Saturday, February 8, 2020

The art of being fresh

A New Day

D'you remember when a guy being "fresh" was considered...well...a little risky?

And of course, that's what you actually always kinda hoped would happen??!!

Because being fresh gives us something of a thrill!
well perhaps not the kind of thrills your mother would like you to have...
being fresh in your art work is also a thrill.

“Don’t let your art look contrived!” said my friend as we viewed my latest efforts.  I knew exactly what she mean as I love work that looks fresh and spontaneous – while all the while being the product of great thought, balance, compositional control and probably years of practice and the result of many attempts to achieve this effect.  It’s like the actor playing a part in a long running stage play – every performance must be true, valid, dynamic and effortless.  Most great performances (whatever the medium) have this quality – it doesn’t happen as a result of being very young, very drunk and  (one thinks!) very spontaneous!  it’s practice that counts of course.  Practice, practice, practice and then letting go and being in the moment when faced with one’s medium.  I’ve been reading a very revealing book about the performance of tennis  (Open by Andre Agassi)where he demonstrates over and over the validity of this observation.

It's true in music too, my pedagogue says "just relax and let loose and be spontaneous" - with a chopin nocturne!!!!  phew.   it will take a lot of practice...but he knows that a good performance has just that quality of spontaneity, like you just dreamed it up right then and there.

The problem of being too contrived occurs frequently i “Clumsy, Hollow and Contrived” wrote critic Januszczak of de Lempicka’s work where, according to the critic, her attempts to copy Cubism,  and to fake much more knowledge (according to the writer) than she had of that particular art movement were. 

Januszczak writes about deLempicka adopting a style and attempting to use it even though she didn’t understand it and had nothing to offer it in terms of her own imagination.  This is a  problem evident in many a clone quilt! 

Following the inspiration of “primitive” art is a tightrope that many have tried to walk.  And often been  commercially successful, but alas the result of a such a strong source of inspiration leads to one producing contrived art.  Inspiration plus development and work, not mockery and thoughtless reproduction, is required.

The opposite of contrived work is work that has variety, unexpectedness, bold strength not wimpy efforts, and has a clear impact on the viewer. 

I was listening to a talk on creativity recently.  The speaker said that while everyone can be creative much in modern education squashes it!  Most 5 year olds think they are creative, hardly any 17 year old do!  But we can get back into the creative takes practice!   Your first ideas will be based more on memories...yes memories of your own, or other people's art work, your next ideas will be more likely to be your own and novel, but perhaps not very interesting, however if you keep pushing it more and more then the ideas come that are both new...and fresh...and beautiful.

So please don't give up when you have created the first design for a quilt, or done one value study for a painting, keep working, trying different possibilities...this is where the real work of art takes place.....give yourself a number - say a dozen different ways of depicting a tree, or a car, or your first love...and then stand back and evaluate...and I'm sure you'll find that you're getting fresh!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!
Comments please!!  I love them...and will respond.   Elizabeth


Mary Jackson said...

I read that what makes a genius is that they are not deterred when an idea doesn’t work out, they just keep approaching the problem from a different direction. This sort of fits in with your final paragraph.

As always an excellent, thought-provoking article. Many thanks.

Elizabeth Barton said...

That’s a good way of looking at it, Mary...too many of us psych ourselves out if we don’t “succeed” quickly.
The reality is that few do! Most achievements are the result of considerable persistence.
Thanks for writing! elizabeth