A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 110: the Creative Personality

creative personality pic

In lieu of my own thoughts on the subject, in today’s post I’ve simply given you a link to a great Psychology Today article about the Creative Personality. It is a fairly lengthy article but illuminating. Among other things, it reminds us that the Creative Personality is by no means limited to the Arts. And if you are a creative person, you may discover some explanation of your quirks and idiosyncrasies!

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199607/the-creative-personality

 

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 109: Experiments in Randomness

Collage with squares arranged according to the laws of chance

Jean Arp, Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance, 1916-17

I have experimented in Randomness and it was fun.

As I was working on the design for the Easter cross I made last Sunday, it was reminding me of something but I couldn’t quite place it. Then, the following day, it came to me: Jean Arp and his piece Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance. Evidently, Arp let square pieces of paper fall randomly onto the surface of a larger piece of paper and affixed them where they landed. This may not seem like much, but for an artwork created around the time of World War I, it was revolutionary. Jean Arp’s work would come to be seen as an important bridge between the Dada and Surrealism movements.

Arp (1886-1966) was a French-German painter, sculptor and collagist that existed in his own unique space in the history of art. As the website theartstory.org puts it, “Something of a one-man movement, Jean Arp could (and did) make anything into art”. He was one of the first to make randomness and chance a part of the creative process. This was mostly unheard of at the time as artists were always striving for a high level of skill and control. But Arp was seeking to remove the conscious mind as much as possible from the entire process. He would begin an artwork with the form, not the subject – in reversal of common practice – and then give titles to what emerged.

I realized as I considered my own habit of Planned Randomness (see yesterday’s post) that I had something in common with Jean Arp. Therefore, I thought it might be fun to do some experiments in randomness. I kept it simple, using six sheets of slate grey construction paper, I cut squares and rectangles out of dollar store foam sheets. I chose some color combinations that I liked, and then proceeded to drop the shapes from a foot or so above onto the paper. I began with the largest shapes first. Wherever they landed (as long as they made contact with the paper) I glued them to that spot. I felt slightly silly doing this, to be honest.

True to Arp’s process, I had no subject in mind as I did these. After the pieces were completed, I came up with titles for them. I’m kind of proud of those. Below are the results of my randomness…

I am Iron Man

I Am Iron Man

Sky Through Clouds

Sky Through Clouds

Building Down

Building Down

Nude Ascending Staircase

Nude Ascending Staircase

The Tinker

The Tinker

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Randomness is fun, indeed. But one thing was abundantly clear in this experiment: This is planned randomness. I think Arp discovered this, too. As much as you try to remove the conscious mind from the whole enterprise, part of it remains. I made choices as to materials, colors and sizes. When one of the shapes floated off the page or onto the floor, I picked it up and dropped it again. I was in control of many of the elements in creating these Squares and Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance so, really, was chance involved enough to get any credit?

Maybe a bit. Enough to introduce an element of surprise, for sure. So, in effect, it wasn’t much different than most of my artwork, or most of my life. I have always allowed room for something surprising, for something to happen that was not part of the plan.

I would recommend, especially if you are an artist who wishes they could be more loose or more spontaneous, to try something like this. Releasing control, even over just a few elements of the process, is liberating. And it is a reminder that often, as an artist, you are merely a channel for the creativity, not always the sole author.

 

 

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 108: Planned Randomness

Planned Randomness: It’s a thing! Or, if it isn’t a thing, it should be a thing. Certainly, I am beginning to see that Planned Randomness is my thing.

DSC_0653

As I was putting the colored shapes onto the Easter cross I made for the weekend, the thought occurred to me that much of the look of the cross came from a sort of planned randomness; that is, I had a plan in mind – in this case, the large pieces of white foam board covered in shapes cut from colored poster board – but when it came to gluing them on, I had no master plan, I just slapped them on there. I really didn’t know what the whole thing was going to look like so, in effect, there was a plan but part of the plan was the serendipity of randomness.

“Serendipity” literally means “surprised by joy” and that is often what I feel after I’ve allowed that randomness into something I’ve created. In a way, when you make room for randomness, you give yourself an opportunity to be surprised, to be taken aback by something you hadn’t intended, or to have something emerge you could have never imagined. As I go along in this Year of Creating Dangerously, I am discovering more and more that the sense of the ad lib, the spontaneous, the unlooked for, is something that propels me in life. I live for the moments of serendipity.

