Tag Archives: art

Art Is An Introduction

Meeting a piece of art (I am defining ‘art’ to mean literature, music, painting, sculpture, photography, dance; in fact any creative endeavour) for the first time it is an introduction to the artist and his/her work, the rationale and purpose behind the work and what it means to the artist.

Here’s a thought to bounce around with you: art is an introduction, then a conversation, a relationship, an understanding, a sharing.

A tangent to start with: I suspect much of the reaction to an artist’s work stems not from an offence created by the composer (unless that is the specified intention) but more from the responder’s own set of values, attitudes and beliefs. 

In the media an artist is forced to apologise for an artistic statement they have made regardless of their intention. In the past week, recording artist Sia has issued an apology about the content of her most recent video clip featuring Shia Labeouf and a young girl engaged in interpretive dance. The complaints focused on the age of the girl, allegedly 12, and the state of undress of Shia. 

This article is a good summation of how people react without understanding. Even the writer of article shows his lack of understanding. Sia Sorry Over Pedophilia Upset

It didn’t take in to consideration the content of the song, the purpose of the lyrics or the meaning of the video clip itself. 

A glib summation: TRIGGER WARNING – it’s your fault I’m offended. 

An artist’s work should be questioned, interrogated, debated. But we have to also confront WHY we are offended and feel uncomfortable. 

I remember the controversy surrounding the artistic work, Immersion (Piss Christ) when I was in my late teens/early twenties. The art was a small plastic crucifix immersed in a yellow liquid.

It was exhibited in Australia and two attempts were made to vandalise the artwork. There were threats made against the artist and the gallery. 

It is a significant religious icon and thus, hold supreme importance to Christians and Catholics. I can’t find the reference now but a friend had done some research  into the artist’s intention, and it was not to be sacrilegious. Crucifixion, as a Roman form of punishment, was barbaric and intended as an act of humiliation. The artist had made a parallel in the modern age to another act of humiliation: to urinate on someone is to denigrate and proclaim that person worthless. 

It also means having an understanding of the significance of the icon, why it is important and how it is used. The New Testament writer of the Book of First Corinthians understood the complexity, and controversy, of crucifixion: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Therefore, as an act of salvation it is contradictory.

Therefore art is an introduction.

Then it is a conversation between the artist and the responder, coming to a common ground. The first thing you do at a party when you are meeting new people is to ask for their name, what they do, find out what they are interested in or passionate about. Once you have established commonalities, a conversation begins.

From there it develops into a relationship. Aside: you can tell if a conversation is going nowhere as you run out of topics, lacking a connection. And it’s ok to not like a piece of art, to have no connection with it. But know why you don’t connect with it.

If there is a connection, you seek to develop it, leading to an understanding of the artist, his/her worldview, purpose, intention, vision. You see out other works, attend other performances, read more novels, and even if it confronts you, there is still a point of understanding.

And all of this leads to sharing. When you have taken the time to cultivate a relationship, to understand the artist’s vision and purpose, you can eloquently share your love of the artist’s work.

Art can, and indeed should, offend. The right to free speech entitles that. My caveat on that is offensive, racist, sexist bollocks should not be tolerated. Call it out for the garbage that it is.

It is the conversation we engage in with the art that makes it beneficial, even if we do not like it. Saying “I’m offended” reveals more about your own insecurities, values and attitudes than it does about an attempt to understand the art. You have every right to be offended but have a sustained and logical reason to defend your proposition.

Art is an introduction, then a conversation, a relationship, an understanding, a sharing.

Have you been introduced to any great art lately?

if:book – Open Changes

A little while ago I mentioned I had submitted a couple of pieces to the if:book Open Changes project.

I am proud to say I have been included in this project and the artwork for the poster has been released. Included in this wonderful piece of art are a whole bunch of fabulous writers I know.

if:book Open Changes Poster

if:book Open Changes Poster

It is based on the spectacular work of Kathleen Jennings whose art work I seriously adore. Check out her blog and sees the inspiration behind the poster you see above. 

