Do you know that there are deeps wells of creativity within you? Are you often or sometimes stumped trying to access them? Funnily enough, turning outwards and observing the works of other artists, can be one of the best ways to increase your own creativity.
I know our culture is obsessed with art work being innovative and original. You may fear that studying others’ creative work will limit your own creativity and originality.
Quite the contrary! The more you can expose yourself to the work of other artists, and the more you can absorb these works deep into your bones, the better for your artistic and creative growth.
It doesn’t mean you copy them. Although even doing that can be very helpful. That’s how all the old masters learned how to paint. And even though it’s gone out of fashion to do this in art schools, I think a good case could be made to bring back some of those ways of learning art.
Learning the foundations of your art by modeling the works of others, can teach you all kinds of things that it might take years to learn on your own. It can increase your sensitivity as to the nature of your art form and the possibilities within it.
By learning and reciting the poetry of your favorite poets whether they be T.S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Rilke, Rumi or some other muse, you absorb deep within you their rhythms and their images. By doing this your own creativity can be kindled, your sense of rhythm attuned, their images sparking in you more images.
Be less afraid of being unoriginal: anything you do will be different from what another does even if you draw exactly the same rose, or sing exactly the same song, or dance the same dance.
You can not only model other artist but use their ideas as a springboard for learning more about your own particular creative voice, or to get ideas for artist projects.
Just look at what they are doing that appeals to you. What don’t you like? This will help inform you about what you want to create.
As well, when you have a special project on your mind, you will be more perceptive than normal, more naturally curious about what they are doing. You may find an idea that you can adapt and use for your work, whether it’s the material they use, a theme they are treating, or the way they handle the medium.
Perhaps a painting by Georgia O’Keefe might inspire you to zero in and magnify part of a flower. Or you could adapt that idea by magnifying a part of the human body such as somebody’s lips and make it fill the whole canvas. Or you might like the colours and hues of a particular painting and use them in a weaving you are doing or a glaze for a ceramic piece.
Or you could take this passage from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land:
APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
What powerful images even just title evokes! Does this passage startle you with it’s depiction of spring as the cruelest month?
You could write another poem on based on your experience of being in a very empty desolate, emotional waste land. You could create a dance on that theme, or a sculpture of found objects, or a collage of “Memory and Desire” or a photograph of a land laid to waste by war, or drought.
The possibilities are endless.
Take a piece of paper out now, and take two minutes to jot down some ideas of what different art works or projects that you could do on the theme of waste land. And then turn it around and write down some notes on what you could create based on the opposite theme “land of milk and honey.”