how can you do that when you have to work and raise a family? Well it may take some creative scheduling but it can be done.

Beginning with your hobbies and interests, and search for the following:

1. Classes. Even if you are pretty good at painting, writing, woodworking, etc. take more advanced classes where you may learn some new techniques.

2. Associations. Look for an group with a focus in your area. Meet with people with similar interests and see what they are doing. You might be inspired to take your hobby in a completely different direction.

3. Events. Whether yearly or more often, events within your area of interest bring in demonstrators, speakers and visitors that may be just the people you are looking for to spark something new.

Now that you've explored areas within your interest, look for classes, associations, and events in a completely different area of interest. If you are a singer, try horse riding. If you are a woodworker, try embroidery. (And don't think of interests in terms of men's activities or women's activities. Creativity is an equal opportunity pursuit.)

The Internet makes it really easy to find all of this information, so there's no excuse not to do this. As in, do it now!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Design Brief for Non-Designers

Let's say you've been "chosen" to come up with a poster idea for a group you volunteer for. Everyone wants to give input but they don't want to actually do the job of pulling the project together. And this is a challenge for you.

So why don't you approach the problem the way the pros do?

Pros prepare what's called a Design or Creative Brief where they pose and answer questions about the project in order to come up with a set of guidelines that describe the idea and creative direction, a road map, if you will.

Start with a couple of basic questions:

  • Who are you targeting with your poster? You'll use different language and visuals if you are targeting teenagers rather than seniors.
  • What do you want people to do when they see your piece? You'd be surprised how often the obvious is missed. Contact information is critical. How can you expect people to call if you leave off the phone number? If you include a website make sure you have a way to capture email addresses.

Once you get your audience and purpose straight in your mind you can then choose the colors, text and photos that compliment your concept.

Design, just like a road trip, is a lot more fun and a lot less challenging when you have a road map.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hacking: Not Necessarily a Bad Thing

Hacking gets a bad rap. When you think of a hacker, you probably think of a computer nerd in a darkened room fiercely typing random letters and numbers until that eureka moment when they hijack super secret missile bases and hold the world for ransom.

Now consider today's buzzwords "adaptive reuse." It is considered "green" to take something old and decrepit and adapt it for another use. Anyone who has taken something apart and used the parts to make something else is essentially a hacker. Especially with the arrival of Pinterest we now proudly post photos and tutorials of how we did it and how you, too, can turn a dresser into a play kitchen and a piano into a garden fountain. (I am not kidding!)

It is exactly what professional product designers do when they look for a new product or improve on an old one. They look at the strengths and weaknesses of the product and see what can be done to modify it or what else can the product be used for. Competitors will take a product apart to see if they can make the product better or cheaper. In business-speak this is called "reverse engineering." The smart company will cruise these "hacking" sites to find out how their products are being modified. What the frustrated consumer does may inspire the company's engineers to rethink their line for more profitable ideas.

For sheer numbers of ideas, Pinterest does deliver the goods. Cruise the site for inspiration. Enter something like "furniture hacks" into your favorite search engine to see what pops up. Who knows, you may be inspired to create the next big thing!

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com

Hack your Ikea furniture: http://www.ikeahackers.net/


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Your Creative Space

The highlight of a recent trip to Key West, Florida, was getting into Ernest Hemingway's home. I'd missed it on a previous trip but this time I was determined to see where great writing was penned. It looked like any other person's living room, except it was on a tropical island, with palm trees and everything. I celebrated by buying a compilation of Hemingway's thoughts on writing with a special stamp that it was bought at his house in Key West.
Hemingway's Key West Writing Studio
Hemingway's Key West Writing Studio
Whatever it is you're creating, your best results will come if you have a dedicated space for it-somewhere where you can leave out your tools of the trade and your project and not have to pack them away. Now if you carve wood or paint large scale canvases you will need to plan your space logically. You shouldn't be spray painting in your kitchen, for example. And not everyone has the space for entire studio or sewing room but if you have to drag tools and pieces out and set up every single time you want to create something, that will seriously impact on your creative productivity.

Some creative pursuits don't require much of a set-up-knitting, for example. You only need knitting needles and yarn and it's portable. (On a side note, I have seen some people's yarn stash take over a living room, but that's another story.)

If you don't have all the equipment you need, make a wish list and make sure friends and family know of it so that you can add to your creative space over time.

Now I understand Hemingway dragged his typewriter all over Europe, Africa and the United States, so he made his creative space wherever he could and he still managed to churn out award-winning articles and books. You can still be creative without the space but it's so very worth it to be able to retreat to your space whenever you can.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Does Success in the Future Depend on Creativity?

The article had a great headline which caught my interest, "Creativity a key to future success." I clicked the article hoping for confirmation of my own beliefs. While I wish there were more "meat and potatoes" as far as facts and evidence, I basically agree with the article. I have been advocating against so-called standards that force teachers to teach their children to pass tests otherwise the teacher loses their job. 

Unfortunately, our society values "metrics"-numbers which are relied on to bolster our point of views and our beliefs. Measurements can be manipulated easily to skew to a certain direction and often the same statistics can have many different interpretations. Measurements that depend on data can be rendered useless if the data isn't complete. We've all seen health news backed by drug companies who have an obvious interest in data that promotes their own product.