I highly recommend following Kathleen on twitter (@tanaudel) as you will get to see some of her amazing sketches.

I can’t wait for my copy to arrive. I’ll be posting photos.

The A-Z of Suggestions for Creative People

To misquote Captain Barbossa says, “They’re not so much rules, as guidelines.”

There are multiple permutations of a creative alphabet; your ideas will probably be better than mine. But that’s kinda the point. Listen to the advice, apply it to your work and do it better. Then teach someone else to do it. Pass the knowledge on.

Appreciate new ideas.

Build a body of work.

Collaborate. Cooperate. Coordinate. Critique. Vanilla Ice has wise words when he says, “Stop, collaborate and listen.”

Define your goals as a creative person. Revisit them weekly, monthly, yearly.

Explore what you’re passionate about. And maybe what scares you. You know, for balance.

Foster creative relationships for collaboration, networking and developing the next generation of new artists.

Grow as an artist. Stagnation is for ponds and mosquitoes.

Hunger for the development of your craft and the improvement of your skills.

Inspire others to create because the world needs useless beauty; it is there because it is, and it exists and it is uniquely you.

Jump into new opportunities. But check the depth first.

Kill what distracts you: procrastination, doubt, fear, comparison, jealousy.

Listen at every opportunity. Gather wise counsel and feed your soul.

Meditate on your work, why you do it and write a manifesto.

Network because it’s dangerous to go alone.

Occupy a creative space and protect it.

Publish your work. Whether it’s through your blog when you’re starting out or selling it via Etsy, Ebay or e-commerce.

Query why you are creating. Have you lost sight of your purpose?

Rush a new piece of work and enjoy the frenzy of ideas splashed down like a sudden summer storm.

Spend your time wisely.

Trust in your teachers and mentors.

Understand you are not your creative project; it is an expression of how you see and understand the world.

Vanquish your fears and validate how you feel about what you create.

Welcome feedback, critique, commentary that will help you grow as a creative person.

Xerox another artist’s work to learn how it is created. But show no one else. Learn how to apply it to your own work.

Yoke yourself to an artist further along the road than you. Learn from their guidance that one day you may be yoked to a new artist to teach them.

Zealously demand your need to create; creativity is oxygen to you. Without it you would suffocate.

What would your alphabet of suggestions for creative people be? Write a list, post it to your blog and link back here for everyone to read.

I Found More Poetry Under The Lounge

 I find poetry in all kinds of places, often under the lounge and I found some more there recently.

Right now the end of winter is approaching here in the southern hemisphere (not that we had much of a winter where I live – what happened to those good old fashioned frosts we had as kids?) and with it the promise of hay fever, runny noses, itchy eyes and a cursing of all things frolicking. The first and last poems assembled here, Magnolias and Windy Days, are inspired by the wintery season.

Magnolias

As I drive past
The magnolia blooms
A thousand sunrises
Of pink to white and
A thousand sunsets
Of white to pink
Simultaneously

Standing By

I stand in the longest corridor
possible, pretending I’m Red 5
barrelling down the trench
avoiding laser blasts
to my office door

The Last Page

When you close a book
Do you think it will be
The final time?
Never to peer
Between the pages and
Read the tongues of men
Again

My Companion

I walked in darkness
But was never afraid
For I felt your hand
In mine, or around
my waist, looped over
my shoulder as my light

Generations

She watches
grandmother’s knitting
learns the art of rhythm
the pulse of long thin bones
curses the dropped stitch
like her grandmother

Windy Days

I imagine with each 
breath of wind
the trees ask
for our silence
a gentle ‘Shhhh’
simply to listen
to our own
heartbeat
Which poem resonates with you?

Kintsukuroi – Micropoetry

In my brokenness
I am made beautiful
You collected
the broken pieces
Sealed fleshly wounds
With golden scars
I wear as triumph

 

This poem was inspired by the Japanese art form of kintsukuroi

Kintsukuroi

 

I see creativity as an act of creation and as an act of repair. Sometimes it is in the act of creating that a person finds wholeness by putting their emotional and mental trauma and experiences into a work of art. It may be a difficult and draining but it can also be a catharsis, a release, a giving away of the issues and experiences held onto like removing a splinter from under the skin.

