Celebrating Creativity

Hi I'm Kadira Jennings, welcome to Unfolding Creativity, a portal to Abundance Through Creativity.

I am a creative artist celebrating and encouraging the creative in all of us.

My blog is a discussion, and creativity resource. Please take your time, look around and join the conversation if you would like to.
It is my passionate belief that we all have deep within us a creative genius just waiting for half a chance to get out no matter what field we work or play in.

''There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.''
Martha Graham

georgia okeeffe,modernist movement

by Georgia Okeeffe

 

Georgia Okeeffe was a modern pioneer in the arts.  She was a great visionary fuelling the impact of the modernist movement which still resonates down to us today.

So what does it take to be a pioneer in the arts? – I think the following quote by Georgia Okeeffe, says it all really.

“I had been taught to work like others and after careful thinking I decided that I wasn’t going to spend my life doing what had already been done, I realized that I had things in my head not like what I had been taught – not like what I had seen – shapes and ideas so familiar to me that it hadn’t occurred to me to put them down. I decided to stop painting, to put away everything I had done, and to start to say the things that were my own.”

 

This concept that you need to learn the basics and then throw it all away and start again, is not a new one, however not many artists do it. Although we do find that many of the arts pioneers have had classical training, only to discard it and find another way to explore their vision. The dictionary informs us that a person who is a pioneer is one who develops or is the first to use or apply (a new method, area of knowledge, or activity). We find this same situation in the music world as well.

 I recently heard an interview with Jack Bruce from the rock band Cream during which he stated that he had spent a long time unlearning the classical training he had had in order to be able to break new ground in his song writing and musical direction.

georgia-okeeffe,modernist-movement

by Georgia Okeeffe

 

I would suggest, however, that without the prior training both of these artists had, they would have found it difficult to go forward.  The thing training gives us is a grounding in techniques, like scales in music or understanding the importance of dark and light in an art work. These things have become second place to the more mature artist and allow a freedom to experiment because there is an instinctual foundation there for the artist to work upon.

I would suggest that there are many pioneers within the art world, although most of them will never be officially recognised. After all creativity and artistic process often lead us to engage in pushing the boundaries of what we know, to find a new image, sound, or technique which will give us the vision we are seeking. 

What is more difficult is engaging in work that sends the whole of the art world in a completely different direction. This is indeed truly groundbreaking. And the more time that passes actually the more difficult this becomes because so many avenues have already been explored.

Abstraction - Georgia Okeeffe

Abstraction – Georgia Okeeffe

There is an exhibition currently showing in the New South Wales Art Gallery, which presents the works of Georgia O’Keeffe, Margaret Preston, and Grace Cossington-Smith. These three artists came of age during a time of great social and cultural transition in the 1910’s and 1920’s. The three women rejected the artistic conventions of the day and forged new ways of capturing the world on their canvases. They were at the forefront of the great pioneering artists of international modernism.

If you live in Sydney I highly recommend going to see this exhibition which is on from July 1 to October 2, 2017. It is the first time there has been a major showing of O’Keefe’s works in Australia. There are around 30 works by each artist being presented.

 

Margaret Preston,modern_painters,georgia okeeffe

Still Life by Margaret Preston

 

A visit to this exhibition will give you some idea of what it takes to become a Pioneer as an artist.

This Weeks Question: What would you have to change about your artwork to become a pioneer in the arts?

Look For Next Week’s PostWhy is the blank canvas so intimidating and what to do about that?

 

Pix Credits:

RubyGoes

Kadira Jennings

 RubyGoes 

Kadira Jennings

 

criticism

How To Conquer The Cancer Of Criticism

Unfortunately, criticism is something that we are all rather too familiar with. We begin bearing the burden of others judgment from a very young age and the problem is that we end up becoming overly self-critical. In fact, we will often jump in to criticise ourselves and things we have done before anybody else can even open their mouths to suggest there is something not as good as it might be.

