Tag Archives: creativity

Happy New Year 2015

Happy New Year tag

Well another wonderful year has zipped by, and you will have noticed that I have not posted with the same regularity as in prior years – and then there was that couple months when I was hacked. The good part of all that is that I still have a very nice backlog of planned theme titles and creativity inspiration to carry over to this year.

The bad news is that with my current writing commitments, this blog will have to continue to take a back seat. That is not to say that I will not be putting out blasts and project ideas at all – I intend to post about once a month, and include more outside resources like websites. In fact if you join me on my Iggy Jingles Crafts Facebook page, you might find more recommended reading in the world of arts and creativity.

With so much of my focus on writing, I have been missing doing any actual making. I’ve decided, as a New Year’s gift to myself to craft a card a day, for a week. And if that works out, I’ll extend it to a card a day for a month. And maybe for another month, or a card a week, or some little easy-to-keep commitment, so that I have a nice stash of ready to use cards throughout the year. (Bear in mind that I am doing this on the dining table because my workshop is still not unpacked.)

That’s the theme for now, I guess – the idea that you can give yourself permission make a commitment to doing some little regular creative activity, keep it temporary and doable, and stay flexible. Start small with just a week, and let it be “scalable”, as the marketers say, and get larger IF it fits your life. You don’t have to make a huge, grand, scary Resolution, and then feel bad if (when) it is unsustainable.

Let me know on FB if you’d like to play along!

What you see here, is the first card of the week. Now, to whom to send it?

New Year handmade card

“Chalkboard” is still on trend, and I love layering. Tools: ScraPerfect Best Glue Ever and Embellie Gellie; Tim Holtz Tiny Attacher; Recollections Circle Punch; blank cards as the base from My Mind’s Eye, in packs of 50 found at Ross, of all places!

 

 

To Take Lessons or Not

Art doll

Art doll available on my Etsy

I believe that creativity is the foundation of all human learning from the time we are infants. Human infants are hardwired to learn, develop and communicate. Children apply creative thinking to all their play and enjoyment. Creativity itself is a natural state, that unfortunately can be squashed by lessons, tests and strictures at the wrong time, even by well meaning teachers.

For this reason I believe it is crucial that any kinds of creativity lessons or classes:

  • be freely chosen by the learner, for their own reasons
  • be skills based, rather than trying to teach creativity itself
  • that teachers consider themselves facilitators of the learner’s agenda, rather than insisting that what they want to teach is more important – you can always write a blog to carry your own message 😉
  • have a transparent grading or feedback system structured around the student’s goals
  • be flexible

For me, I found the classes I took to learn particular skills invaluable. They were absolutely what I needed at the time to gain certain esoteric skills, and for the most part I was not concerned with grades. However today, with the information available freely on the internet, I might make different decisions for some of the classes.

Nor do any of the desired characteristics I listed preclude following a course designed by a teacher. Even a tough instructor who pushes for excellence, like my lighting design mentor, should still be facilitating the learner’s desire to improve their skills.

Places where you can find guidance include:

  • YouTube – there are so many filmed tutorials for all kinds of arts and crafts skills, or science projects, as well as people lecturing about theoretical constructs.
  • Khan Academy – free classes in an immense range of subjects
  • Art Museums often hold classes or workshops for their members in all kinds of esoteric areas.
  • Craft stores hold classes, most at low cost.
  • Universities with online coursework
  • Community Colleges often offer personal enrichment courses in various artistic disciplines
  • Individual tutors, coaches or mentors.

 In praise of trial and error

What I want to emphasize today is that while lessons, classes, tutorials or workshops can be wonderful, and guidance can be time saving, the “slow way” of trial and error – personal experimentation – also has immense value.

 A skill that you have discovered yourself, painstakingly, or just from following the manual, can feel wonderful. You have true ownership of your own learning process and skills. Once you have been through the trial and error process you will truly know how something works, and works for you. You are unlikely to forget – and you still have the chance to practice further and compare your experience to that of others later.

Trial and error can be fun! Working in private can also alleviate nerves or feeling self-conscious.

But know when to look for help, guidance or hints & tips too!

Auditing

With any luck, you will have the chance to sit in and audit many classes you might be considering. You will see if the class will be useful to you – expanding, challenging and inspiring.