Sometimes we need to understand we are broken so we can be repaired and made beautiful again. Creativity is the medium through which it can happen.

What can you make beautiful again?

What Makes Your Life Extraordinary?

What Makes Your Life Extraordinary?

In Dead Poet’s Society, Mr Keating takes the boys to the hallway to see the photos of past students and whispers the immortal lines, “Carpe diem. Seize the days, boys. Makes your lives extraordinary.”

A current television commercial runs the slogan, “Escape ordinary.”

What makes a life extraordinary?

People buy into this idea of your life having to be a Broadway extravaganza or a Hollywood blockbuster ALL. THE. TIME.

We are presented with hyper-idealised notions of reality. Do life BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER, LOUDER, MORE DEMONSTRATIVE, IN YOUR FACE and (dare I use it because I hate the acronym) YOLO! It’s perfectly captured in the Selfie Generation: LOOK AT ME, I’M IMPORTANT AND I DESERVE YOUR ATTENTION.

It is the wrong perspective.*adjusts cardigan and puts on slippers*

What’s wrong with ordinary? Ordinary is where I live and find my inspiration. I joke my life is coloured beige for boring, making my life extra ordinary.

For the creative person, extraordinary is a way to burn out because it demands you give out so much more of yourself than is returning to you.

“The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”

For me as a writer, the greatest stories are not the ones we see in films, the lives of movie stars, but in the embarrassing ordinariness of people doing things in their every day lives that benefits others. The ones who don’t see their work as anything important; they are filling a need, taking care of their community, advocating for the poor and disadvantaged. Living an extraordinary life is one lived in service of others and pursing your own dreams. Balancing the self with the care of others. Telling their story is an extraordinary privilege.

I like to think of the word as “extra-ordinary.” The one thing that defines the ordinary from the extraordinary is passion. Mr Keating exhorted his young charges to engage with the aspects of life that they were passionate about.

For the creative person, the passion manifests itself in the choice of medium whether it’s writing, art or music.

As it relates to creativity, to continually produce great art, to live an extra ordinary life, requires repetition, ritual and reflection.

Repetition

Not once, not twice, not even thrice but continually and habitually. Continue to produce art: write regularly; sketch, doodle, scribble whenever possible; practice scale and rudiments.

Repetition can become staid and uninspiring so it requires a dedication and committed work ethic to maintain your focus on being creative.

Early efforts will be complete and utter rubbish. But that’s the point of repetition: you do it until you get better.

Ritual

Setting aside an assigned time to work on your creative project is like attending church or settling onto the couch to watch your favourite television show or sport team compete. Like repetition, it is a repeated event but the goal is one of individual development.

Ritual provides structure and is an active reminder to develop a disciplined approach to our creativity.

Reflection

Movement without reflection will only end up with you moving in a circular fashion, only ever returning to the starting point without having learned or progressed.

Every once in a while it is important to reflect on your goals, your progress in terms of work produced and skills developed. Are you improving? Has anything weakened? What else do you need to know?

Creativity makes your life extraordinary because you have embraced repetition, ritual and reflection. You are taking the ordinariness of life and giving it meaning through creating great art.

This makes you extraordinary.

Addendum: This morning in the shower (place of many great epiphanies along with the kitchen sink while washing up) I had another idea to add. It was the one thing that makes a life extraordinary: Relationship.

Without relationship, we are merely individuals without community and connection. In relationship with other creative people we make our lives extraordinary because we have companionship, connection and community. We are no longer alone. This is fundamental in making our lives extraordinary.

6 Things A Writer Can Learn From Watching A Dance Show

The current season of So You Think You Can Dance is airing on television in Australia. It’s the home-grown version, not the US version telecast. I’m fascinated with the performance and artistry of physical movement that can be graceful, violent, articulate, mechanical, whimsical and profoundly intellectual.