Criticism, however, does not have to be all bad. If we can learn to accept another’s analysis of our work, for what it is, their opinion, then we can digest what they have said later and see if it has any validity. Sometimes we reject another’s critique out of hand because we don’t want to admit that things might need to change, that perhaps we’ve made a mistake.

Who Are Your Critics

As an artist, it is important to realise that there are different kinds of critics in the art world, and their opinions are not all equal. So who are these people? They fall into four main categories

  • Relatives and friends
  • Yourself
  • Professional art critics
  • Teachers and mentors
  • The general public

Let’s take an in-depth look at them.

Relatives and friends

When you are a budding artist one of the most damaging forms of criticism can come from your spouse or partner and other relatives or friends. The problem is that we are used to listening to these people and often accepting their advice.

However, when it comes to our artwork they are not necessarily experts and in all probability, they aren’t. All they can do is offer you an opinion about what they like or don’t like. They do not have any technical expertise and are therefore unlikely to be able to offer you much in the way of useful appraisal. This is further compounded by the fact that we often want to please them and so we may change something in our painting on their advice, even though it may be the wrong thing to do. The other problem here is that when you are beginning you are so unsure of what you are doing that you might turn to anyone for help, whether they can actually help or not.

 

My advice regarding relatives and friends is to politely accept their assessment and then just ignore it until you can find some one more knowledgeable, whose opinion you do trust. You must learn to develop a bit of a thick skin because there are always going to be those that like your work and those that don’t. And if you take the judgement of others too much to heart, you’re in for a rocky road.

 

art critics photo

Yourself

Self-criticism also has its place. It is, in fact, a vital part of producing an artwork. However, we might like to think of it as evaluation rather than criticism. The word carries so much negative baggage along with it. Yet, if I do not stand back and critically appraise my current artwork I will not be able to see either if, or where I have gone wrong. Worse than that I will not even be acknowledging that I may have made a mistake or two. 

In order to deepen my art practice, I must be able to critically appraise my own work from a non-emotional standpoint. I have to be able to realise that an art practice is built on the foundation of making mistakes and failing forwards. If I don’t get this important point I will have a great deal of difficulty progressing.

The other important aspect of self-criticism is developing your intuition.  Learning to listen for and hear that voice within, which will guide you more truly than your ego.

Professional Art Critics

There are times during your art career, where you may have your art critically appraised by journalists, competition judges and other art critics, who make a living at making critical appraisals of artworks. The higher you rise in the art world, the more you will come under the microscope of the professional critic.  Although they have much experience in appraising art, you must remember, that they are still expressing a personal opinion. A judge is highly unlikely to choose a competition winner with a piece of work he or she dislikes.

At the end of the day, there will be as many opinions about your work as there are people in the world!.

Teachers and mentors

Of all the people who might criticise your work, teachers and mentors are probably the most valuable of those who will offer you a critical appraisal. You would do well to pay attention to what they say and attempt to put into practice what they are advising you. Of course, nobody is infallible and you must use your own unemotional judgement to determine whether you think their advice will improve your work or not. This is where it becomes important to be able to listen to your own intuition because it will always guide you well.

The general public

The general public is a very similar category to family and friends and you can apply the advice given for that category to this one.

So, as you can see, there are many aspects to the subject of criticism, and it will serve you well to listen to some and discard the rest.

 

 

Pix Credits :

First Photo – by johnhain

Second Image  by Slimdandy

Secrets Of An Artists Studio
artists studio,artists_studio,kadira_jennings,studios

Good storage is also high on the list

Artists Studio Essentials

Artists studios, come in all shapes and sizes. There are however certain elements that make an artists studio much more enjoyable to work in and offer greater functionality. Three key items that are indispensable in a studio are: 

1. A decent easel
2. A Large mirror
3. A comfy chair, a lounge chair or a settee

Of course, there are many other things that contribute to making a studio not just functional, fun to be in. It is important to remember that your studio space contributes to how you feel when you’re painting and therefore can significantly influence how you work in that space. Creating is a complex process. We often create at our best when we are in a nurturing environment. If we have to hassle with the elements or feel uncomfortable with the surroundings this can create a barrier to the way we connect with our creative flow.
The fewer external distractions we have the more connected we care to our creative process.

