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“There is only make.” The art department rules of Sister Corita Kent

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These “Art Department Rules” by Sister Corita Kent are as true as they are charming. You can support art’s education by purchasing a poster of them. I might make myself a t-shirt that says “There is only make.”

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher — pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later.

There should be new rules next week.

While you’re on the Corita Art Center site, check out the gallery of her artwork for even more inspiration.

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Does alcohol fuel creativity?

Does alcohol fuel creativity?

We all know the dangers of alcohol, but is there any truth to the cliche of a drunk writer or painter being better than a sober one? Can inspiration be found in a bottle?

In my personal experience, I think people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol create despite, not because of, their addiction. (And they are no fun to work with!) However, a new study says that limited drinking might spur new ideas by making you more flexible.

We approach problems with fixed ideas about the solution, but alcohol loosens that fixation and opens us up to trying new things. Anyone who has tried to do a task as simple as putting on shoes while drunk will know that you have to rethink each step as you do it and you still might end up with your shoes on the wrong feet.

So, the study says, if you are stuck in the creative process, a glass of merlot may be just what you need to come up with a new solution to the problem facing you. It might not be a good idea, but it will be a complete rethink instead of a retread.

Here’s the relevant piece of the conclusion:

Alcohol may particularly play a role in mitigating fixation effects. In creative problem solving, problems can often only be solved after a restructuring of the problem representation. When initial solution attempts get on the wrong track, this can cause blocks to immediate problem solving, which is known as mental fixation ( Smith & Blankenship, 1991). These fixations typically fade with time, which is considered a central mechanism behind incubation effects ( Storm and Koppel, 2012 ;  Vul and Pashler, 2007). In a similar way, alcohol may reduce fixation effects by loosening the focus of attention and hence impeding the building and maintenance of dominant but inappropriate mental representations. Thereby, alcohol may facilitate a broader associative search and the effective solving of creative tasks that are prone to fixation effects.

There are lots of other ways to shake yourself out of this! Check out our post that gives you five ways to shake your creative doldrums! 

A word of warning, alcohol will not be helpful in doing the actual hard work of a project and as an artist you have a lot of fixed ideas that are good and helpful. In other words, putting your shoes on the wrong feet might be creative, but it isn’t a good idea long term.

Tame Your Creativity Monster With A List

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Everyone remembers being afraid of dark spaces as a child. Even the shadowy space under your bed was a potential monster hideaway. The bigger your imagination, the worse the monsters you imagined.

A friend of mine posted her 7-year-old son Chester's school project on Facebook. To celebrate their one hunderth day of school, his teacher asked each student to bring in a hundred of something. He decided to bring a list of one hundred monsters.

At first, as with all scary things, it seemed like there were an infinite number of monsters. So many monsters, in fact, that he decided to group them into tens. Ten dragons, ten cryptoids, ten movie monsters… Also, it wasn't enough to just have the name, he had to look up each one and learn about it. He then painstakingly wrote each one, learning how to spell even the Kaiju monsters. With each step the list got more and more manageable until, toward the end, it was hard to even come up with enough monsters to finish.

It struck me how helpful it would be when you are faced with completing an impossible, scary project to list your monsters. Sometimes just a blank piece of paper is the terrifying dark closet that contains everything that scares you into inaction.

Instead of letting yourself get overwhelmed by fear and inertia, why not list out all the things that are stopping you from starting? Get a piece of paper and write them out. Break them into sections if you want, anything to make them more manageable.

In fact, try and list a hundred things preventing you from moving forward. It's not easy to do. I bet it's hard for you to get past twenty. You can start with the teacher in the fifth grade who told you that you'd never amount to anything and then move on to that nasty commenter on your blog that tells you that it's hard to read your writing because there are so many grammatical mistakes and run on sentences.

Once you see the monsters all laid out neatly on a piece of paper, I bet they're no scarier than Spongebob Squarepants. Who, if you look carefully at the picture above, you'll see in the Sea Monster category between the Gloucester Serpant and Gill-Man.

Image copyright 2011 Chester Haugaard

The Writer Who Never Finished Anything

 

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In his always interesting blog, writer Mark Evanier answered a question from a reader who was having trouble finishing any project she started. She wanted to know how she could motivate herself to finish if there was no guarantee of an audience when she was finished. His answer brought up even more questions. Are you a writer if you’ve never finished anything? Is it enough to just call yourself a writer?

Here’s part of Evanier’s answer:

You’re fooling yourself to think you’re a writer. A writer finishes things…even things that never get sold. Every professional writer has things they’ve written that never sold or reached the public. In fact, we all have things we’ve written that upon reflection, we’re very glad didn’t reach the public. That script you’re writing now may turn out to be one that will never sell but you’ll never know that until you try, which means you have to finish it. As the saying goes, there are no great uncompleted novels.

His answer brought to mind Seth Godin‘s pithy quote that makes the same point, “Real artists ship.” Godin uses ship to mean completion of any project, personal or professional.

He points out that not shipping is just an expression of fear of failure. In his, and Evanier’s thinking, failing is as much of being an artist as shipping. In this post on Tim Burton, Seth sums it up succinctly:

One key element of a successful artist: ship. Get it out the door. Make things happen.

The other: fail. Fail often. Dream big and don’t make it. Not every time, anyway.

Do you have a project you’ve been putting off? Ship! After all, the quickest way to succeed is to fail as quickly as possible and move on to the next thing.

Don’t Wait For Inspiration

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“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

Chuck Close

Via Drawn

Cult of Done Manifesto

I know this has been posted all over the place, but it deserves to be posted even more. Bre Pettis and Kio Stark have written this manifesto for getting things done. They did it in 20 minutes! If you go to the actual post, you can find a fancy jpg version of it to print out and hang in a spot where you have to read it every day.

The Cult of Done Manifesto

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
  5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  13. Done is the engine of more

From Bre Pettis’s blog

The ABC’s of Staying Creative

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 Do you experience lulls in your creativity? Do you run hot and cold with ideas? Want to be ready when you need your creativity the most? Here’s one way you can be sure that you are always at the top of your game.

In David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin shows up to deliver a motivational speech to a room full of salesman. Really it’s more threatening than motivational, but one of the bits of simple “wisdom” he shares with them is the ABC’s of sales. The letters stand for “always be closing.” To a room full of people struggling to make a single sale, this advice seems more like a cruel taunt than a guiding philosophy.

What if we changed the C from “closing” to “creating?” Always Be Creating. Is it a taunt to use this as a philosophy of creativity? Let’s take away the idea of failure. We aren’t using the phrase to imply quality, just quantity. So, there really isn’t a way to fail except by not doing anything. It’s not a taunt, it’s a cheer!

Instead of working on something, finishing it and then waiting for the next project, what if you always had multiple projects going on? They shouldn’t all be equally important. In fact, having a few low priority creative projects to work on for fun is completely freeing. What about writing Bacon Haikus? Or doing a drawing a day? Or even wearing a different outfit every day? It doesn’t have to be something you’re good at, in fact, being bad at it might be better in the long run.

These seeming distractions are actually keeping you at your top creative level! Your creativity isn’t a faucet that you can turn on and off, it’s an exploding geyser in the middle of your brain. The problem is that if you don’t go there all the time, you might forget where it is.

Multiple projects. Plans. A giant novel about a war between the ant-people and the walrus-people.  The perfect cupcake recipe. An elf outfit for your bulldog. A list of believable lies about Abraham Lincoln. A list of heavy metal band names that haven’t been used yet. (That last one is harder than you think.) Designing underwear for chickens. Anything you want!

ABC, Always Be Creating! Don’t take a vacation from doing what you love. Keep your projects secret or put them on the web. It doesn’t matter! The whole purpose is to maintain your highest levels of creativity at all times.

It’s as simple as… well.. you know…

Resensitize Yourself

You hear a lot these days about how desensitized we’ve all become from the reality of the world around us. From violence to tragedy to advertising, we’ve managed to build up filters that keep us safe and sane. Let’s be honest, if you let yourself react to every story you see on your local news you’d soon be a quivering mess on the floor – terrified, sobbing and depressed. If you noticed every advertisement you were exposed to, your brain would be filled useless information designed to modify your behavior.

However, have you considered that this desensitizing also works against you while you’re trying to create? That this useful shield for modern living might also be blocking things from coming out? The subtlety of detail, the depth of emotion and raw honesty that art demands are stuck behind the same barrier that you use to not cry when you see a story about a grieving mother on TV.

Why not let yourself the freedom to notice details again? To feel other people’s emotions as if they were happening to you? To actually hear the cars driving by your bedroom window as you fall asleep? To taste food? To feel the socks on your feet right now?

You can always put the shield back up when you need it, but can you take it down when you want to?

You will never lack for ideas and materials if you resensitize yourself. Taking a shower can be of operatic proportions if you feel each drop of warm water hit your skin. Petting a dog and feeling each hair on your hand as the dog relaxes, reassured that its taken care of, is an epic story. This is not exaggeration of the truth, but emphasis on a moment.

How you react to things is how you communicate your perspective on the world. If you cut yourself off from reacting to it, it’s impossible to put anything of meaning back into it.

Douglas Adams On Creativity and Inspiration

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Douglas Adams is one of the great comedic writers of the last 100 years. He wrote for Monty Python and created the enduring Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series. He was also a great thinker. I have collected a few quotes of his that relate to creativity. My favorite quote is the one about beliefs: “If you don’t change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?” An excellent question.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

Having been an English literary graduate, I’ve been trying to avoid the idea of doing art ever since. I think the idea of art kills creativity.

The world is a thing of utter inordinate complexity and richness and strangeness that is absolutely awesome. I mean the idea that such complexity can arise not only out of such simplicity, but probably absolutely out of nothing, is the most fabulous extraordinary idea. And once you get some kind of inkling of how that might have happened, it’s just wonderful. And . . . the opportunity to spend 70 or 80 years of your life in such a universe is time well spent as far as I am concerned.

Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until a drop of blood forms on your forehead.

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher… or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.

It is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto non-existent blindingly obvious. The cry ‘I could have thought of that’ is a very popular and misleading one, for the fact is that they didn’t, and a very significant and revealing fact it is too.

Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting. Most scientists forget that.

If you don’t change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?

You live and learn. At any rate, you live.

Ignorance can be Creative

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It’s always good to work at the top of your intelligence and do research when you need to, but doesn’t ignorance spur creativity?

Doesn’t some of your best stuff come from trying to figure things out?

Explore what you don’t know, what you don’t understand and don’t be afraid to make things up.

Emotional complexity is interesting. Not knowing how you feel about something before you start is riskier, but also potentially richer.

At its best, creative stuff creates a map to uncharted territory – an attempt to describe ignorance. Whether its finding a new solution to a problem at work or painting a masterpiece, it’s at once totally new but it also makes complete sense.

Most people are scared of ignorance. Think about old maps, whenever there was an unexplored area of the map it would be labelled “here be dragons.” They just projected all the fear and anger and everything terrifying projected onto the unknown. That’s how people treat the unexplored territories in their own heads. Dragons are lurking around every corner.

It’s the artists job to brave the dragons and try and describe what is actually there. Instead of fearing your own ignorance, get excited every time you find one of these areas. Move boldly into it and explore.

That doesn’t mean what you’ll produce is scary, a comic strip like Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts (at its height) faced the unknown as squarely as Death of a Salesman or Hamlet.

Ignorance may be bliss to some, but to us, it’s just potential genius!

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