I have two daughters who are enamoured with dance as a performing art, and my wife danced when she was younger. Many years ago, she stood in front of me, feet planted flat on the ground and proceeded to kick cleanly over my head. I’m approaching six feet tall and my wife is somewhat shorter. I vowed never to get on her bad side after that.

As a writer and creative type person I look for inspiration from a variety of sources. After watching a couple of episodes I saw parallels for writers.

1. Style in dance is genre in literature

The beginning of the series divided the dancers into their preferred style: ballet, jazz, contemporary and urban. They learned choreography in their style by an expert in the field. The dancers knew the talent and reputation of their teacher and sought to excel in the choreography they were taught.

For a writer the equivalent is immersing yourself in your preferred genre: literary, science fiction, western, romance, horror, speculative fiction, gothic. Learn from the masters of your field; absorb the lessons by reading and deconstructing their work.

2. Adaptability is essential (but know your strengths)

To whittle down the contestants, the dancers were then asked to perform in a style they were unfamiliar with. Ballet dancers had to learn an urban performance; jazz dancers had to learn a contemporary routine.

Some dancers adapted quickly to the new movements and techniques; others struggled. Yet they persevered. The results varied for each dancer; some excelled while others maintained a form of equilibrium, enough to get by but not enough to stand out from the pack.

As a writer, know your form, your technique, your movements. Then learn from another style. Adapt. But know your strengths. Learning from other genres will enhance your own writing and may even separate you from the pack and put you in front of it.

3. Discipline is Key

Part of the reality tv schtick is to give the viewer some background on individuals of note. The focus is on those who are endeavouring to succeed, but ultimately are shown their skills are wanting, and on those dancers who excel in their gifting.

And it is in these gifted individuals that you see due diligence and discipline in their practice and an innate sense of understanding about their chosen art form.

For a writer, as it is for a dancer, it is practice, practice, practice. I firmly suspect that practice for a writer and a dancer is two-fold: maintenance and improvement.

Practice for maintenance keeps you writing stories and producing work.

Practice for improvement means you’re seeking feedback on your work or taking classes, attending forums and conferences, to seek to understand your art form better and to produce better work.

4. Movement and rhythm is both graceful and violent

Every dance style has its form, repertoire, vocabulary and structure. Its manifestation in movement and rhythm is both graceful and violent. I don’t mean violence in an aggressive, physical act but the ability to portray emotion through face, body, limbs and the overall form of the dancer.

Vocabulary for the writer is the raw material to capture the emotion of the scene and engage the reader with its visceral description of beauty or horror.

A colleague described the language of “Lolita” as exquisitely beautiful while the content became darker and offensive.

Learn to utilise the movement and rhythm of language to create grace and violence.

5. Stories are interpreted through different forms

Ask a ballet dancer, a jazz dancer, a contemporary dancer and an urban dancer to perform a love story and the interpretation will vary, based on the lexicon of the specific dance style. I love contemporary dancing for its narrative capabilities, but what can I learn from the narrative in ballet? Or jazz? Or urban?

Learn to tell stories in a different form. Learn to tell a narrative from another angle.

6. Show your work, and know when to hide it

The show is built around showing the progression and development of each dancer as they learn new routines, often in styles they are not conversant with. I like seeing the growth of the dancer as artist when they are open to learning, stepping into an arena they are unfamiliar with and untrained in. Yet the psychology of dance, the mental framework of adaptability and learning allows them to rise above it.

As the viewer, I get to see the falls and stacks during rehearsal, and so appreciate the performance knowing the effort they have sustained to make it look effortless.

Sometimes as writers we are too quick to show off a new piece of work, not allowing it to settle before another round of edits or sent to a trusted beta reader.

Snippets on blogs is a good way of keeping readers hooked prior to a new release, or showing them works in progress. Know when to show your working; make it shiny and new and fresh and of a high standard.

Don’t rush it.

Now if you’ll excuse me I hear a lively tune; I’m inspired to dance.