At first I thought this Planned Randomness just applied to my artwork. But as I thought about it, I realized that it is in fact a characteristic of my entire life. I have never been much of a planner and I have often thought of it as a character flaw. Perhaps it is, but likely it is the way I am, and the way I am is like that for a reason. I am comfortable with making-it-up-as-I-go-along, with not having everything planned out before I go into things. Of course, I have had to learn to prepare and to be confident in what I undertake in life. My laxity can come across as laziness or unpreparedness, and certainly that has been the case at times. But it has served me well in my creativity, in my work life, in my relationships, to be open to whatever may come my way, without trying to force things, without having to have all the answers and information in advance.

However, I have also learned how much I value the people around me who do plan, who do research, who are capable of thinking things through step-by-step. Without them, I would be a mess and would probably create a lot of messes along the way, too. Planned Randomness needs Flexible Planners and, thank the Maker, I have had many of them in my life: People I can lean on to fill out those things I am just not good at. I believe my wife is one of these people, as well as friends, co-workers, and others that have come along in my life.

Planned Randomness is guiding me in this blog project for 2017. I quite often have no plan from day-to-day, despite my desire to do a post on creativity for each day of this calendar year. Almost subconsciously, I have planned in a spontaneity to this whole exercise. Perhaps that is fitting as it is a deeply personal experiment in discovering creativity, in seeking inspiration, and in being an inspiration to others.

As I started writing this today, I had no idea where it was going or how I was going to end it.

Typical.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 107: My Easter Cross

DSC_0652

My Easter weekend project: Constructing a cross for Sunday morning. Though, truth be told, I’m not sure “constructing” is the right word as it calls to mind something grand and complicated. My cross was made from leftover nailing strips from the Palm Sunday craft the week before, a bunch of finishing nails, and foam board and poster board from my local dollar store; add in some staple gun work and a lot of glue stick and, presto, instant Easter prop!

I have never been the best at the three-dimensional kind of artworks. I usually exist in the safer two-dimensions, where you can create your own depth. However, even though I felt out of my depth (!), it all came together in the end. We ended up using the cross as we walked to different “stations” in the gym where we meet. Volunteers carried the cross to each stop. At the stations we read a portion of the Good Friday/Easter story from the Bible, illustrated with artwork done by our kids. Overall, a creative and properly lively time was had by all.

Here’s a few photos of the process and the finished product…

 

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 106: Easter Quotes!

Easter

It seemed very appropriate today that my Sunday God Quotes are by various authors, giving their thoughts on Resurrection and Easter and Jesus at the center of it all. A very Happy Easter, everyone!

“There are times when I feel he has withdrawn from me, and I have often given him cause, but Easter is always the answer to ‘My God, My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?'”- Madeleine L’Engle

“Our Lord has written the promise of Resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” – Martin Luther

“No pain, no palms; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” – William Penn

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” – Pope John Paul II

“In the cross of Christ God is taking man dead-seriously so that he may open up for him the happy freedom of Easter.” – Jurgen Moltmann

“For I remember it is Easter morn/ And life and love and peace are all new born.” – Alice Freeman Palmer

“It is the hour to rend thy chains/ The blossom time of souls.” – Katharine Lee Bates

“Remember Jesus of Nazareth, staggering on broken feet out of the tomb toward the Resurrection, bearing on his body the proud insignia of defeat which is victory, the magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God.” – Frederick Buechner

“Easter is never deserved.” – Jan Karon

“Spring bursts today/ For love is risen and all the earth’s at play.” – Christina Rossetti

“Let Him Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness in us, be a crimson-cresseted east.” – Gerard Manley Hopkins

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 105: Saturday Life Quotes – Shaw

shaw

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Irish playwright extraordinaire who gave us Pygmalion and Saint Joan among the 60+ plays he wrote, provides today’s Life Quotes. He was given the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 and won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1938 for the movie version of Pygmalion. 

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

“A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.”

“Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.”

 

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 103: The Last Supper

Zeri_78474_g

The actual event happened on this day in history. Yet looking at artwork that depicts the event, I came to the conclusion that none depict what the event actually looked like.

Leonardo da Vinci gave us the depiction that sticks in the cultural psyche. His masterwork is an exercise in perspective and symmetry but not necessarily one of piety and theology. In fact, I blame Leo for turning a real event into a strange, staged and static sort of “mannequin challenge” that persists from the Renaissance until today. Of course, he was following in the line of other artists who had taken the event and pictured it in frescoes on churches all over Europe. He just added that da Vinci Twist and – BAM! – now it is The Last Supper.