Now you may think that my three indispensable items are not what you expected them to be.

A Decent Easel

For many years I made do with rickety easels. When I first came to Australia I painted out on a veranda, which was rather chilly in winter as there was no room in the house where we lived, to have my easel or a studio. We do these things because we have to and if you are motivated enough you will paint under all kinds of difficult situations. However, that doesn’t make them ideal.

 

artists easel,artists studio

 

It was only last year that I bought my first easel that winds up and down with a handle. What bliss.  Expensive bliss, but bliss nevertheless. If I had realized sooner,  how much easier it makes my artist’s life, I would have saved up and bought one a long time ago.

A Comfy Chair

I have found over the years that having a comfy chair in my studio has become an indispensable item. At times, when I need to take a break from painting, I will sit in my comfy chair which is set up so that I can see the painting I’m working on, in my large mirror.

Comfy chair,artists studio

Comfy chair

A Large Mirror

This means that as I’m taking a break I can look at my work from a different point of view,  which is valuable because when you are working alone you need to be your own critic and discover your own mistakes. Sometimes a mirror is one of the only ways you can do this. I have found a mirror to be an indispensable tool in my studio practice as it offers me a different point of view about the painting. Not only am I viewing it from quite a distance away, but also I’m seeing a reversed image. I find that this allows me to see mistakes that I wouldn’t otherwise pick up.

Large Mirror,artists_studio,kadira_jennings

Large Mirror

The photo above shows the painting I’m working on, in the mirror.  It is taken from my comfy chair opposite the mirror. I have positioned the mirror so I can see my painting from a sitting position.  Sometimes this can be a bit tricky and will take a few goes to get it right.

 

 

Photo by christian.senger

3 Tips To Being A Successful Artist

The Love Birds

Success – Hannah bought this lovely painting recently

Being a successful artist is something we dream of. As part of my diving deeper program, I want to take a look at the ‘success’ word and what that means for artists.

Tip #1

My first tip relates to the concept of success itself. If you want to be successful you need to first define what success means for you. Here are some ideas.

  • Selling your work
  • Having your work shown in a commercial gallery
  • Taking part in a group exhibition
  • Being accepted into an art fair
  • Putting up a website
  • Being invited to be part of an artist Mastermind group
  • Taking a course in business management
  • Raising your skill level by attending classes
  • Having your work included in a magazine
  • Completing a piece that you are really happy with
Tip #2

Once you have decided what success is for you then you need to look towards what you need to do to reach that goal. Of course, you don’t have to choose only one thing. There are many elements to an art career. Also, I might add that my list is not definitive. There may be many other things that success is to you. I am merely giving you some ideas. It is for you to decide what success is for you. Where many emerging artists go wrong is that they think success is just about making money by selling their artworks. However, as you can see from the list there is a lot more to it than that. You may define being a successful artist, as being able to create all of your income from art related products.

It is a pretty big ask when you are starting out to expect your artwork to be able to support you. You will find that many of those that we would call successful artists, still have income from other sources happening. We all know what a fickle world the art world is and so it is advisable to have a Plan B.

Being a successful artist,kadira_jennings,Art Patrons Enjoying the exhibition,natures_expression

Taking part in a group exhibition

Tip #3

Tip number three, to being a successful artist, can probably be contained in the word perseverance.
It doesn’t matter how good your art is, at the end of the day, you won’t achieve any of the above-listed goals, without a healthy dose of perseverance.

Even learning to paint in the first place requires huge amounts of patience and stick-ability. It requires the capacity to try and fail, try and fail, and try and fail again and again.
That is only the beginning. Then you have to get your head around being an artpreneur. Many young artists begin with lofty visions of being ‘discovered’.

However,  not even 1% of aspiring artists would fall into this category. In fact, to begin having some success in selling your art, you need to become successful in selling yourself and your work. This means many hours spent networking, working social media, stalking galleries, attending openings, and cultivating collectors.

