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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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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

Jumping and Creativity

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I have been noticing lately how often the word "jump" is used in conjunction with creativity. In improvisational acting it is held as a truism that if you jump, a net will appear. Jumping implies taking a risk and propelling yourself over normal limitations.

Here are a few quotes to consider:

“If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall”

– Ray Bradbury

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.”

– Benjamin Franklin

“Look, I really don't want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you're alive, you got to flap your arms and legs, you got to jump around a lot, you got to make a lot of noise, because life is the very opposite of death. And therefore, as I see it, if you're quiet, you're not living. You've got to be noisy, or at least your thoughts should be noisy and colorful and lively.”

-Mel Brooks

"You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be placed in front of you. If you don't have that kind of feeling for what it is you are doing, you'll stop at the first giant hurdle.”

– George Lucas

“If you want to learn to swim jump into the water. On dry land no frame of mind is ever going to help you.”

– Bruce Lee

"It took me years to figure out that you don't fall into a tub of butter, you jump for it."

-Claudette Colbert

And who, other than the lactose intolerant, wouldn't want to jump in a tub of butter?

Picture from Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter

Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

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I’ve been reading CAD Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies, and T-Shaped People: Inside the World of Design Thinking and How It Can Spark Creativity and Innovation by Warren Berger. The basic idea of the book is to teach you to look at the world as a designer and then to show you how apply that to whatever your passion happens to be. I’ll write more about when I’m finished.

In passing, he mentioned Bruce Mau‘s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth and from the little bit he said about it I had to immediately put down the book and look it up. Bruce Mau is a very successful designer and he wanted to put down his thoughts on creativity in a manifesto. It’s 43 ways of changing your perspective and getting started. It’s 43 ways to move forward when you’re stuck. It’s a map out of the creative rut that you might find yourself in.

Bruce Mau wrote it in 1998 and unleashed it on the internet. It’s one of those things that just might change your life. I’m cutting and pasting a few bits of it below, but you should read the whole thing.

4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child).
Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

9. Begin anywhere.
John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

31. Don’t borrow money.
Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.

37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

43. Power to the people.
Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.

Read the rest

Massive Creative Recharge From Captain Beefheart

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Captain Beefheart‘s music is not for everyone. That’s a good thing. I’ve seen this bit of his prose reprinted multiple times since his death, but I thought it would be useful to reprint it again. The advice isn’t for everyone, but it might be exactly what you need to hear at this exact moment. Don’t be put off because it says it’s about guitar playing. It isn’t. It’s a magic spell. It’s about whatever you’re doing right now.

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Captain Beefheart’s 10 Commandments of Guitar Playing

1. Listen to the birds

That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.

2. Your guitar is not really a guitar

Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush

Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. Walk with the devil

Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the “devil box.” And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you’re bringing over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out

If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. Never point your guitar at anyone

Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. Always carry a church key

That’s your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He’s one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song “I Need a Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty — making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he’s doing it.

8. Don’t wipe the sweat off your instrument

You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. Keep your guitar in a dark place

When you’re not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don’t play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.

10. You gotta have a hood for your engine

Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.

Taken from the Captain Beefheart Radar Station

Don’t be afraid and doors will open

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Strategies for Overcoming a Creative Block

I wanted to point out this great post that has the opinion of 25 creative people on how to overcome a block. My favorite comes from Erik Spiekermann:

There are 6 strategies for this situation:

1. Avoid
Do something else, wash the car, back-up your data, do errands…
2. Think
Sit back and think about the issue, just let your mind go…
3. Research
Look up stuff, go through your old projects, but avoid Google — it takes too long to find anything useful…
4. Collect
We all have lots of stuff; there must be something in there that is waiting to be used…
5. Sketch
Drawing is great, even if you have no talent. Just visualising the simplest things makes them come alive…
6. Deconstruct
Take the problem apart, look at the parts and then put them back together…

Don’t forget to check out the comments, I found some interesting stuff there as well.

Tim Burton quotes on creativity

Timburton  One thing you can say for sure about Tim Burton, you can recognize a film as his within the first five minutes. From Pee-wee’s Big Adventure to Big Fish to Sweeney Todd, very few directors can put their creative stamp on material as clearly as Tim Burton.

His background as an animator contributes to the amazing imagery in his movies, which carry his personal style as if he’d drawn them. Frustrated with being labeled childlike, he rightfully points out that his movies deal with adult themes like alienation, complex relationships and death. They are fairy tales for adults and children, with themes we all deal with blown up to operatic proportions.

Hopefully, the quotes below give some insight into his development as an artist and his creative process.

