2021: Art in Process: Making a U-Turn

Art in process. Well it certainly has been that. A couple of posts back I discussed letting the process lead…haha, and how you have to be brave to do that, yada yada yada.

Well, my process has taken a complete U-Turn. I’ve been happily blogging and vlogging away about making an experimental film while at my residency at RM Gallery and at the same time letting the process lead me. However, unknowingly I had already decided the outcome… an experimental film. So, while I was letting the process ‘go with the flow’ I had already put ‘a stake in the ground’ so to speak by saying the outcome will be an experimental film. (How is that letting the process lead)???

I guess I didn’t really think about the outcome being defined by the process, only the content of the mode chosen. So, woke up this morning and my process led project must have been talking this through with my unconscious as the project is no longer an experimental film… I know? What the!

Putting this into context, I was trying to fit the characters into a linear timeline, I had been struggling on this for a week or two, how to transition from one to the next. I had started thinking about the edit and how this would, or could work. But now I’ve realised, that the characters can’t be on the same screen.

So, what I now have is an audio-visual INSTALLATION.

You might ask, “what’s the difference between an experimental film and an installation?”… and all I can say is, (with a sigh), … so many things. Yep they are so different.

I was chuffed working towards my experimental film. I was thinking about editing it, sound editing it, exporting it to a nice small movie file and then sending this piece off to experimental film festivals. That would be where the work would be viewed. It would be simple – or at least more simple than the idea I have now.

But the process has spoken. And it makes complete sense.

Whenever I make an audio-visual work, regardless of it being narrative, documentary, experimental or even installation, and regardless of the way in which it is experienced, for example on a big screen, TV, small screen or in a gallery, I create a world. And in the logic of this particular world the characters never meet. They can’t meet. They are the same person from nature, but all five have been nurtured very differently and from that nurture constructed their-self and how they represent themselves in the world. They, for a better explanation, are on parallel worlds. And for that reason the characters need to physically have their own screens. Well it makes sense to me.

Making a U-Turn is hard to do. Not only having to admit that you are heading the wrong way – but to share with everyone else as well. I mean in one way, it’s no big deal, it is my project and people will take into consideration the ups, downs and turns a creative project can have. But for myself, it seems to be more difficult this time. I mean I wanted to make a experimental film, it was – maybe is, caught up in my own identity as a ‘filmmaker’…

But I’ve had to let that go, I know this U-Turn is in the best interests of the project and that has to come first. My pride can take the back seat. Ha ha.

Let me know about your U-Turns.

Juby

2021 – Art in Process: Leading the Blind

If I were blind I’d rather have another blind person leading me around because they know what I’m dealing with and they’re experiencing the same things. 

Augusten Burroughs

Been a while since I wrote a post, so a bit of a catch-up needed. I started my residency at RM Gallery a couple of weeks ago. My experimental film idea is making huge leaps and bounds now that I have more time to put into it. The space itself is peaceful to work in and the city vibe outside the door keeps my interests up.

At the same time though life has been particularly stressful. Not the art making – but everything else. And I think that is why I haven’t posted a lot. I did a YouTube clip about mental health and creativity, which I will link here. This kinda sums up how I’ve been. Very up and down, and just taking one day at a time.

What I want to briefly discuss in this weeks post is ‘process-led creativity.’ The process of this particular project has led the work and is leading the work. I did not, have not, and still do not know the exact outcome, instead I’m letting the process take me into the unknown.

Every creative project is different, every creative journey unique. I usually make work where I do know the outcome, for example; I am writing a web series, or I am painting a landscape… So letting the process lead is extremely challenging. When I began I looked towards nature to find and create the structure of the work, and somehow that process led me into ‘nurture’ – as in nurture vs nature, which I would have never imagined. So the content and themes are much more about nurture, and if it does finish as an experimental film, the viewer may never guess that nature had a part, so my creativity around being inspired by nature to create structure is somewhat hidden.

But, if we think of buildings, foundations and footings probably aren’t the first things you think about. I’ve spent time looking at patterns in nature to be inspired to create a structure but then moved onto thinking about nurture for the content. It seems understandable, but I didn’t know this when I started.

I would say not to be afraid to take this approach, but be prepared for radical shifts to happen. You will probably have a starting point but then allow the process to lead. You will get to the end – just not one you imagined at the beginning.

It’s a bit like writing a novel without chapter planning. It’s not for everyone – but it’s a hell-of-a-ride.

