Monthly Archives: March 2014

Expressing Creativity – Reimagining/Mash Ups

Mixed media canvas

One of the hallmarks of Post Modern arts practice is appropriation – in homage, tribute or critique – of other art pieces in similar media. It goes beyond merely being influenced by another artist’s work. Rather appropriation is about the creation of meaning in your piece, with added layers for interpretation.

Mashing works together is knowing and intentional. Absolute acknowledgment of the source is essential for the meaning, and prevents this from being plagiarism. It is assumed that the audience – reader, listener, viewer – will understand, or come to understand, the source material also. There is a delight that arises from recognition.

It’s very noticeable in music – dance mixes sampling snippets from other songs, music styles or dialogue. I remember when rough mixing on the fly, using multiple turntables with vinyl records and adding in scratch riffs was brand new – in the dance clubs that superseded disco in the early 1980’s.

Part of the enjoyment is recognition, when you grok the source material and get the reference. The score of the Die Hard movies is an example where the insertion of light-hearted themes from classical music or movie musicals (“Singing in the Rain”) skews the action movies towards humor.

Lady Gaga is another artist whose work, especially her music videos, is full of references to pop culture (eg classic movie images and female archetypes) as well as initiating, grabbing and expanding on pop trends. For example the use of “anime eyes” – overscaled cosmetic contact lenses out of the Kawaii/Harajuku trend in Japanese teen/young adult culture. Lady Gaga used computer generated assistance to recreate the look in her video.

Here are some ways to use appropriation and create mash ups:

Memes, and image re-captioning: most social media memes are satire, irony, and sometimes biting social commentary.

Collage and paper craft: scrapbookers are masters of mash up – combining textures, images, and ephemera to tell both their memory story and create beautiful visuals. Collage is mixing images from multiple sources, creating relationships between the visual elements. Try using materials (like scrapbooking papers) in a different way from the usual.

Re-imagine a cultural icon: Create your own take on a famous painting or familiar photo using a different or changed medium. The many recognizable iterations of Mona Lisas or the Warhol style portraits are examples of this.

Reimagining Methods

Found object art: I love work using found objects to create sculptures. They can be so clever and ingenious. This is a loving way to use vintage objects and ephemera.v

In home decorating, a trend is to make a grouping of objects made different with a single surface treatment.

  • One example is the gloss white spray paint technique, which works equally well with other single colors.
  • Another is the fun trend of decoupaging with pages of text from old books.

Appropriate an image as a background for collage or shadow box framing – especially using filters to alter the colors (try sepia or black and white) and the texture.

Photograph two unrelated objects, placed in a vignette. Or use randomness to help you. Combine an image from a random wikipedia entry with a randomly selected page from a magazine.

How I design upcycled projects – scroll down.

In writing reimagining is often adaptation. Writers adapt books to film or theater, making changes that are more or less appreciated.

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Five Questions – to define your life’s present purpose

White Maiden doll and textile detail

Some of my work

I’m starting a new intermittent series of Creativity Blasts, intended to focus more on the internal work of creativity, perhaps less on the expression of creativity.

It’s called “Five Questions” and it should be a good work along topic for me. Remember that one of the descriptions of this blog is ideas “from a practitioner”. The blog itself continues to be a helpful practice for my own creative growth, so I hope this series will enhance everyone’s experience of the CB blog.

Anyhoo, I thought why not start with a bang and work on the really big topic first, and everything else will be easy.

The first issue is the verb here. I’m choosing “Define”.

I could have used “Choose” but that implies that you already have laid out a bunch of options and the 5Q’s might distill down to a pros & cons list. I love pros & cons lists for quantifying alternatives. They work especially well when you are determining how money will be spent.

But for life’s present purpose there may be more ideas you haven’t thought of yet. These 5Q’s are not a quiz or a test or anything that might engender anxiety of “wrong”.

I might have said “Discover” – that is also a nice idea. However my plan for this topic is for you (and I) to be more pro-active and empowered. The life’s present purpose is not separate from us; it is integral to us. It is something we can enact, willfully & intentionally.

So I hope the questions will lead towards creating an action plan.

There’s no hurry.

Consider too, that these questions are not for quick fix type answers. They aren’t one word or even short answer questions. You may find that some have you writing pages and pages in your journal, or drifting off into daydreams for hours, or drawing/collaging.

You may discover plenty as you go, and you will make choices too, but the end game is to “Define” your life’s present purpose.

Here’s the meaning of Define from Merrian-Webster:

  • to explain the meaning of (a word, phrase, etc.)
  • to show or describe (someone or something) clearly and completely
  • to show the shape, outline, or edge of (something) very clearly

Twice the definition includes “clearly”.

So let’s try shall we?

1. Who do you love?

It’s important to me that my work and creative activities are placed in the context of my family life and the people around me that I love.

You might also consider who you admire – people who have been inspiring.

2. What brings you joy?

This is the “favorite activities” question, but also a results oriented question. There might be parts of your life that bring you great joy, that are not specifically the result of your actions. You might watch the sunset but you didn’t create it. But allowing time for sunsets might be a big part of your present purpose.

3. What is in your way?

There might be practical barriers preventing your from following that which brings you the most joy. Or they might be emotional.

