Saturday, January 3, 2009

The thinking wheel is turning

and for once I'm poised and in the position to write about it. Perhaps this one will go a bit smoother than the previous posts. I was distracted.

Alright-so where to begin.

I just scampered off to read the newest post on Tim's site from Chris regarding creativity and it got me all fired up. And it got my brain turning.

Years ago I had this inherent fear that I was faking being a creative person. I still have a hard time writing that about myself.

I was convinced that I had just fallen victim to all the romanticism tied up with being an artiste and that I lacked any real drive, ability or-specifically-need to create. I may have mentioned this but it merits mentioning again.

The first time the thought crept into my mind was right before college. I dismissed it. The second time was after college.

I remember simply stopping. I didn't paint, write, much of anything that could be considered creative. I went and got an office job. I quit buying cool art supplies. I deemed it a waste of my money since the first three years of my college had been such a "failure" and I figured that after ending on a strong note I had gotten it out of my system.

This was not the truth. It almost made me go off the deep end. I found myself finding the strangest and most roundabout ways to "make" stuff. So I finally caved in to myself and my own rediscovered need of making and doing and started pushing for shows around the area.

I'm still not living off of my art but it helps scrape past the rent every month.

Here's what prompted this whole deal though-in Chris's post on Tim's site he discussed finding your medium, acknowledging the small ways in which people are creative in their day to day lives (myself included) and making it a habit.

All of those things are fantastic and hold a lot of truth. But, given the length of my comment on Tim's site, I can't seem to wrap my brain around the idea of my found medium.

I pitch myself as a fiber and textiles artist. I remember distinctly being drawn to the fiber dept at my school because it seemed the most versatile. I mean, really, what isn't a fiber or a textile? Canvas. Textile. Reeds and twigs. Organic fibers. Silk. Obviously a textile and a fiber. It's almost totally open. I didn't take full advantage of this while I was in college mainly because my head was up my arse but that's besides the point. I figured it out afterwards-I chose the one department that could feed my passion for doing a bunch of things at the same time.

So, where does this lead me? To a house full of random art supplies, multiple unfinished projects and a burning desire to just figure it all out. I don't know that I would trade liking and being interested by a bunch of different things but at the same time I wouldn't mind being able to find the beginning to my "life's work" as it were. I don't know-the answer I usually get is "I need time." Well-time be damned. I keep feeling like the answer is already right in front of my face.

I tend to stick to three main things right now: silk paintings, regular painting (though I'm quickly realizing that this is going to move to the hobby pile unless I get much, much better), and jewelry. I can't say that I"m really pushing any envelopes in any of the fields but that's always been my issue. I am not someone who sits down and says "let me figure out every single thing I can do with these tools" before I move on. I usually accomplish something, deem it as neat or a waste of time and move on until the bug strikes me to come back and try again or rework something or whatever.

So, do I go against my sporadic nature and focus my energies, even at the risk of getting bored or do I keep pushing in several directions all at once and just wait for something to fall out of the sky that is a coherent artistic direction or thought?

I don't know the answer. Maybe there isn't really one.

To wax on the borderline of sounding conceited-I've always sort of felt like the kid that was good at testing in school when it comes to art and making stuff. There are definitely areas where I am totally worthless (woodworking, sculpture in general...) but overall I never really had to bust my ass at something to get a passable result. Therefore, I think I never really learned what it's like to have to work all the way through an artistic process to get a really stellar result. Like I said, I"ll do something, it'll be "alright" and I"ll move on, my brain considering it done. Even though I know in my gut and everyone else knows, in their guts and their brains that the work I produced wasn't or shouldn't be the end. I guess I am good at getting a good start at something and then wandering off to do something else.

Perhaps part of it stems from an overall fear of success and commitment. I have a big issue with the idea of being good at something. It tends to have some nasty levels of expectations. I'm working on it. I also have a big issue with the idea of defining myself as one way or the other. I"m finally to the point where I can label myself as "creative" without totally fearing that the walls are going to cave in around me and the negative comments will start telling me that I'm full of it and pretentious and don't deserve to be parading around calling myself an artist.

It's sort of a weird position to be in when you think about it. I definitely am drawn to creating and I want to succeed at it and live my life supporting myself in those ways and yet I'm terrified of admitting it. Hm.

Go figure.

All this may add up to wee hour babbling but it's been on my mind for a while. I do things because I like to do them and I think it's fun and interesting, not because I feel what I'm guessing is a deep, personal connection to the art and craft. Perhaps it's in there somewhere and I just haven't had my radar turned up enough to notice it creeping along the edges. There has to be some reason I keep coming back to certain things, even if it is in a roundabout way.

So, my throw out question is: How many different and random creative pathways have you been down before figuring out what really resonated within you? Or have you really found that yet? Do you think it changes as people get older or is it something that doesn't really pay much attention to time?


Anonymous said...

Your post reminds me of the line,
"the most interesting people are those who didn't know what to do at 22 and still don't when they are forty years old.

As for me, it was always writing. Nothing else ever interested me to the extent of doing it.

Riss said...

I like that. It sounds about right. Hehe. Hopefully I will remain interesting and not go crazy in the process. I consider you to be pretty fortunate for having that one thing that really speaks to you.

Lisa said...

I wish I knew the answers. Now, the big thing you have going for you is that you do tend to finish things. I was the queen of starting everything in the universe (painting, guitar, writing, political causes, needlepoint, cooking...blah blah blah), but always losing interest before I ever accomplished anything. Writing is taking much longer to shake :)

Steve Malley said...

The hardest thing about a creative career is that there are no, *NO* set answers.

You do a bunch of stuff, some of it better than others. Me too. Some folks do just the one thing. Cool. Some start early, some late. Some change their game regularly, others keep at the same thing their whole lives. Every one of these answers is valid.

The only thing that counts is finished work.

"I do things because I like to do them and I think it's fun and interesting" is your answer. Just do the things you're drawn to, collect a few coins where you can, and don't worry too much about the rest of it.

Don't worry about the 'deep connection', and do not (DO. NOT.) spend time with people who want to blather on about deep connections to their work. In my many, many, *many* years (I feel old today) of la vie boheme, every single 'artiste' who talked about their deep connection was a time-waster who wanted to talk instead of work.

Nuff said.

Steve Malley said...

Oh, and in answer to your question, a detailed chart of my 'career' would look like the footsteps of a drunk having a seizure. I've turned my hand to whatever interested me, never worried about the labels, and sometimes picked up enough to get by on in the process.

There's been nothing straightforward about my path so far, and I've no reason to expect it to start now...

Tim said...

You know, it's a curse to be glib, and I mean glib in any way -- with words or visual skills, or any artistic skill set. The hardest thing about writing for me was pushing myself past the level I was at in, say, 11th grade, when I could always string words together plausibly and impress a teacher. It took me a long time to realize that the only way for me to get better was to try to do something I had no idea how to do. I think it's easier for people who aren't so offhandedly accomplished to come to this recognition because they're used to pushing themselves. Early successes aren't always the best training.

Does any of that make sense? It's about me, but I think it's sort of about you, too.

I think you'll love Stephen's piece tomorrow.