I remember, I was at Cal Arts and I wasn`t a good life-drawer; I struggled with that realistic style of drawing. And one day I was sitting in Farmer`s Market sketching, and it was this weird, mind-blowing experience. I said, `Goddammit, I don`t care if I can`t draw, I`m just gonna draw how I feel about it.` All of a sudden I had my own personal breakthrough, and then I could draw, and satisfied myself. I`ve had very few experiences like that, and I`ll never forget it.

You always have to feel like it’s going to be the greatest, even if you know it’s going to be a piece of crap.

One person`s craziness is another person`s reality.

Children are not perverted in a way. It has more to do with the culture. When children are drawing, everybody draws the same. Nobody draws better than everybody else. There’s a certain amount of strength, there’s a certain amount of passion, there’s a certain amount of clarity. And then what happens is it gets beaten out of you. You’re put into a cultural framework, which gets beaten into you. To punch through that framework, you have to maintain a certain kind of strength and simplicity.

Why not, if something is going to be flawed, why not have it be interestingly flawed, as opposed to boringly flawed?

All monster movies are basically one story. It’s Beauty and the Beast. Monster movies are my form of myth, of fairy tale. The purpose of folk tales for me is a kind of extreme, symbolic version of life, of what you’re going through. In America, in suburbia, there is no sense of culture, no sense of passion. So those served that very specific purpose for me. And I linked those monsters and those Edgar Allan Poe things to direct feelings. I didn’t read fairy tales, I watched them.

I think the atmosphere that I grew up in, yes, there was a subtext of normalcy. I don`t even know what the word means, but it`s stuck in my brain. It`s weird. I don`t know if it`s specifically American, or American in the time I grew up, but there`s a very strong sense of categorization and conformity. I remember being forced to go to Sunday school for a number of years, even though my parents were not religious. No one was really religious; it was just the framework. There was no passion for it. No passion for anything. Just a quiet, kind of floaty, kind of semi-oppressive, blank palette that you`re living in.

Why do I like clowns so much? Why are they so powerful to children? Probably because they are dangerous. That kind of danger is really what it’s all about. It’s that kind of stuff that I think gets you through life. Those are the only things worth expressing, in some ways: danger and presenting subversive subject matter in a fun way.

Creativity is a Conversation

Reading Ken Robinson’s book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. So far, it’s amazing. It’s about finding out what your passion is, how to get good at it and how that will make you happy.

Passion + Talent = Happiness

This quote has stuck in my head for a couple of days because it just seems so right:

“You can think of creativity as a conversation between what we’re trying to figure out and the media we are using.”

I think it should be “figure out or express,” but that’s just nit picking. Lots to think about in that statement.

Federico Fellini quotes on creativity

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Federico Fellini directed some of the best films of the 20th century. He was an artist who changed the films that came after him. If you’ve never seen one of his films watch 8 1/2, La Strada or La Dolce Vita and you’ll be amazed at how many movies you’ve seen reference or outright copy him.

When choosing the image to accompany these quotes, I had to hold myself back from choosing an image from one his films. Not that Fellini would have minded, as you will see from the quotes below he didn’t distinguish between life an art. In fact, as he points out, he doesn’t see the difference between reality and imagination as a useful distinction.

Fellini’s films really explore what it means to be a movie. His own life, random occurrences on set, hallucinations and sharp shifts in tone all play into the story. For him, life and creativity were inseparable. Here are a few of his thoughts.

A created thing is never invented and it is never true: it is always and ever itself.

All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.

Realism is a bad word. In a sense everything is realistic. I see no line between the imaginary and the real.

What is an artist? A provincial who finds himself somewhere between a
physical reality and a metaphysical one…. It’s this in-between that
I’m calling a province, this frontier country between the tangible
world and the intangible one—which is really the realm of the artist.

The artist is the medium between his fantasies and the rest of the world.

You exist only in what you do.

I’m perhaps a special type of spectator. I experience pleasure when I find myself in front of something that is the absolute truth, not because it resembles life, but because it’s true as an image for itself, as a gesture. And therefore vital. It’s the vitality that makes me appreciate and feel that the action succeeded. I think the expression of an artist’s work finds consensus when, whoever enjoys it feels as if they’re receiving a charge of energy, like a growing plant does, of something pulsing, mysterious, vibrant with life.

A good opening and a good ending make for a good film provide they come close together.

Money is everywhere but so is poetry. What we lack are the poets.

I don’t believe in total freedom for the artist. Left on his own, free to do anything he likes, the artist ends up doing nothing at all. If there’s one thing that’s dangerous for an artist, it’s precisely this question of total freedom, waiting for inspiration and the rest of it.

For every creative person, fantasy has certain aspects of obsession. Being unable to free oneself from these fantasies is a kind of torture.

Work is a protective canopy from dark thoughts about the flying time. Creativity creates energy, and energy stimulates the feeling of life.

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