Anger and fear may be in your way. Many people don’t like anger. It’s not pleasant to experience. But it also can be a great catalyst, especially toward philanthropic action.

Much has been written about Anger as being a psychological defense for the vulnerability of fear, or a mask for fears. Naming your fears – of rejection, failure, embarrassment, loss – will help you overcome them.

4. Who is watching you?

For the last 14 years how I react and conduct myself has been influenced by knowing that my daughter is watching me. She will learn how to handle disappointment from seeing me try and fail. I hope she will learn to follow her dreams by seeing me pursue my own.

Always watching

Always watching

5. What first step can you take towards your purpose today?

It might be that your present purpose is to be still and quiet, to ready yourself for the future when your current responsibilities have been fulfilled. I have often felt that way as the mother of a young child – that there were things that could wait. She was my focus.

It might be that your present purpose is to make a difference in the world with ideas and your example.

It might be that your present purpose is to study something, or make something, or write something, or be on a team in an endeavor. I don’t know – but it starts today, and is only for now. Whatever you define as your life’s present purpose is only for now.

Don’t feel that you should lock yourself into a course of action that lasts forever. People will have many different lives in time.

In sports, people reach their peak very early. You have to move on. I don’t know if I will ever surpass what I did at the Olympics, but I’m still doing the work I always wanted to do. ~ Greg Louganis

Take your time.

Good luck!





Changing Seasons

New Spring Bulbs and Wildflowers

New Spring Bulbs and Wildflowers

Spring has come upon us suddenly here in Southern California. Many places further North still have snow. Meanwhile back in Australia, people are starting to mention cooler weather in their Facebook feeds.

Seasons’ change always gives me a burst of different energy. Going into fall then winter, because for me it’s the holidays, are always full of new creativity. There are things to make and do, my daughter’s birthday in October, and cards to reconnect with people. I was moving this year and didn’t get to send any handmade cards. The holidays felt a little off kilter because of that.

Now that it is Spring, the energy of renewal is everywhere. People are talking of gardening and cooking. I have started itching to write, itching to make some new dolls and itching started get on a couple of projects that have been percolating inside my mind over the winter.

I try to enjoy the moment, but some future planning must be done. Just like planning a garden, the expectation in starting projects now, is that they will come to fruition later in the summer. I have travel plans, convention plans, entertaining plans, and publication deadlines.

I’m excited. I just want to make stuff!

How can you use the change in seasons to inspire creativity?

  • When seasons change, nature is busy. It’s a great time to take those re-energizing walks we like and look out and around.
  • Change your home environment. Some people change all their drapes, pillows and even artwork. Perhaps you will like to change the layout of your furniture to take advantage of the window instead of the fireplace, or move your writing station to a different part of the house.
  • Re-organize your inspirational pin board if you have one. When something visual is left to sit, it can start being ignored. What can you remove from your board that is not relevant? Are there different connections that weren’t obvious in the middle of winter? Maybe some of the ideas there have already been expressed and can be retired.
  • Food, food, food. The warmth of chowders is ready to give way to fruity smoothies and aqua frescas in the northern hemisphere, while the last of the summer fruit salads will soon be replaced by stews and roasts as winter comes. The change of seasons when so many magazines and bloggers start publishing new recipes is a good time to try something new.
  • Resolutions are not just for New Year’s Day. Chances are your resolutions have already suffered. What if you consider your resolutions to be quarterly affairs based around the seasons instead? Personally I think it is easier to start something new when the whole of nature is bursting with energy than in the very dark of winter when it is man-made calendars that define the new beginning.

The Year Ahead

New bulbs poking up through the woodchip mulch.

New beginnings. Photo Credit: James Coburn

Yes, it has been a bit of a staggered start to the new year of Creativity Blasts. I’m sorry about it, BUT that’s all about to change.

I’ve spent the last couple of days formulating and scheduling my weekly blasts right through to the end of next February. Every title is in my calendar.

I’m pretty excited about the year of creative inspiration ahead. I’m especially looking forward to next September when I am planning a special month long series about turning your creative passions into a business. Also through the year with be the Principles of Design, more Aesthetic Preferences, ideas for expressing your creativity as well as sources of inspiration and ways to rediscover your creativity. One new feature I am scattering through the year is “5 Questions to Ask Yourself” about a range of topics.

In the mean time, I have a very special writing assignment that will also take the next year, with research and interviews. I’ll be able to talk more about it soon, and there will be updates on my Making, Mothering, Musing blog.

Speaking of mothering, I spent the whole day today with my 14 year old daughter Jayn devising a new screenplay. She had a little idea starting with “wouldn’t it be funny if…”, and I said that would make a great script, and then we were off. It’s not often I have a high concept sci-fantasy actioner kicking around.

This is the second time one of Jayn’s ideas has turned into a collaborative script. I’m in the rewrite stage of one of her other ideas about an eco-warrior mermaid that I am loving as a family film. She is a great collaborator.

Tomorrow is big day – I finally will be setting up my new workshop in the garage. I have three workers coming over and we should be able to get the greater part done. That’s good. I have a bunch of thank you cards to make.

Stay tuned…and please sign up for the newsletter and follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss out on any of the good stuff.