Sunday, June 13, 2010

INSPIRATION :: A mini roadmap to living a creative life | What I've learned so far

The Rock with kayaks
Morro Rock, Morro Bay, California | April 2010

What are the secrets to living a creative life?

I wish I knew the perfect answer to that question. I really think it's a process, one that has to be tended to, nurtured everyday and all the time. Some days, I feel like I'm successful at it while other days it's definitely a struggle. The key for me, is to keep trying; to keep creating; to keep soaking up as much visual and emotional stimuli that I can.

I've learned a lot on this creative journey of mine. After all, I've spent more than 40 years on this path. Here is some of what I've learned so far:

TELLING STORIES
I have this incredible need within me to express myself through the act of creating something tangible that I can put out there for the world to see, read, enjoy, wear, and yes, even dissect. To me, the act of creating is a way for me to tell a story share my story and to connect with my audience in some small way. I think that's partially why I loved editorial illustration so much when I was doing it all those years ago. I loved that the more someone looked at an illustration, the more layers they saw which meant the more I was able to engage them in a dialog. The act of creating in a way helps to validate who we are by giving us an opportunity to leave our "mark" and bring some clarity to our reality.

MAKE IT PERSONAL
Speaking of editorial illustration, I once had a supervisor who chastised me for making my work so personal and taking the assignments so personally. "The pages of this newspaper are not your personal canvas, " I remember him telling me. To which I thought, "Bullshit!"

Santa Inez fountain
The act of communicating, at least my style of storytelling, had to come from a place within me and therefore, it was personal. And when I stopped trying to please him and instead concentrated on pleasing myself by infusing my work with as much of the story as seen through my eyes as possible, I started connecting with my audience more and the illustrations therefore provided a doorway into complicated issues that otherwise would have been ignored by some readers. Luckily for me, there were managers above my immediate supervisor who saw the value in my style of illustrating and advocated for them in the paper. Yes, some where controversial. But at least it forced some of our readers to start a dialog.

To this day, every time I pick up a camera or gather gems to create a new piece, I have a story tell, a vision to share. It's not about documenting everything I see around me down to the tiniest detail but rather interpreting through my life experiences, my eyes, my heart, my soul.

I think every successful creative journey MUST BE PERSONAL. You, as the artist, must stay honest and true to who you are and what you want to share with the world. Just copying others to try to cash in will inevitably be unfulfilling because you're not telling your story… or sharing your passion. I recently said in an interview that every thing I make is infused with a little bit of my soul. I simply don't know any other way to be.

That's not to say that it's always easy. Some stories aren't ready to be told and no matter how hard I work at it, the piece might just not work. And that means having to put it away for a while until I can bring something more, something new, something that takes it beyond the initial spark in my mind. I have a lot of started pieces and projects. But I don't consider them failures and I don't consider them abandoned. Instead, they are resting… gestating… and one day, they will find their way to completion.

Modern Japanese youth
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
We've all heard it said hundreds of times, I'm sure. But have you really taken it to heart?

Only through surrender to the creative act can growth occur… I read that once though I don't remember who said it or where I read it. But the words stuck with me. Later, it was reiterated while taking a workshop by a local artist who said basically the same thing: "We need to practice our craft EVERYDAY, " he said. Paint, draw, scribble, shoot, write. It truly doesn't matter what it is. It doesn't matter what style or technique you choose because it's the result and personal growth during the act that really counts. Just keep doing it until they become second nature. Like breathing.

Because the more you practice, the more fluid and organic your art will be. Once the act of creating becomes natural technique kinda takes a backseat and your focus can shift to the content and the message and to me, this is when the magic really happens. This is when your soul can become a part of the piece… and your story comes out.

OH THAT BIG BLANK CANVAS GETS ME EVERY TIME
What is it about a blank canvas that can sometimes strike such fear and trepidation into the heart of so many artists? Is it the fear of creating something from nothing? The fear of destroying a space that is so clean, so pure, so empty? Or could it be that universally dreaded "c" word: commitment?

Yes, yes, and probably yes again.

n_weepingTree_5146
So how do you get over it? I say, you get over it by making that first mark. Period. Go ahead. Draw a line. Splash some paint onto that canvas. Pull that first photo into a new document.

Did you do it? There now. That wasn't so bad, was it? By just jumping in and making that first mark, you've begun a little conversation between you and your canvas.

So, you now know that you must create to tell your story, that you need to make it personal, that practice is key, and that you just need to take a deep breath, open your heart to the process and just jump in.

Now, how is the story going to end?

Your turn: is there one thing your creative journey has taught you about yourself so far?

Remember, don't be afraid. Just jump in and keep living a creative life.

Until next time… Ani

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