What We Need is Passion and Action
Faith in art seems wasteful sometimes. Why be moved, inspired or even encouraged to create art when it seems so ephemeral? By all accounts in the media the world is a mess. Something drastic is needed to solve the problems. I am not so sure though. The world is more like someone who drops down on the pavement. Many people crowd around, but nobody helps. Collective apathy is a psychological phenomenon. It is only when one person steps forward and takes charge that the rest get jolted out of mental paralysis.
Art needs action to happen. It demands creative thought and action to make a difference. It is what the world needs. One person (as in each of us) to step forward and take action in our lives to make a difference collectively. Amazing things happen when a person gets moving. That is why nothing great comes from a committee.
Recently I watched the movie Life of Pi. Yes I know it came out last year, but I like to wait for the DVD since my local cinema does not have a coach. More importantly I read Yann Martel's book a few years ago. Twice. I loved the book. Clearly this meant that the movie would butcher it. The cover of the DVD hailed the movie as "the next Avatar." Rubbish then. Still I gave it a go. I was wrong though. I loved it.
Ang Lee and his alchemists turned base materials into a golden tapestry of light and magic. Art in the true sense of the word. I even watched the extra features where they showed the making of the movie. The technical guys were full of joy about their creation. The interview with Ang Lee sealed it for me. What a genuinely beautiful soul radiates from the man. I have never met him, but I am convinced that he is a humble and loving person living his true calling. He is fuelled by his God given energy and passion. This type of fuel does not run out.
If a creation such as that does not inspire us to embrace our creative passion in whatever we do then we need to take a close look at ourselves. I am convinced that most people are not on the correct path if there is no passion for the task. Would Life of Pi ever have been typed if Yann Martel was just going through the motions? Would the movie have been extraordinary if the director did not feel it in his soul?
What the world needs is not grand gestures, but simply for each person to connect to our passion. Then put that passion into action. Don't believe me? Then hire the movie and see for yourself.
Comfort Zone Killer
All fear based and limiting thoughts must be challenged or they will master you. Simple as that.
What is a comfort zone anyway? Roughly speaking you are in a comfort zone when you no longer have any desire to try something different. Your boundaries are self-created and you are safe within them. Everything else seems risky. Just a moment! Is comfort not what we all want? What we toil for all our lives? Well I have no problem with comfort. If my bed was not comfortable I would be grumpy the next day. You would not want to wear a hair-shirt just because it is uncomfortable I hope. No the real issue here is safety and fear. The eternal struggle within us all.
Why does a comfort zone do us more harm than good? Look if all humans were happy with comfort zones then what would have motivated prehistoric humans to get out of their caves. Once fire was discovered I imagine the cave was rather snug. Nasty animals could be scared away, people were warm and the steaks tasted better cooked. I like to imagine that at some point a trouble maker thought how nice it would be to sit in the cave and watch a box in the corner that had pictures of other people doing things. Maybe extreme bison hunting? So the television was invented. Someone pushed through a comfort zone and amazing things followed.
Seriously though the safety of a comfort zone is often an illusion. A mental sate. Some people get shaken out of this inertia when their safe job gets downsized. Others need a tragedy to get them thinking about new directions.
Now I am suggesting that materialism should motivate us to get out of the safety cage of life. What is true though is that without breaking these self-imposed limits now and then we start to die slowly but surely. First in motivation then we laugh less and the spirit begins to wither. One day we notice that more than half our lives have passed and there is still much to do, but is it too late? In short – no it is never too late!
The time for action is today. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is a mystery, but we have today. By God I am not going to waste another precious day! Who cares what people think? Will this offend someone? What will my family think if I decide to write a book, paint professionally or get rid of my grey clothes and start a new look? Whatever it may be life demands that we take risks. It demands that we feel alive and do something the defies inertia. Do no harm to others of course and be kind to yourself, but get moving. This is not a call to retail therapy. This is to feed the soul. The child within that knows no limits.
The struggle with comfort zones is a constant one for artists. The writer who cannot follow a bestseller with another big hit may be facing an invisible wall of self-doubt. The painter who knows that his work is tight, but is fearful of making a fool of himself if he loosens up. All fear based and limiting thoughts must be challenged or they will master you. Simple as that.
So despite all out modern conveniences let us not strive to be limited by comfort. Let us strive to be excited by life. Who knows what is possible if we challenge ourselves. Starting now!
How to Stretch a Canvas
Here is my method for stretching a canvas. This video goes through the step-by-step process of stretching your own canvas. I use cotton-duck canvas that is supplied on a roll. Once stretched it is then necessary to prime the canvas. I prefer this method as the canvas is a much higher quality than that of the regular art store variety.
National Arts Festival 2013
The Grahamstown National Arts festival starts on 27 June 2013. It is one of the highlights of the year for arts fans - and my personal favorite place to be.
What will the future hold for us? Even for those of us who try to live for today this question does come up in our minds from time to time. If you have children or facing a change in circumstances that raises issues of making a living then this question may be on your mind more often. How we live our lives or want to live is a constant issue. Humans tend to be unsatisfied most of the time. Improving our lot is a hardwired trait after all.