It means allowing more time to market your work than you spend painting.

Bonus Tip!!

The bonus success tip is – Appreciation.

What does that mean exactly? It means that every time you achieve one of those goals that tell you you’re successful, you need to physically appreciate yourself in some way. For example, the first painting I ever sold, I bought a gold ring with the money to always remind myself of that achievement.  I am still wearing the ring as I type this blog post.

It’s not good enough to just say to yourself I’ve done that one, tick, and on to the next thing. You might treat yourself to that special art material you’ve been wanting for a while, or take yourself on a really special artist date. If we do not mark our achievements, then we don’t notice that we’re making progress. This is why it is so important to figure out what success means to you because if you don’t know what that is, obviously you won’t know when you’ve achieved it. The other thing about having several small goals that you can feel successful on achieving is that you will attract success because you are already achieving it and developing a success mindset.

What is The Most Difficult Aspect Of Creating An Art Work?

the most difficult aspect of creating an artwork,kadira_jennings,diving deeper,art practice

 

What is the most difficult aspect of creating an artwork? Well I guess that’s a question that is open to interpretation and the answer quite probably depends on what stage of your art career you are at. Sometimes it would seem that the most enjoyable part of creating an artwork can be the conceptual part. During this phase, there is an excitement, a yearning to explore the new and uncharted regions where you have not been before.
To some, however, this can be quite scary because it means leaving behind the tried and true and dipping your toe into perhaps, murky waters you have not ventured forth before.

I find this beginning phase of the work quite wonderful full. I love to play with ideas and images. It has been a part of my art practice for some years to put an image into Photoshop and really explore it, do all kinds of things to it, before I decide on how to paint it. I might create several layers of the same image and subtly alter the colour on each one give me a brand new image. The concept of layering itself is something that has always fascinated me in many, different ways. This is quite clear when you look at my body of work because through most of it,  you will find the concept of layering turning up in one form or another.

Painting Elements

I digress, however. To get back to the most difficult aspect of creating an artwork lets consider the different elements required to complete a painting.

  • Choosing the subject
  • Conceptualizing that subject
  • Gathering your materials
  • Deciding how you will do your underpainting if you do one
  • Doing the underpainting
  •  Deciding on what technique you are going to use for the work
  • Figuring out which part of the work to paint first
  • Painting the work
  • Assessing the work

Choosing A Subject

I think for me, yes over the years, I have found the most difficult aspect of creating an artwork is often, choosing a subject. Once you know what you want to paint and you have the skills necessary to do so the rest is all pretty enjoyable. It’s not that it’s a piece of cake however because no matter how long you’ve painted there is always going to be challenges within every work that you do.
One of the great artists once said, ‘the best painting you will ever do is your next one.’

I have found one thing that makes this aspect of the work easier is to work in a series of paintings about one subject. There are a couple of reasons why this makes choosing your subject easier. The first one, obviously is that you have some idea of what you will paint next because you already have the subject. The other advantage to painting in this way is that it is a method of developing your work to a deeper level. Each painting can evolve from the previous one. This is particularly valuable when you are working with abstracts. You can actually take a small area of a painting that has worked particularly well and blow it up into a bigger painting. 

You then take the best area of the second painting and in turn expand that into a bigger painting and so on. It is quite amazing where this journey can take you. There is a series painted by Georgia O’Keeffe which began with a shell, a leaf and a wooden roof shingle. After painting four or five images she ended up with a really stunning abstract work, which she couldn’t have arrived at without her working through the previous paintings. You can see the beginning and finished ones here.

 

Shell leaf and shingle, georgia okeeffe,Most Difficult Aspect Of Creating An Art Work,Georgia_Okeeffe,Kadira_Jennings

Shell, leaf and shingle, Georgia O’Keeffe – beginning work

 

Georgia describes, how she came to paint this, indicating that she too had trouble with inspiration at times.