I understand the gravitas behind it all; the “mystical supper”, the First Eucharist, Mass, Holy Communion, Lord’s Supper, or whatever the Christian tradition you are most familiar with calls it. “This is my body” – “This is the blood of the new covenant” – heavy words even heavier with symbolism; really, heavy with the weight of the core of Christian theology. Therefore, we get artwork that attempts to display the other-wordliness of the event. We get depictions attempting to imagine the divine, the Word becoming flesh and blood, the Word giving us his flesh and blood.

That’s a whole lot of heaven we try to cram into a moment on earth. Perhaps that’s the heart of the issue of so much religious art; our reach exceeds our grasp. But isn’t that religion in a nutshell? And doesn’t that define why we continue to reach, to imagine, to wonder, to attempt to wrap our minds around the infinite? Human beings have always been drawn to climb that mountain, no matter how high or forbidding it looks.

Yet my favorite depictions of The Last Supper have little to do with mysticism and the “Big Questions” of Life, the Universe, and Everything. My favorite depictions are about the subtleties of the Son of God inviting us to the supper table of his Father; they are about the inclusion and universality of this event, the power of gathering together for food and for community that reaches across every culture in our world; they are about the Great Embrace that is at the center of this final Passover meal of Jesus of Nazareth.

There are so many versions of this key event in the life of Jesus Christ in art that it can make your head swim. Below are just a few that jumped out at me as I searched the Mighty Web.

Then he took a loaf of bread; and when he had thanked God for it, he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you – an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you.” – Luke 22: 19-20

unknown 11th century

Unknown artist, copy of fresco from 11th Century

ugolino da siena 14th century

Ugolino da Siena, 14th Century

Pietro Lorenzetti 14th century

Pietro Lorenzetti, 14th century

Domenico_ghirlandaio 1480

Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1480

african-last-supper-lukandwa-dominic

Lukandwa Dominic, African Last Supper

ana martins Brazil 2013

Ana Martins, Brazil, 2013

Ian Fairweather 1958

Ian Fairweather, 1958

The Last Supper in Red Desert

Maqbool Fida Husain, The Last Supper in Red Desert

sadeo watanabe

Sadeo Watanabe, Japan

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 102: Hearts and Thoughts They Fade

 

As they have so recently been inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, it seemed appropriate to print some lyrics from the most thoughtful and thought-provoking of Grunge bands, Pearl Jam.

elderly woman

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town

I seem to recognize your face
Haunting, familiar yet, I can’t seem to place it
Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
Lifetimes are catching up with me

All these changes taking place
I wish I’d seen the place
But no one’s ever taken me

Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away

I swear, I recognize your breath
Memories like fingerprints are slowly raising
Me, you wouldn’t recall for I’m not my former
It’s hard when you’re stuck upon the shelf

I changed by not changing at all
Small town predicts my fate
Perhaps that’s what no one wants to see
I just want to scream hello

Well, my God it’s been too long
Never dreamed You’d return
But now here You are and here I am

Hearts and thoughts they fade away

Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away
Hearts and thoughts they fade away
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away
Fade away, fade away

Written by David Abbruzzese, Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Mike Mccready, Stone Gossard • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 101: the Art of Animation

Prior to the Academy Awards show this year, we went to see the Oscar Animated Short Films presented at the Bytowne Theatre in Ottawa. Animation is something we so often connect with children and children’s entertainment, with good reason; it is a huge, multi-billion dollar industry. But the majority of the short films we saw that evening were not aimed at children and some had adult themes you would never find in the latest Pixar release. I was struck by how the use of animation can elicit a different reaction in the viewer, new perspectives can be explored, and subjects can be presented in a way no live-action movie could duplicate.

A few days ago a Canadian band called Half Moon Run released a video for their song “Hands in the Garden”. It is a fascinating trip through a story that explores the inner life, outer life, imagination, existence, and more, all done with animation. I’ve watched it a few times and find new things in it each time. I share it with you in my blog because (a) Half Moon Run is an awesome band you should get to know if you don’t already and because (b) the experience of thoughtful, colorful, insightful and challenging animation is an art form worthy of your time.

Animation and Direction by Agathe Bray-Bourret
Written by Conner Molander, from a concept by Conner and Devon Portielje
Additional animation by Martine Frossard