Saturday, March 24, 2012

Limitations Fuel Creativity

Here's another detail of my latest painting. It has a kind of surreal feeling that I rather like. Forms floating in a groundless space. Is it water? Or sky? When I took the finished piece in to the city to be scanned, the service tech asked, "Did you paint from your imagination?" That's just the kind of response I hope for. She recognized plant forms but she wasn't exactly sure what she was looking at. She seemed intrigued by the depth of space in the background and by the sense of movement of the forms floating in space. I had softened contrasts, flattening space with thin glazes of complementary colors, so the actual painting is not as bright as what you see here.

A nebulous issue that I've been pondering of late is freedom in self expression. Paging through one of my old journals recently I came across some notes on creativity attributed to Sister Corita Kent and Jan Steward from their book, Learning by Heart: Teaching to Free the Creative Spirit. They seem to be saying that limitations spur artistic growth. They say working with the inherent limitations of real things allows the artist to define goals, clarify artistic procedures and express the essence of his/her subject. I think this is exactly the activity of creativity. In the process of art-making a weaving together of the real and the abstract unfolds. A vague amorphous idea like creativity can't be articulated clearly, but it can be demonstrated in the process of making things.

Kent and Steward describe two very different approaches to art-making. Artist A says she feels creative so she will paint clouds. Artist B says she's really turned on by clouds. Clouds are fascinating and she wants to explore them further. Artist A is focused on the label, creative, a formless abstract theory. Artist B focuses on the clouds, real things, and her inquisitive process itself is creativity. Kent and Steward's explanation is much more thorough and informative than my attempt to paraphrase so I urge you to read their account. Their approach is an effective way to work with imagined personal short-comings that we tend to perceive as obstacles. Kent and Stewart seem to use limitations as a supportive platform, a springboard for self expression. It's very much like meditation wherein everything we encounter becomes a tool to uncover our true nature. I think their focus on real things for artistic inspiration and hence a supportive structure, can be helpful in clearing the mind fog of habitual neurotic thinking, and open us up to fresh new ways of seeing.

Making things requires continual study, exploration and practice. You can by-pass all of that, throw a little paint around and wrap yourself in creativity theories. But isn't that an illusion? Art-making is not just frivolous scribbling or throwing of paint in emotional spasms of naval gazing. Even abstract expressionism, the action paintings of Jackson Pollock are held together by elements of composition that emerged from the movements of his own physical body. Rooted in the limitations of the tangible world, art-making can flourish because the limitations themselves are the fuel of creativity.

9 comments:

  1. Kris, your piece *is* beautifully surreal, and spacious and fluid ~ ~ ~ expressing the essence, not only of the subject, but the Essence from within you that also comes out in your expression - the light and the fluidity and depth within you.

    I love Jackson Pollock's art. So much of his "neuroticism" and deep emotional wounding certainly emerged viscerally in his art! His emotional "spasms"/woundings somehow created such beautiful expressions, in their own way, on canvas; expressions that touched people deeply, evidently because we can relate to the essence of the feeling that his art gives/gave expression to. Like you said, "composition that *emerges* from the movement of the body" - and I would add, what we perceive as emotional limitation... Definitely fuel for creative fires... Lovely post...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you dear Mystic! And me too— I love Pollock's art.

      Delete
  2. I agree. Limitations sort of force a person to be creative in order to work around them, within them, or in spite of them. For me, they seem to provide structure and a sense of direction. To me, this is freeing in itself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You say it much more clearly than I have! Especially the part about limitations providing structure and direction. That's what basic design principles give us. So limitations are beneficial.

      Delete
  3. Hi Kristine. Thank you for stopping by my blog the other day. I am honoured by your encouraging words. I'm sorry it has been so long since last i was here! Now I know i have been missing much having browsed your blog a wee bit. I really have to ponder the above post about limitations. It is so true and basic, yet something we are not always aware of. I must read it again! I struggle with retention of what i have just read. :) :) Thank you for sharing this. It is so worthy. As is your beautiful artwork! Lately, i have been feeling the need to "Loosen Up" to "Simplify" as i tend to compare myself with other more successful artists and think that is the way i need to go to be successful myself! Then all of a sudden your work is before me, so fine and rich in detail and i am gobsmacked yet again. There is room in this world for all manner of art. I loved your "in between" pieces too as i am drawn to the whimsical and the joyful colors. I remember now too, the first piece i saw of yours and what drew me here to begin with. A blue bottle, a blue cup and an orange butterfly and how they sparkled with brilliant light. Okay, now i must paint. Smile! Thank you for sharing so generously your art journey.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "I struggle with retention"— whew! Me too.

    Re: loosen and simplify... I think a lot of artists/teachers chant this idea like some mantra because it's quick and easy to paint this way. Curmudgeon that I am, when I hear this, I do just the opposite and in a big way! Art-making is self expression. Yes, we all want to keep exploring and learning, but remember— you are unique and wondrous— so express your Self! Simplified work is great for commercial art, but the realm of fine art is personal, Self expression. When you feel bombarded by "constructive" criticisms to loosen up and simplify, get yourself to the nearest art museum and ponder what you see there. Imagine these art "teachers" telling Caravagio to loosen up and simplify!

    Oh and I will so enjoy the new Splash book knowing your joyful expression "Meana" is there!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks so much Kris. I greatly appreciate what you wrote and the many great things you share with your readers. Now i must get myself to the studio and express myself! Smile! Many blessings, and Happy Easter to you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Amazing work! Thank you for your dedication.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I agree - the less we have the more creative we become - the balance has to be rectified. Look how a child will spend hours hitting an upturned saucepan with a stick whilst a child with a nursery full of manmade toys is "bored" - lovely blog

    ReplyDelete