Catch you next time xx

2021 Art in Process: Is it too late?

Is it too late? Am I too old? Am I too young? Do I know enough about this topic? Do I have enough experience? Am I too jaded? What will people think? What will my family think? I can’t start something new now! How do I start? There are already so many people doing it. There’s so many talented people out there. No one would care about it. People will think it’s stupid…

And on and on it goes. You know what I’m talking about.

What the hell! Really? Stop it! How on earth can you let creativity be part of your life if you are starting on this note?

It’s not too late. Your not too young or too old. And experience comes with doing, so if you want it, you have to do it. You are your best friend, you are your own ally. Creativity isn’t for those ‘arty’ ones, it’s for everyone.

I’ve been creating stuff… songs, poetry, films for over 2 decades for myself and professionally and I still have all those insecure thoughts. I still get nervous and doubt myself, we all do, it’s not just you. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t. But those people who can get past the thoughts and push through are the ones that achieve some sort of creative progress.

I went to an abstract painting class for the first time – this is not great art, it’s me making creative progress.

Thoughts really get in the way. But they’re just thoughts. Yep, just thoughts. Say it 10 times. They’re just thoughts.

Ask yourself, what is the worse thing that could happen if I take that pottery class, or learn photoshop skills online? You could find that it’s not for you, OR you could find some joy.

I’ve gone through the creative process a few times now, and if something is nerve racking I’m probably on the right path. Creativity isn’t cookie cutter, it’s part exploration part expression; it opens us up to see the world differently. It gives us confidence to fail and succeed- both as important as the other.

So don’t believe those thoughts of yours because they’re just thoughts.

Catch you next time xx.

2021 Art in Process: Validation

Hello everyone, I hope you are all well. I’ve been thinking a lot about validation recently and because of this thought it would be a good time to write about it. I’ve been thinking about it because I’ve realised that even though I paint, and write poetry I am very unsure of myself in these areas because I have had little or no training, and I’ve never been involved professionally in them.

At the moment, if you have been reading the ‘Art in Process’ posts, you will know that I’m working towards a residency at RM Gallery where I will be making an experimental film. The process of making this film has been hugely challenging, however I find myself confident even when I’m unsure about this new method of ‘making’. I think this is mainly due to the fact that I’ve been involved in creating moving image for quite some time both commercially and artistically. I feel like I don’t need validation to continue on, I’m confident in the process and confident in myself when it comes to this type of creativity.

So, does experience and training validate creativity? Good question.

Validation stems from the term ‘valid’. The original French ‘valide’ was to do with the law – having something legally binding. However the Latin term ‘validus’ seems more likely to be what I’m getting at; ‘validus’ means strong, powerful, active. The Proto-Indio-European root word is ‘wal’: to be strong, “sufficiently to be supported by facts or authority, well-grounded.”

There is a lot here to unpack, especially when creativity and the act of an individual creating is completely personal. I love this quote:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.”

Martha Graham

Could the validation then be OF and FROM ourselves. OF expresses the relationship between artist and work. ‘The work OF you’. FROM expresses that you are the source. If we are unique as Graham suggests then the validation is supported by the fact – the work is ‘OF and FROM us’. We can be strong, powerful and active knowing that only we could ever make this exact piece. Our validation is already in the work.

So, even though we may not have experience or training – validation is already part of our uniqueness – and we can’t take our uniqueness out of our creativity.

Hope you have a great week. Catch you next time xx

Lists

Lists to do. Groceries, jobs, crossed out or ticked off.

What lists do you make?

Well I want to start with a few different types of lists, fun lists, list that open up creativity. Something I’ve picked up from the book: L’art de la Liste: simplify, organise, enrich your life. Written by Dominique Loreau.

The first one I want to start with, is a list of self description. A written self portrait. Try it. It is more difficult that is sounds. Below is my attempt…

There are so many lists that are fun – the next one is a ‘wish list’. Dominique Loreau states:

Writing down your dreams – even seemingly impossible dreams – may lead to a strange phenomenon: They may come true.

My wish list is pretty simple:

I wish to travel, see the world, the whole of it.
Everything.
Which now seems further away.

I wish to talk in languages.
German
Te Reo
Spanish or French.

I wish to work in China for a while.

Loreau states:

Make a list of your wishes – date them and keep them. Don’t worry if they contradict each other. All you need to do is believe in the unthinkable, the unimaginable, in mysteries and miracles. Lists of wishes have more potential to change your life than you may think. Every word conceals a certain energy. When we commit our desires to paper, we accord more importance to them; we cherish them. Our words are the cement, and our dreams are the bricks.