“We were shingling the barn and the old shingles, taken off, were free to fly around. Absent-mindedly I picked up a loose one and carried it into the house and up to the table in my room. On the table was a white clam shell brought from Maine in the spring. I had been painting it and it still lay there. The white shape of the shell and the gray shape of the weathered shingle were beautiful against the pale gray leaf on the faintly pink-lined pattern of the wallpaper. Adding the shingle got me painting again.”

 

Shell leaf and shingle, georgia okeeffe,Most Difficult Aspect Of Creating An Art Work,Georgia_Okeeffe,Kadira_Jennings

Shell, leaf and shingle, Georgia O’Keeffe – final work

Conceptualizing The Subject

So if choosing a subject is difficult, conceptualizing it can be even harder. The two seem to go hand in hand and are really separate parts of the one thing. However, you can’t work with the concept of something until you actually have that something. So for example, relating to the series on refugees I painted last year, I had to come up with the idea in the first place of doing some works relating to the refugee situation. Once I had decided to work on that, it was then necessary to think about what angle I wanted to come from. There are so many different things I might have chosen from, I could have made the series about:

  • the impact on children
  • The trauma of leaving one’s country forever
  • The trauma of being in a war torn country and having to come to that decision of leaving one’s homeland
  • The hopes and dreams of someone who becomes a refugee
  • The political climate in this country, Australia, regarding refugees, which incidentally has an appalling refugee track record I’m saddened to say

And the above are only a few ideas about this topic. Interestingly enough what made me choose to work on this topic was a news bulletin I heard while visiting New Zealand, which related to how wonderfully a planeload of refugees was welcomed and treated in Dunedin. This contrasted so much with the way Australia treats refugees that I felt moved to paint about the subject. 

Then, of course, the challenge was to figure out how I wanted to put that into visual images. I found that inspiration from a highly unlikely place,  a photograph of the mist over some hot pools in Rotorua. The first painting I did of this was quite abstract but grew from there and then the series itself evolved from that. I found that I also wanted to make a comment in the series about the way in which people lose not only their birth place but so much of their culture as well. We often find that the aggressors in wars will try to completely obliterate the cultural heritage of the country they are invading. This has been happening in Syria, with places like Palmyra being vandalized and priceless artifacts and art works being destroyed. Some of the paintings in my series addressed this issue.

palmyra,Kadira_Jennings.refugees,artist,

From Palmyra to a New Land

In conclusion, I would suggest that we have so far only examined the tip of the iceberg and regard to what might be considered the most difficult aspect of creating an artwork. I will continue this discussion in a further blog post.

 

Pix Credit: ElisaRiva

deepen my creative practice,meditation,kadira_jennings

 

How do I deepen my creative practice?

This is a question relevant to many artistic disciplines. It does not matter what line of creativity you happen to be pursuing, there will be some point in your journey, where you decide that you want to dive deeper. Of course, this will look different depending on how far along that path you are.

What does diving deeper look like?

It might look like any one of the following things –

  • Plucking up the courage to go and take a class – i.e. pottery, painting, or sculpture.
  • Enrolling in a semester of life drawing classes to up skill in your figure drawing
  • Studying some technical aspect of your medium
  • Making art journaling part of your daily creative practice
  • Taking time to really think about what your creative practice means to you
  • Working with a mentor to help you gain insights into things that are difficult to see for yourself
  • Joining a creative Mastermind group or creating one of your own

There are so many aspects to one’s creative practice that can be delved into in more detail. One of the areas that I would like to explore with you is the ways you can tap into your greater creative potential and look at ‘how can I deepen my creative practice?’

deepen my creative practice,meditation,kadira_jennings
Creative Practice – What Is It?

In order to talk about deepening your creative practice, we need to begin with the concept of what it actually is.  Why do we call it a Creative Practice?  What does that really mean?

Unless we understand the nature of a thing, it is impossible to try to think about changing it in some way. If we fail to understand the inherent qualities in that thing, in this case, our Creative Practice, any changes we might make, can often be counterproductive, because we are not looking at the big picture. That is why we must begin with a discussion on the nature of creative practice in order to go deeper into its meaning in our creative life.