Talk to the instructors to ascertain whether they are flexible and sympatico. Talk to the students to see whether they have the opportunity to offer feedback and change the plan as needed.

And remember this – it’s never too late to practice a new art form or learn a new creative endeavor.

 

Design Principle – Progression

photo credit: DanaK~WaterPenny via photopin cc

Progression of hues. photo credit: DanaK~WaterPenny via photopin cc

You will remember that a Principle of Design acts on the Elements of Design to create meaning and impressions.

Progression, sometimes called “Gradation” means difference, change and interest, and relates closely to Repetition.

The change might be smooth, like an ombré, or a series of steps – like pixels. Progression might show the feeling of fast acceleration, or ponderous movement. It might be steady or jerky. It might be symmetrical or lopsided. Plus Progression may go in two directions like a bell curve.

In functional design, the pace of progression might relate to functionality – like a clock, designed specifically to maintain a steady pace of movement, through time.

Consider Ravel’s “Bolero” – a constant build of energy and complexity with the same few notes and beats.

Consider any kind of narrative, building to a climax and catharsis or resolution.

Calligraphy is made possible through gradations of Line. Progression of Size creates the impression of perspective, or discombobulates it. Progression is used to create the sensation of solidity – shading and shadows for 3D in flat artwork.

Photos of a sequence of events over time – the illustration of a work-in-progress, or a garden’s flowering, or a child’s growth – are a common use of Progression.

Here’s about 9 1/2 minutes of serenity with flowers blooming for your enjoyment.

 

Criticism

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photo credit: Etwood via photopin cc

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in the last couple of months. That’s because I’ve been working on an important writing project, quite literally full-time. It was a creative non-fiction book proposal, with a sample chapter.

Now that the proposal is submitted, in this brief interlude before I begin the main project, I intend to get a little ahead on my Creativity Blasts.

There have been two valuable parts to this project so far. The first is the deadline, which forced me to organize my process. I didn’t have time to procrastinate, and even though I needed to research, I couldn’t use that research to procrastinate.

The second part is the critique that I originally received when I first handed in something of a rough draft. It was very emotionally challenging to be told how far my work was off the mark at that point. It made me realize the lack of clarity in my writing, and forced me to think a little harder about point of view. What I’m working on is in the realm of creative nonfiction. There is still narrative, character, and the need for engagement.

The people who were the most rigorous, almost brutal, with their criticisms, were the ones who helped me the most.

“The first draft of anything is shit”. ~ Ernest Hemingway

It was hard to hear. It was even a little embarrassing. But the contrast between that first attempt, which I acknowledge was unfinished, and the work in the newly written chapter is enormous.

It was crucial that I stay open and acceptant. I chose acceptance. Even though my initial emotional reaction was defensive, I set that aside and asked for more criticism. I wanted specifics – specific problems – because these would help me more than generalities.

The great thing was that in the process of doing the next draft, if I found myself recreating those particular issues that had been raised with me, I was able to see it occurring. My own discernment was raised from the process of accepting criticism. That too is, and will be, invaluable.

So this week my challenge to everyone is to be acceptant of criticism of your creative work, to be open to the information, and to push through your own emotional resistance and self-defense. It may be that on reflection you disagree with the critique, but that isn’t what happened to me this time.

And this time I learned a great deal more from criticism than from praise.

“Happy are they that hear their detractions and can put them to mending”  ~ ActII;Sc3, Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

5 Questions: About Fun!

Here is the next in my intermittent series of Five Questions blog posts.

Dancing in the sprinkler

Now this was fun!

When I say five questions about fun I don’t mean general fun. I mean using fun to reignite your creativity. There are many times when the creative process does not seem like fun at all. For example you’ve heard of writer’s block I suppose? What about all those times when actually completing a project of any kind means a hard slog of physical labor? And then there are the times when you just can’t come up with an idea or a method to realize your dream.

These are questions to help you rediscover the fun. Remember it’s supposed to be fun. You can write your answers, make a collage, or a sketch, or talk them over with a trusted friend. If you want to have a discussion on Facebook or leave comments here please do.

Question 1:

What was your best day ever when you were 10 years old? What was great about it? Visualize. Remember to smile while you think about.