One more list I want to try is a memory, this is a time I spent with my Nana.

floral carpet and floral curtains
custard kisses and cheese rolls
horses
flowers
a spare bedroom with coats hanging in the cupboard
a boat in the shed, unused
a rest in the chair after lunch

Try making lists – not the ‘to do’ kind, the type that lets your imagination wonder.

Catch you next week. xx

Creating (In) A Team

Creating in a team can be complicated, especially if team members don’t agree to the direction of a particular element of the process. I’ve worked in a number of team situations, and in different positions within teams.

A garden friend I received as a gift from students.

One of the biggest complaints I hear about the creative team process is when members ideas are not used. Being a team member, does not mean the creative idea you come up with will be chosen, however, to work well and really enjoy the process you need to be willing to constantly offer up ideas. And that is all it is – just an idea, you’re not offering your soul, so there is no reason to take it personally.

At times this can be difficult as we think if our idea is not good enough for the project, we are not good enough – but that is not the case. If you were not good enough, you probably wouldn’t be on the team in the first place. The willingness to offer ideas and then sacrifice them confidently for another shows a huge ability to concentrate on the WORK rather than the SELF. The work is why you are there, the work is what you are projecting towards, the self needs to take a step back and let the work have priority in that moment. Even if you think you’re idea is better, you need to leave it behind and keep moving.

When my ideas are not in-line with the direction of the project, but I think they’re great  I usually put them on the back-burner for another time. You never know when you’re idea might just fit or solve an issue somewhere else.

Another difficult aspect of giving an idea forward is when the idea is initially taken up, but changed to the point that it is not your idea anymore. However, this is the definition of working in a team, everyone will add, change, adapt, transform – all the things, to push your idea into a place where it will best fit the work. Remember it’s about the WORK.

Also, when you start out in creative industries, often your ideas are not even asked for. Instead you are part of a larger department that is putting others ideas into practice or reality. At this point, it’s usually best to just learn from others or even learn from others’ mistakes.

Once I presented a creative idea to my manager and then that same person presented that idea to the management team as their own. This was difficult to stomach, however, in the end, I took it as a huge nod towards my own creativity – if they didn’t think the idea was good in the first place, it never would have been used.

There is so much to discuss about creating with a team and being a team member, but I’m going to change track here and discuss team leadership. I’m not an expert, there are many out there, a lot of books and information you can get on this topic, however, I’m just going to write about what I know and the experience I’ve had.

What I know that working as a team member and being a team leader, are very different – or at least they are for me.

I learnt quickly that sometimes I just needed to let go of my creative ideas, even though I had the vision for the project. Especially when I had brought in creative-specialists and crafts people. This is difficult, because I had envisioned the project outcome in a certain way and was adamant that it should stay the way I saw it. But letting go taught me a lot. First, just because someone else’s idea is better for the project or solves a problem more easily does not mean that it is not your vision. Taking on others ideas and advice is often essential to gain the outcome you need.

In my leadership experience I started with small teams, however projects grew very quickly, (probably too quickly). I found the same problems I had at the beginning, were still there but augmented in the larger projects. Once I realized this I tried to reflect on similar things I was doing. If I did the same things – I would get the same results, I wanted different results so I needed to change up what I was doing. Sounds logical – but you have to stop and reflect to actually make a change.  

There are often other issues to consider when working in creative teams, and first off is usually the budget. I have found that when the budget is bigger the freedom is tighter. There are more constrictions and more elements and people to contend with. When the team and budget is small it is often more creative (in a way), because you have to solve problems differently.

I actually have done a lot of reading around this topic for this post, but didn’t find anything I really wanted to use. However there is a ton of advice out-there. For me is was learning on the go, both with team work and leadership work. What helped the most in my own leadership was that I’m also a creative, so I understand the process – I think it would be more challenging not being a creative having to lead a creative team. One thing about creatives, I believe, is their plasticity and adaption in the testing stages when it comes to process. So often – it gets worse before it gets better. That messy part of the process is the process. The beginning stages of a creative project can be very slow, however once this incubator stage is over, usually creative projects have a cumulative effect with everything coming together. As I’ve written before you really do need to trust the process, and trust your team’s process.

I’d love to hear how you deal with your own creative process, or leadership methods you have instilled when leading a team.

Catch you next week xx

Creative Energy

In Quora a question was placed some years ago: “What is creative energy, and where does it come from?” Anthony Torres gave this answer:

It is the energy of an active, open minded individual who is channeling their inner-will to pursue change with an absence of worldly interference. Creative energy, in general, will come from within, but more specifically, should come from the soul.

I just thought this was a beautiful way to begin thinking about creative energy, especially to note the idea of “absence of worldly interference.” I’m guessing this suggests our constant buffering of our attention, such as; scrolling on a phone, which hinders the flow of concentration. However, the most powerful element in this answer is an individual who is “open minded”.

Last week, (when writing this), I was part of a writing workshop, with two others, to create a possible story line for a web-series.  It was our first meeting, we started at 10am and finished just before 2pm, and, WOW! We got so much done. We bought our note-books and laptops and some initial ideas. That was all. I was unsure of how the process would work, and also unsure on how I would fit into the writing group dynamic. However, my mind was open and I was fully ready for possibilities.

Anna Powers in Forbes.com states:

…open mindedness and innovation are linked — because in order to entertain different and, sometimes contradicting viewpoints, those views either have to be presented or conjured up in the mind as counter examples. Thus, it is through creativity that innovation and open-mindedness go hand in hand.

Open mindedness has an ability to refrain from becoming ‘stuck’, so easy for us creatives to fall into. There is a way of being that allows the process to take over the project, rather than staying rigid on a mode of creating. I call it ‘trust’ but others will call it something else. I simply trust the process, so as I start doing the work, I let the work take its own course. It’s not staying static though, you have to start the work, which can simply mean sitting down with a pencil and paper, or going for a walk with a camera, or picking up the guitar; the action of starting has to come from you, then you can allow the process can take over.

That is not saying that you don’t have an intended outcome it’s just admitting to yourself that you don’t have all the answers to get there, but you’re open to finding out how. The Encyclopedia of Creativity suggests:

A creative person, virtually by definition, must be receptive to new ideas and willing to look at problems from various points of view. Open-mindedness includes not fearing the new, different, or unknown and not making up one’s mind in advance.

So our writing group meet, and we started forming the characters, their motivations, the story arch and cliffhanger end for episode 6 – quite a lot of work accomplished in one meeting. I just want to go back to the first point made in Torres’ Quora answer about the absence of worldly interference. This aspect will be very different for everyone depending on their creative pursuit, I pretty much put any technology down and just use a pen and paper to start the story process, however your pursuit may involve YouTube tutorials, or online courses, or searching on your phone, but in my mind that is using technology as a tool and not as interference. It is staying focused and not allowing that technology which you are creatively using to become a distraction.

Our writing group met in a conference room, which is pretty plain, there was nothing in the room that any of us personally connected to. I think ‘space’ is very important to enhance the process, it is not necessary to have a perfect space to start but it does switch your brain into a different mode. Have a watch of Annie Lennox discuss the moving-spaces she uses, especially to create the song ‘Sweet Dreams’. (this is around 0:38 seconds in, however the whole discussion is useful). I also enjoy writing and creatively thinking while commuting to work and back.

But no matter where we are distraction on our phones is so common. Looking, scrolling, watching a small rectangular object connected to our hands has become a way of being in the world. However, this way, (which is not positive or negative), is passive (lacks energy) – so when we are creating we need to bring our energy with us. To do this just make a start, like I said before, just pick up the guitar and then continue onwards being open. If you fall back into passivity, that’s OK, just start again until your concentration strengthens and you can move forward.

In our writing group, none of us spent time on social media throughout the meeting, we stayed focused and as we worked through ideas and characters, the structure of our time happened quite organically. We had a couple of short breaks, but did not stop for longer than 15 minutes during the 4 hour period.

When we think about creative energy we focus on; ‘getting the shit done’, ‘ticked off the list’, the ‘desired end result’, which for me would be a scripted web-series. And I love this, LOVE ticking tasks off my ever renewing list.

However, creative energy is the PROCESS, not the outcome. So the energy actually comes from being creative. Put energy in – to get energy out. Just like physical exercise, energy creates energy and as you actively engage in creativity your energy stamina will grow. A good way to expand creative stamina is to undertake exercises in your chosen field. For example someone may knit a scarf, then perhaps a small throw, before going onto something complicated, or someone might work on pinch pots with a particular clay before trying to create a complex structure involving many elements. So when I discuss my creative work in story creation for a web series, I didn’t just arrive at that place, I have learnt the necessary skills and techniques and then as I’ve progressed I’ve been able to focus my concentration and gain the energy I need to see the process through.

It’s very important to know where you are in the process. I’m certainly not saying don’t make a start, for sure jump in and make a start, but just remember from that stepping in place you may not understand the energy you need for the process, there will be learning involved, mistakes along the way, things that you didn’t expect – but stay open and trust the process. As my Yoga instructor says “If you’re on your mat, the hardest thing has already been overcome.” So wherever you are at, start by bringing your energy, trust the process and see what happens.

Catch you next week xx