As long as there is time for children to dream, ask questions, and get involved with creative play that doesn't involve the "one right answer" we give them a chance to look for different and inventive solutions to problems. The innovative entrepreneur needs room to grow and it may as well start in grade school. 

To read the entire article, click here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

You Can't Use Up Creativity-Maya Angelou

image from Google images
Creativity is so often seen as something instinctive or something we're born with-either you have it or you don't. Not true, as Maya Angelou points out.
 
Creativity is a skill, and like any other skill, the more you practice it, the better you will get at it. Schedule mini creative sessions every day.
 
Examples? Come up with a character profile using that guy who snoozes on the morning train. On your lunch break sit at the diner counter and notice what everyone is wearing. Shop in a store you wouldn't normally go in. One warning, though, be careful when you're checking people out, you don't want to look like a stalker!
 
Bottom line, practice being creative and you will find yourself becoming more creative.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Nothing New Under the Sun

The saying goes that there's "...nothing new under the sun" meaning that many inventions and innovations are a combination of previous elements or improvements on a pre-existing idea. Given our current highly technical society we may think that we're the ones who have made the biggest contributions to innovation. I sometimes see blog posts or articles where the author thinks that they have just discovered something so new and brilliant. Not always true. I came across a post last year where the author had just "invented a new way of brainstorming." Actually the Greeks had used this technique over a couple of thousand years ago based on the famed Oracle of Delphi. During the 1950s both the government and the Rand corporation take credit for formalizing it into the "Delphi Method."

So I couldn't resist the story in Inc Magazine with the title "A Brief History of Innovation" which points out a few products that we now take for granted that were brought to life in-whoa-the last century! A few examples: Hard hat (1919), Parking Meter (1935), and Shopping Cart (1937). I can see the importance of both the hard hat and the shopping cart, but I really wish the parking meter had not seen the light of day.

Bottom line, though, research your subject's history. What you think is your brilliant idea may have been there along. It's your job to make sure that your idea or product is truly an innovative improvement.

Take a look at 11 Innovations That Changed History. Also, check out more articles, videos and games at History.com.

Link: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20021001/24702.html

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Great Idea Finder: Site Review

Rarely does a website cover everything you ever wanted to know about a subject, but "The Great Idea Finder" tries really hard.
 
Some of the pages here include: Invention Facts & Myths, Inventor Biography, Innovation Timeline, Invention Categories and Innovation Games and Trivia. It's worth the time to examine the site and use the information to spark your own ideas. Their stated mission is to provide inspiration to the "inventor" in all of us and it does a good job.
 
On their "Resources on the Bookshelf" page they have links to help you with your creative process. I especially like the fact that they suggest trying your local library first. Even though you can get these books online, sometimes just browsing the library stacks in an unfamiliar subject area can prompt you to pick up a book you'd never think of looking for. Call it serendipity, call it fate, but since creativity is basically pulling together old ideas in new ways, a field trip to your local library can be positively inspiring. Even better if you have a college or university library nearby which gives access to locals.
 
In addition the site has an "Ideas for Sale Showcase" which spotlights and gives awards to what they think are the best ideas. On other pages there's information on protecting your idea. I'd go there first before posting your idea.
 
Next time you are on deadline to come up with the Next Big Thing, a site like this one is a good jump start for your brain.
 
Quality of Information: Good. You can spend quite a bit of time browsing this site.
Ease of Use: Navigation is good on this site, and menus are well-titled.
Design: Utilitarian.
 
Do you have any favorite idea-provoking sites? Let me know.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

In a recent post by Tim Brown, CEO at IDEO, he tells you that the secret to innovation is to think like a kid. Here's an excerpt:

"Toddlers will belt out off-key tunes at the top of their lungs, dance with abandon down the aisles of a supermarket, or color on walls and floors, never questioning their ability. But somewhere along the way—maybe because of a remark by a parent, teacher, or peer, or maybe because of their own insecurities—many kids lose confidence in their creative instincts, especially during their high school and college years."

Some years ago I taught an arts program as a Visiting Artist to first and third graders. The grade school had no art lessons due to "cutbacks" and, I think, a general idea that art lessons were "extras" and not as important as mathematics, English, etc. The Visiting Artist program that sponsored myself and other artists to come in to teach at all grade levels was run by a small parents group that was smart enough to understand how art lessons are important to problem solving. Creative expression allows a person to explore different paths.

I would say that disillusion can set in way earlier than high school. What I saw was a big difference between first and third-graders. First graders were more enthusiastic and came up with different approaches, like "can I paint this bit red?" (The answer to that is, yes, try it and see what it looks like.) By third grade there was a different attitude and a general frustration that the cat they drew didn't look like a cat.

This perception that there was only one way to draw a cat, and that if it didn't look real then the whole exercise was a failure. When your child brings home a picture the correct question to ask is "can you tell me about it?" This stimulates the creative story behind the drawing. Some are funny, some are heart-breaking, but all are a vital part of the creative process.

Don't think that the arts are extras. They are an integral part of education and what we should be looking for is a wide-ranging balance of educational opportunities instead of conditioning our children to believe that success is a football scholarship. I'm simplifying here, but look at recent bad behavior in the NFL and how they get away with it. Now if only they had art lessons as children...

To read Tim Brown's article, "The Secret to Innovation: Think Like a Kid," click on the link below: