…start building your own idea accelerator.
Here we are, Installment 5 of my week of jotting down ideas and expanding on inspirational thoughts of your creative mind. In my opinion, and after polling countless peers, I have realized that artists, writers and creatives tend to do their best work in isolation. Whatever space you claim for yourself, even if it is a quiet corner surrounded by shrubbery in the yard during the warmer seasons, find some place where you feel safe and inspired. Bring along your sketch/notebook, a pen or pencil and put your thoughts and ideas on paper. Remember, this is a safe place and nobody will ask you share what is in that book. It is the equivalent of a portable safe and only you can gain access by unlocking the vault to retrieve what you placed in it.
What if you have some slower days? The ideas are there but they are not flowing as freely as yesterday? You need a little nudge but your artist friends are otherwise engaged, or you are not quite sure you want to reach out and ask for some input… then it is time to start building you own ideas accelerator. (Note: The term “idea accelerator” was coined by David Usher in his book “Let the Elephants Run”.)
Here are some ideas on how to go about it:
1. Find a blog of someone you respect in the field you are interested in exploring. Subscribe and read the posts. Try to add a new source each month or more often, as long as you are able to keep up. I continually evaluate my list of idea accelerators and delete or unfollow for a time when I no longer derive the information or inspiration I want. Be judicious!
2. Peruse your personal library for books that provide suggestions on how to expand your ideas to push you forward in your creative endeavours.
3. Access your local library (virtually or in person, depending on social distancing rules) and get lost in their line up of books for creative minds.
4. Read, read, read and make notes! Set up a filing system so it is easy for you to retrieve the information you are gathering. Actual note taking helps me internalize the teachings from the books and blogs I subscribe to. What type of filing system works best? You will be the judge of that. Perhaps you love taking physical notes into the (so often mentioned) note book. Or, is it easier to make screen shots with your phone, perhaps your iPad is your favourite tool… The choice is very personal and I cannot guide you here.
Do remember this: The aim of an idea accelerator is not to make you an expert, but to flood you with ideas and push you forward to free the flow of imagination.
5. Set up a learning circle. Yes, you read this before. I heard the other day that nobody is self-taught! My inner light bulb suddenly lit up brightly… and I had to agree! We hear the statement: I am a self-taught artist all the time. In truth, and when we think about that statement, there is always someone that we have learned from. Purchasing a special techniques book and working through the samples one-by-one, following along the great photos and descriptions is not “self-teaching”. It is taking what a respected teacher/mentor has developed, invested the time and skill to photograph and formulate clear and concise instructions to provide a jumping off point for us to try just that technique. Yes, you internalize the process and technique and you hopefully hold on to these samples to create your own reference library to move forward and build on the basics presented in the book. But in the end it is an act of copying.
Do you remember the book “Steal Like and Artist”? Here is a poignant summary of what we can gather from it: We absorb and steal, rob and plunder – whatever it takes to get our creativity moving!
We all want to be original, unique, different and standing out from the crowd. I do too! Realistically artists and entrepreneurs are hustlers and thieves. That was a blunt statement but, when we dissect it I am trying to say this: We are an amalgamation of ideas that surround us. There are also a few rare geniuses around us that pull brilliance out of thin air without prior knowledge or contextual influence. But for most of us, ideas are generated by other ideas and we tend to build on work of others. There is nothing wrong with it.
In all my technique workshops across North America I met a few participants who were there for the handouts and the bare information to go home and teach it to their group of friends or guilds… They did not have to tell me this, their way of gathering the information, taking pictures of my samples and just hanging on every word made clear to me why they had paid for their spot. I made sure to spend some time addressing the class at the end to remind them to go home and expand on the techniques introduced in class. I shared freely and encouraged everyone to experiment and create at least three more samples of each technique covered in class. At the same time I was pointing out that one internalizes the technique by making and doing… not just copying it once. Any experienced teacher/mentor knows that the learning takes place well beyond the classroom. Once a technique or design concept has been internalized it is ready for sharing. I always said: “If someone wakes you up in the middle of the night and asks you to show them that technique and you are able to share it without hesitation, then you are ready to teach it to others.” I still subscribe to that motto.
As I am nearing the end of my five day writing exploration I want to go back to the core essence of why we make art. Artists make art for many reasons: Perhaps they are expressing themselves over the state of politics and injustice, or they are making a statement about the environment and our lack of stewardship, or an artist is making art for the sheer joy of creating and pursuing ideas that burst forth from their mind. Our internal compass directs us naturally to the course we are meant to take.
We realize that making art matter, and making art that matters, are two sides of the same coin. Art will matter when it once again concerns itself with issues that matter, when it once again arises naturally at the points where art and life intersect, when it once again demonstrates that making art is the way we manifest being human. (Ted Orland – The View From the Studio Door)
Thank you for your time and interest this week. The five blog entries are reminiscent of what the Art Quilt Campus participants would have had presented to them each morning at our gathering session. I have thoroughly enjoyed composing and posting these inspirational words for all blog followers to enjoy. Feel free to comment below. I am never quite sure if my efforts are helpful until I read your insights. If there is continued interest in regular posts similar to the ones I shared this week please let me know. I am also open to topics you are interested in. It will give me a little push to read, research and put pen to paper in the future…
All the best in your creative endeavours! Anna