The Creative Epiphany – The Schizophrenic Artist With Her Hair on Fire

?????????? Mixed media Collage titled “Broken Road” by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, copyright 2014

Remember a couple weeks ago I was talking about the creative person who changes his/her style and cannot please everyone in the process? I said it is no one’s business but your own how you paint, what you paint, and what direction your unique evolutionary process takes you. OK that is a given. But some of us do it a little differently, so it’s no wonder the innocent viewer is confused. This “being a creative artist”, meaning any kind of creative person at all, is multi-faceted, and it not only goes deep, it goes very wide, and then it goes deeper again. If you were fracking for the good stuff, the core, the gem of being an artist, you’d have to go in from the side as well as going deep. Very seldom do you get a gusher, and rarely when you do, it is not just about the art. There is just so much else down there….

So – your evolution within your creativity is your journey – your adventure – and no one else will ever truly grasp your struggle with it. Some people follow a straight path, sensible and logical, one style morphing slowly into another, evolving sanely; others do not. They take the broken road. Being an artist, writer, musician (such as the ones who are in the symphony orchestra but play rock & roll for fun), of many styles, all running consecutively throughout your career is insanely different and only once in a great while at some special intersection does it feel the same as those who go in the straight line. You do move forward, but in a more exhaustive frenetic pace. I guess you could put it this way – you are evolving as an artist just fine, thank you very much, but in so many arenas that you jump from one arena to the other as they all race along neck to neck in a parallel line, often changing lanes in the same day, because you could not possibly live long enough to wait until one style runs its course before you start on another. You are too impatient for that! You need to be trying out lots of ideas at once to see which one sticks and becomes the money -maker or the emotional shaker. You are a three-ring circus, a one-man band, or in the extreme a psycho artist with your hair on fire. I actually think many fine artists of the painting variety do this, and they are on fire in a good way. If you can manage the chaos it works to your advantage since one style or avenue of creativity feeds on the other, and is enhanced by the proximity of all the other creative outlets you are pursuing. So you multi-task and you get more done than if you did not. That is the fun part.

Oh but wait…painting the canvas is only one component of the puzzle. There is still much to be done after you have dripped blood onto a canvas and bled out, giving it all you’ve got. The rest is all done behind the scenes in the third world sweat shop studio where YOU are the one working 24/7 with no days off. After the styles and the choices and the evolution and the actual work all fall into place, then the real work begins. Unless you have hit it so big that you can pay $$$ to have the drudgery contracted out to about a half-dozen other worker-bees, you must do it yourself in your “off hours” from painting.

For instance, if you are an artist who is also a talented writer, those gifts combined feed the way you execute and explain your art, both verbally and in print. You will need to write a distinctive Bio, an Artist’s Statement, a resume, as well as keeping a detailed inventory of your work. If you are also a photographer, you can learn to correctly photograph your own art, saving hundreds of dollars and a boatload of time. If you are a computer wiz you can edit your photos and arrange them with text in your portfolio, after sizing them, cropping them, making color corrections and adjusting them for accurate brightness and contrast. If your work requires framing, well then frame it yourself or allow an enormous amount of money to have a professional do it – and allow plenty of time for that to happen. Weeks and weeks sometimes. If you understand the basics of sales and distribution, then you have a head start toward marketing your own art, or supervising the sales rep you pay $$$ to research galleries and sort through possible “good fit” retail and wholesale representation in your behalf. If you have an eye for display, you can offer an educated suggestion for how your work should be shown in a gallery situation where it must flow seamlessly from image to image. And last but not least, if you are a people person and you can bring a congenial first impression and a quality conversation under pressure, remembering names and faces and leaving a lasting impression, well then you have what it takes to be a success. Tired yet?

But wait again! How can you do all that and still have time to paint in several different styles all racing along at once? Therein lies the challenge. Good luck with that. But ask yourself, “Is there anything else I would rather be doing?”

If your answer is YES, then move on, and do it well.

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The Creative Epiphany – Exploring a New Creative Direction

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Let my first say that when I speak about artists, or creativity in general, and the creative gifts you received free at birth by the luck of the genes that the fates awarded you, I am addressing each and every one of you. We all receive creative gifts – in music, art, writing, photography, banking, engineering, cooking, dancing, designing, sports and I could go on and on. We all get some of the creative pie. The challenge in your life is to find your unique gift and use it well for your own satisfaction and for the greater good, as I often say.

For about six months now I have been stretching my artistic muscles – venturing forward into new territory whenever the fancy strikes me –  sometimes bravely, but more often barefoot and clueless, wearing pajamas at times – experimenting across artistic horizons. I have been attempting to find a new-ish artistic expression that will satisfy my constant need for creative adventure – thus tweaking and slightly altering my older style in that process. Since I have been painting for many decades now I do have a characteristic style, as is appropriate. It seems that no matter what I try, where I go creatively, and how much I rebel against myself, my distinguishable approach to art is a recognizable thread that runs through all. It can be maddening or it can feel comforting like an old blanket. The thought of drastic change feels rather…well…drastic. I am looking for a deep, soulful change that is a bit off-beat but still comfortable and satisfying for me. Many weeks I take two steps forward and one back, swaying back and forth into and out of my own damn self, looking hopefully for the day when I can take three steps forward and stay there.

Of course your art is a visual diary, revealing your unconscious but read-able state of mind as you paint images down through the years. If you have a body of work that goes way back, you will be able to remember what you were living through during each and every piece you painted. You will know instantly, by the level of skill and risk-taking in each historic and archival art piece, what it was in real life that prompted those mirrored emotions proudly displayed on canvas or paper. You are immensely proud of that creative record – you see it all as a timeline of your life. You are always curious to see where the bumpy and broken road will lead you next.

So when someone in your life does not understand your recent direction in art, nor does that person have the broad knowledge of art principle and history and theory with which to make an educated assessment of your new, risk-taking work, and/or does not have the self-awareness to realize that his/her critical remarks made to you are obviously built upon a house of cards that has no basis in art education – well then, that is pathetic and also hurtful. It should not be hurtful, considering the source, you think to yourself, but it is. We artists are all accustomed to criticism, of course. We are calloused and beaten up. We try to become accustomed to criticism in sheer self-defense because we get it by the boatload, not just from the art experts and the gallery owners but because everyone and their uncle has hollow remarks to make about art. Still, that particular kind of criticism spun of ignorance and innocence coming from the totally uninformed does not excuse it or render them worth polite and tolerant listening. It is not in my job description or yours to educate and inform people about art, so we need to be like Teflon and repel the unusable, unproductive critique. If push came to shove, however, I would be able to talk those people under the table – to bury them – on the subject of art. My passion and understanding of the subject knows no bounds.

Our primary job as an artist is to stretch – to grow – to continue to evolve, to whatever extent our skill level and our gift of creativity has afforded us. If we can manage to do that, then our message will always show up  in our art as freshly expressed and it will keep not just ourselves but our audience engaged and interested in our careers. People hate boredom and so do artists because we are people too. Things need some shaking up every once in a while when we get to the point where we can almost paint blindfolded because our work has become  – that dreaded word – predictable. We all know that we owe it to ourselves to keep moving forward. The people who are genuinely moved and fascinated with our art, at any stage, will continue to  be inspired enough to ask intelligent questions about what has been the catalyst for our recent evolution. They will remain our enlightened followers.

The others, the non-learners, the ones whose appreciation for creative growth and knowledge has been stunted, will eventually drop by the wayside and walk away shaking their heads in perpetual confusion. It is of no use to try and explain the whys and the wherefores of our changing art to them, and that is not our concern. People who truly care about art make it their passion and seek book-loads of information on the subject. I say, put your money where your mouth is and get thee to a library! And if they don’t care enough to research, just let them go – we do not have to ever make excuses for our art or attempt to explain its adventurous direction. That is not a good use of our time. It is no one’s business but ours.

It all boils down to the question of freedom of expression and the yearning to grow. We need to shake off the most idiotic of the inquiries and walk back into our studios and paint, smiling as we go.

The Creative Epiphany – Film Review, 12 YEARS A SLAVE

 poster image courtesy of linduslist.com

This film, directed by Steve McQueen, was difficult to watch in spite of the fact that I thought I was prepared. I had heard that it was brutal. It is beyond brutal – it is periodically and consistently horrific for almost the entire two hours and fifteen minutes. The story is beautifully filmed, gorgeously depicted, stunning in its impact – but beware the  pastoral southern scenery, moss hanging low over big oak branches and humidity you can almost taste, because something shockingly wicked this way comes.

I am a person who reads, and I read and I read. So I thought I was educated about slavery in the south. I have lived in the south, traveled through the south, toured historic plantations and seen slave cabins, and I have studied the Civil War. All that and more is what took me to see this film. For me it was a question of respect, and the fact that the film is well made. But still, I learned from this film things I had never known and I was given witness to atrocities I had never imagined.

The story is simple – Pre-Civil War, a prosperous and educated gentleman named Solomon Northrup ( played by the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor ) from upstate New York, once a slave, who has a family and has risen above his own early history, is re-captured, sold and enslaved again, for 12 long years, enduring and enduring, with the excuse that the papers granting his freedom do not exist. He experiences some kindness from strangers but then is sold to a slave owner ( Michael Fassbender ) who has slipped from pure and wicked malevolence into sick depravity, and who rules a plantation where even his wife, who has learned from a master, is sadistic and cruel.

Do we really need to see all the ways that a human being can be tortured in films today, returning now to even the old and basic, tried and true methods of cruelty? Is each new film – whether it is portraying battles, war, espionage, man to man conflict – attempting to one-up the ones before in regard to guts and gore? This historically accurate film is based upon a true story – and we learn in text updates at the end what happened to Solomon Northrup after he was eventually freed. Nevertheless, for me, it was a horror story. I could not watch at times, reminding myself that it is a FILM.

The acting is spectacular, the women as well as the men; and the children too. It is a Brad Pitt film, from his company PLAN B productions, and he has a cameo appearance portraying a character who sees slavery as wrong. I read that he is choosing responsible roles these days as his children grow old enough to see his work. Do his children have to see this kind of torture, I wonder? Still, there is Oscar buzz about it and I must say that I think it is an important film – a monumental film perhaps.

I saw the Oprah Winfrey film titled The Butler, in 2013, and I would place this 12 Years a Slave film about slavery, in spite of my shock in watching it, ahead of The Butler. I understand that The Butler, also based upon a true story, was so loosely based that it took liberties and exaggerated the plot to such an extent that the story was greatly altered from the truth. I do not like that, do you?

Should you see 12 Years a Slave? If you know you are lacking in information about this most disgusting period of our American history and you are responsible enough to want to learn what happened, then by all means see it. Please do not take your children who are under the age of 16 or so…and be prepared to answer their many questions in an educated way if you do invite them to see it with you. Be knowledgeable and have books to recommend, because our public school systems are lacking in time and resources to due this subject justice.

For Your Viewing Pleasure,

JABS