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Thursday, February 16, 2017


When we seek the well of inspiration, there are techniques we may practice to set our feet on the path that will lead us to creative refreshment.

It is all too easy to fall into the trap of work that is done for the purpose of pleasing an audience. One sure way out of this trap is to consciously produce art which has no remunerative purpose at all.

In art school we were set assignments which, at the time, made no sense to us. They seemed arbitrary and without purpose. Our teachers were wise who set our feet on these paths. They opened our eyes to the myriad possibilities of design in the mundane world around us. 

As we collect objects for this exercise, we open our awareness to shape, colour, function, form. We literally see with new eyes. 

There is a pathway in our brains which is called the "afferent learning system". It is through this pathway that we associate like with like, and are able to simultaneously recognise objects which are similar in some way and distinguish between similar objects and those which differ. Development and exercise of these neural pathways are vital to creativity.

One exercise which I have found to be particularly useful is to photograph and paint aggregations.

Aggregations are assemblages of like objects. 

I assemble objects purposefully which have commonalities. These commonalities may be size, context, colour, shape. I arrange them in a fashion which is pleasing to me. Then I photograph them, and use the photograph as a basis for a drawing or painting.

This exercise frees my brain from the tyranny of necessity and performance. It opens my mind to seeing new ways in which disparate objects can be creatively combined. 

Exercise 1. A Collection of Similar Things.

This exercise is the easiest to start with because our brains are already hard wired to recognize like and like. 

Go through your house, a thrift store, a flea market, a farmers market. Asking permissions where necessary, assemble similar objects and photograph them. 

Arrange tomatoes according to size.
Open a package of multicoloured food: candy, cereal, cookies. Arrange them in a spectrum.

Exercise 2. These objects work together.

Create an assemblage of tools which may be used in one creative field. Arrange them in such a way that is esthetics pleasing with no consideration of context. The objects loose their meaning in this assemblage and become shapes.

Exercise 3. All of a colour.

a. Assemble objects, regardless of their purpose or context, which share a common colour.

b. Assemble objects which share a common purpose, and are in the same colour family. For instance, shirts in a warm blue colour range. Socks in every colour of black. 

Exercise 4. Objects that have the same shape.

A smart phone, a cracker, a pillow, an uenvelope, a book, a box, a table, all share the same rectangular shape.

Use these photographs as the basis of drawings and paintings in various different media. Photographing, drawing and painting the same subject opens our eyes to new aspects of that subject. It challenges our brains. 

Emily Blincoe is a photographer who excels in this.

This sort of visual exercise is to an artist what scales are to a musician. You must spend time practicing these every day.The fact that they are not driven by the need to produce a sellable product frees you to explore various techniques. You are free to risk failure. 

And this kind is freedom is very sweet.

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