In previous articles I have written about the need for artistic thinking to face the demands of modern life. This is not limited to work in a studio, but in the wider society too. In Seth Godin's book, The Icarus Deception, the author argues that we need to free ourselves from industrial thinking to realise our potential.
Artists are problem solvers always seeking a solution. From freedom of thought comes lateral thinking and eventually answers and direction. We do not wear blinkers, but we can focus when needed to complete the work. So how will this help us in the future?
In the brilliant TED talk by economist Andrew McAfee we hear about his vision of future employment. McAfee takes present developments in robotics and other forms of automation and shows us that the near future will be filled with automation on all levels. There will be a tremendous impact on specialised labour. Much more of the labour market will be taken over by automation. Of course we are aware of assembly lines, but we are talking about even more skilled labour making way for robots and other sophisticated machines. As he says any repetitive work or drudgery will be taken over by a machine.
What this means to trades and labour especially may appear to be a catastrophe for job security. Alternatively there will be a new opportunity for creative thinking and investment in your own greatest asset - YOU. No more trading your time for a wage and leaving your true self on hold for the weekend. To remain in the game we all need to give expression to our inner creative thinking and act on this. To make a future for ourselves and out children we need to take responsibility for our education and not simply hand it over to a government institution that is overburdened. We need to be flexible and act quicker, look ahead and work on our overall abilities.
Yes we will still need a surgeon to know about heart transplants, but his assistant may be a robot. A lawyer will need to know about a contract, but will it be typed by a machine? These trained people will however need to know about technology, marketing and the needs of society too. For the vast majority of people a multiple level strategy will be required to meet the opportunities that face us.
It starts with each of us looking at ourselves and asking what it is we honestly love to do. Then taking this further to see how we can contribute to the world doing what we were truly meant to do. It is a challenge, but one that is truly democratic. We can all take part.
View this Painting on Your Wall
Please assist if you can. I am testing a new app from www.walnut.com. The app is for iphone and ipad users and is available free from the appstore. If you scan the code below you will be able to place the painting, to scale, on a wall in your home to assess.
I would appreciate your comments. Do you find the app useful or not?
Take a Moment to Connect
What do we mean these days when we talk about connecting? Firstly we don't talk that much anyway - more like type, but that is the point. One of the great hings I love about art is that it has not changed that much in hundreds of years. It still comes down to putting paint on a panel or canvas. Making a personal statement. There it is - take it or leave it! So perfectly analog and still so relevant today.
So my appeal today is that we connect like artists to the source within us. The creative source that we are born with, that we rejoiced in as children. The same that we so often disconnect from as adults. It is still within. Take a moment to put the digital distractions down and get creative - draw, paint, sculpt, build, sketch, cook - whatever - it is possible.
Do Artists Need to be Original?
Practically all great artists accept the influence of others. But... the artist with vision... by integrating what he has learned with his own experiences... molds something distinctly personal. (Romare Bearden)
What is it about being original anyway? Is there such a thing? I am not talking about reproductions compared to the original work. I mean originality in concept and execution of that concept. Something truly unique. Is it necessary in this digital world?
Many artists agonise over this issue. There is an insatiable need for some to stand out and be counted as the new original artist of our time. This can play out as outlandish behaviour or shocking work or some gimmick to snag attention even for a short while. The trouble is that this approach is high maintenance. By its very nature it tends to fizzle out as the energy needed to keep up with the show becomes a distraction. Very few have achieved a balance between show and show-up. Salvador Dali managed it before TV and tabloids. Andy Warhol perhaps? Damien Hirst still provokes, but does anyone care?
Many other artists take the view that there is nothing original anymore. All art is derived from what went on before. Perhaps someone in complete isolation could come up with something truly new. But for practicality where there is teaching and learning there is influence on the student. By its very nature this involves repetition of method if not also ideas. Is this wrong? The idea of stealing like an artist suggests that since no one was paying attention in the first place there is nothing wrong with repeating an idea. Provided the artist brings her own interpretation to the work. Perhaps this is the key.
Modern schools of art try to teach the idea that each artist much have a unique concept. As a result we see some unusual work. Often installations that took tremendous effort. For that alone the artists deserve credit. Does it resonate with a viewer? Perhaps but then that is not the artists problem. The artist must create honestly and express her own truth. Who is to say what is truly original. But I do believe that originality cannot be taught. Copying can be rejected, but originality remains elusive and special.
Must art go in a new direction to be considered truly original? The impressionists were original until they they follwwed and copied until technique stifled originality. Cezanne broke away and developed something different, but had to endure a lifetime of rejection. Perhaps art that is considered ugly at first but accepted later is truly original? This is taking the matter too far as new directions are not necessary for originality.
Personally I can say that the impulse to create something comes from within and will take place no matter what other artists are doing. The opinions of others are also secondary or not even present when the creative drive is at work. It is also an urge to create that gives birth to ideas and concepts not the other way round. Without the impulse to create the ideas do not exist. You need to give the green light to creative ideas for them to start appearing.
The type of art is also not important since there is just as much potential for originality in representational work as there is in conceptual abstract work. It is interpretation and communication through the artist’s efforts that makes art original. That allows all artists the opportunity to create original work.
Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures. (Henry Ward Beecher)
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa