There’s no arrival point, no end or finish line when it comes to your creativity. There will be no trumpet sound when a higher level of craftsmanship is reached and you’ll never get there – theplace where you’re happy with everything you make and feel completely comfortable all the time. Uncertainty allows creativity to flourish. If you know all the answers before you begin, how can you grow and develop as an artist?
Jeff Goins in Real Artists Don’t Starve encourages “We don’t make meaningful art through lateral moves but by constantly challenging ourselves to new heights. We cannot create great art without continuing to create ourselves. This work is a process of continuous reinvention. We don’t just do it once. It is a journey of becoming, one in which we never fully arrive.”
If it’s impossible to fully arrive, choose to ignore the imaginary finish line you’ve made up and stuck into the challenge of growing creatively.
The desire to rush your progress is ever present for beginners, (and even full-time artists). You want to get ‘better’ or look like a pro before any significant time or practice has been invested. “How can I jumpstart my art so I’m great NOW?” In a faster paced world we’ve come to expect things to happen quicker – it’s much more convenient and we do so love convenience. Why wait when you can have it all now? But your creative progression doesn’t happen according to a speedy time line. It unfolds s l o w l y, steadily and naturally if you consistently practice.
Evolution doesn’t happen instantly, which is something that Jeff Goins in Real Artists Don’t Starve explains “More often than not, our creative dreams aren’t launched overnight. They are built gradually.” And if you don’t have much time right now to commit to your practice, that’s okay. As long as you accept that it will be a slower process for you, you can focus on the fun of creating and not worrying about if you’re getting better.
Small adds up as Goins suggests “When you are in a season of life when you can’t dedicate hours a day to your craft, it can feel like you’re standing still. But at those times, when the odds are overwhelming and the busyness is suffocating, you still have something to give. The effort may seem small and insignificant, but the work adds up.” Small is the goal. Instead of asking “Am I improving?” ask “How much art have I made this week.” Quantity beats quality hands down when it comes to growth. Don’t try to rush your evolution because when it comes to art, practicing regularly IS the goal.
“You can’t rush your hatching. It’s dangerous. The results can be disastrous and take a long time to overcome. So savour the simplicity of your pre-dreams-come-true time. Love the egg you’re in.” – Danielle LaPorte
Wanting to instantly be good at art or anything new is part of our wiring. The expectations around your improvement progress can be so sky high, that it can stop you from trying again if you don’t match up to those invisible standards. Jeff Goins in Real Artists Don’t Starve suggests “More often than not, our creative dreams aren’t launched overnight. They are built gradually.” The idea that it’s going to take much much more than a few attempts is not ideal to our brains. We want to get the instant gratification of making something good and when we don’t, the feeling can be very uncomfortable. In this fast paced modern world, you may not have much time to spend on practicing and so the likelihood is that your improvement will be a slow process.
Coons argues “When you are in a season of life when you can’t dedicate hours a day to your craft, it can feel like you’re standing still. But at those times, when the odds are overwhelming and the busyness is suffocating, you still have something to give.” Taking a brick by brick approach to making art, where small adds up is something that Coons agrees with: “The effort may seem small and insignificant, but the work adds up.”
Build things gradually because there’s no extra prize for improving quicker. The satisfaction comes from the journey of art-making – the practice of making art – and not from arriving at an imagined destination. If you have a desire to make art, MAKE ART and embrace your slow evolution. Don’t sabotage the journey before you’ve even got started.
Facing a blank piece of paper before you’ve started making art can feel very intimidating because where do you even start? An exercise to dive straight into art-making is to use an existing piece of art and edit that instead. Cutout poems are an easy way to make new art because the basic material you can find so easily – the printed text. Austin Kleon creates newspaper blackoutsand encourages us that nothing is original. “Every new idea is just a remix or a mashup of one or two previous ideas.”
You will need: a magazine, newspapers, book, booklet or any printed material that contains text. A pencil/pen. Optional is a black marker or a scalpel and coloured paper.
Select a small section of text and scan for the words that can connect together to form a new sentence
Draw a box round the words you like and ‘cut-out’ the words you don’t need with your pen or black marker
Jeff Goins agrees that rearrangement is key for the creative mind: “There is a secret every professional artist knows that the amateurs don’t: being original is overrated. The most creative minds in the world are not especially creative; they’re just better at rearrangement.” By giving yourself constraints, you allow yourself to get more creative more easily.
A couple of variations you can try:
Use a layer of coloured paper and cut out the spaces to reveal the words – this is more time consuming than the pen method. Use window glass or light box as a surface to trace where the words, then finally scalpel cut out the boxes
Use different designs of paper as a layer or try painting paper to get a painted effect.
Start with a longer article and create a short story or beginning of a story, expanding on the idea of a poem
After some practice, a rhythm of making the poem emerges. It feels like you’ve cracked a code and you have a sense of satisfaction after finishing each poem. Because you are able to choose any combination of words, it feels like there’s no right or wrong result, just the one you end up with. Cutout poems are completely portable so can be created on the move and in ‘fringe’ times, all you need is some printed paper and a pen in your bag. It’s a quick, nourishing and creative form of ‘entertainment’ and fun and a welcomed alternative to checking your phone in any ‘waiting’ time.
“Transformation that is flattery – taking the things you’ve stolen and making them into your own thing… combine it with your own ideas and thoughts, transform it into something completely new, and then put it out into the world so that we can steal from you.” – Austin Kleon in Steal Like an Artist