Before going further, I would refer you to two earlier posts on this subject for an overview of the topic. These discussions are about the surface levels of Creative Practice.

Creative Practice Part I

Creative Practice Part II

The distinction I want to pursue in this post is a discussion of how we can tap into our own creative depths and why that is important. The term Creative Practice, itself suggests that it is an ongoing process, which indeed it is. When we practice something we keep refining and readjusting it, looking to make it the best that we can. 

In the pursuit of artistic excellence, therefore, we engage in a practice which calls to something deeper within us. It is not only concerned with practicing and perfecting techniques.  This may occur in the beginning, however, as we move past that stage, we find ourselves drawn to creating something meaningful to us and possibly others as well.

In order to understand how to deepen our Creative Practice, I will be offering you over the course of this series, some suggestions.

What are some techniques we can use to achieve this?

Our Beginnings

To know clearly where we are now, it is often necessary to look backward. If we have an understanding of the journey that has brought us to the point we are currently standing, we will have a great deal more insight than we might otherwise have had.
This, therefore, brings me to the first technique, which can be a rich mine of information to support your Creative Practice.

Exercise 1
The Timeline
  1. I would like you to take a piece of A4 paper, turn it sideways and rule two lines on it, one of them at the top and one just over halfway down it.
  2.  At the beginning of the top line I want you to write Birth and at the end of the second, I want you to write your current age.
  3. Now, think back through your life to the major events that have occurred. The first one on your line – after your birth, should be your earliest memory.
    Apart from major life events the other things you might consider putting on this timeline, are moments that have really stood out for you for some reason.
  4. Do you have any memories that are like beautiful jewels? For example, one that springs to mind in my own life was not a major event, and yet I can still see the image so clearly in my mind’s eye. This took place when I was about eight. We lived in Blenheim in New Zealand at the time. One Sunday morning as we were driving to church, I remember looking out the back window of the car and seeing the moon sitting on the mountains in the distance. It looked absolutely enormous as it nestled in the sky, glowing pink with the sunrise. The beauty of that immense, luminous moon, resting on top of the snow-capped mountains has always stayed with me. This experience was I think, one of my first awakenings to the immensity and beauty of the natural environment.
  5. Below, I have shared my timeline with you. As you can see there are challenging times on it.  These events have definitely influenced how my life has unfolded, and the way my creative practice has grown out of my dealing with those events. There are in all of our lives moments that may have been incredibly challenging and how we have dealt with those moments has defined who we were and how we moved forward from there.
  6. My Timeline,kadira_jennings

      My Timeline

If we think about our lives as a series of moments, when we look at these moments on our timeline, we find that some have gained much more significance than others, within the landscape of our lives. It is these significant moments that can offer a Treasure House of things for us to base our creative practice around, for they contain an essence of who we were – and offer us the ability to question if we are still that person and how we might feel about that.

 

Empty Vessel Beautiful Place

When I look at my timeline and think about my body of work, I can see a correlation between my emotional states and the works I’ve produced at different points along this timeline. I also see that there are some areas that I have created series of paintings around. For example the paintings I did dealing with the death of my father. Empty Vessel Beautiful Place  – is one of the works from that series. Another important series within my body of work was done in 2014 when I was experiencing a huge gulf in my creative practice and working through a period which I called my ‘ dark night of the Soul.’ The work below is from this period.

Dancing In The Dark, Kadira Jennings

Dancing In The Dark -Oils on Canvas

It is interesting for me to also see that there are some areas of my early life that I have not dealt with in my artwork and I am wondering what I have missed. What is there that is unique within my experience that can be gifted to the world?

Furthermore, I would suggest that if we look at the timeline as a whole, we will see patterns begin to emerge. Patterns which speak to us of the joys and challenges we have experienced. On looking more closely we can often see repeating patterns. It is these repeating patterns that offer clarity, wisdom, and insights into how we might proceed forward with a greater level of understanding in the future.

If you wish to learn more about how to deepen your creative practice, this is the first in a series I plan to post, so stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Pix: realworkhard

Photo by erix!

 

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