Question 2:

Why did you want to do this (your current) project in the first place? What was going to be fun about it? Is it still worth doing?

You can turn this into a question about a future project as well. Why do you want to do this? Will it be fun? Even with challenges, is it still worth doing?

Question 3:

Think of your best friend from your childhood. What was the most fun thing about that person? What was the most fun thing you ever did together? Have you done anything like that lately?

Question 4:

When exactly did this stop being fun? What were you doing at the time? Were you hungry, lonely, tired, burnt out? Did someone else diminish or criticize your project?

Question 5:

Who (make it a fan of your work) can you talk to today to rediscover the fun? Or do you just need a break?

Have fun!

Finding the right time to create

Owl cover stamp

Are you a night owl or a morning person? When do you become most energized? When are you the most productive? When are you the most reflective? Your creativity will be enhanced if you can find the best time for you to do each kind of work.

Sometimes life gets in the way. Some time ago by following my daughter in her unusual sleep schedule, I discovered that very early mornings were wonderful for me to do deep creative thinking and processing. I found myself especially productive when I was writing in the predawn hours. What is interesting to me, is that just after I wake up is not the same as super early morning for that kind of productive work. I guess it is something to do with the diurnal rhythm and the sun coming up.

Predawn, I find myself in the flow – that wonderful, timeless state where the words pour out and decided me it’s morning and other people start to need me.

Unfortunately ordinary life can get in the way of choosing when I can work. It would be wonderful to get up at 4 AM every day and get in four hours of productive work even before anyone else is about. Sometimes my body lets me down, and I just need more sleep.

But sometimes it is the allure of the night that prevents me from sleeping. I have always been a night owl from my theater days, and I find the dark seems to energize my thinking.

What is not helpful for me at night, is trying to complete project work – handwork or tasks that require a lot of visual acuity. There have been many times in my life when a deadline has forced me to pull an all-nighter. But the work from these sessions was never as good, and now I substitute planning instead of urgency.

When you are trying to determine when your most creative time of day is, consider that there are many different types of activity. There is the learning and planning stage. There is the producing of artworks or expressive pieces. Then there is the critiquing and evaluating of the work that you have done, the editing. There is also the need for mental exercises and creativity work not connected to specific projects (like reading this blog). The seeking of inspiration, time just noodling, and time practicing skills might need different times of day from the knuckle-down-and-work time.

Think about which activities energize you. Those will be one that are good to do early in the day – that will keep you awake and alert. Finishing a task early gives a sense of accomplishment and inspiration.

Then consider which activities relax you, or give you a sense of release. Those are the ones that are great to do towards the end of your day, when you can look back and feel satisfied.

Either way, the important thing is to know your self and to schedule your most productive work at the time that works for you.

 

Break Through Thinking

Plant Cell Model detail

Plant Cell Model – chloroplasts and vacuole

I am super excited about a new personal insight into my own process.

I was listening to an Erika Kalmar training call, and she suggested this awesome self-reflective process, that I think could be helpful for anyone trying to turn their creativity into a practical action plan.

Erika outlined the steps.

  1. Write down your five most proud achievements in your life.
  2. Write down the main thing that you did to achieve it. What led to each success?
  3. What are the top three things/practices you do to achieve goals?
  4. How you can apply these to your current business?
  5. Then ask “What is your next goal?”

I actually had a list of seven personal and business achievements. And I saw a pattern immediately!

I realized that to create success in the past I usually:

  1. LEARN – read, study and research about the problem or issue. Learn how.
  2. PLAN – prepare well, make a list of steps, schedule, design – in the case of this blog, I planned my topics. For a successful production, planning the steps in the design work. Have a structure for a written piece.
  3. WORK – just do the work, and work hard.

I also realized that this system works when I follow these steps in order, rather than trying to take short cuts. Skipping ahead and failing to plan is just as disastrous for me as trying to learn on the go. Of course neither learning nor planning is at all useful without the follow through of doing the work. Plus it is important not to allow either of the first steps to become tools for procrastination.

It seems absurdly simple now that I see it written out –

LEARN

PLAN

WORK

But it has given me blueprint to proceed with my couple of businesses and the two writing projects and take them towards success.

What steps do you take to achieve successful outcomes to your projects?