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

How To Dive Deeper Into Exciting Creative Revelations

Preliminary drawings,banksia,arthur _leslie_dow,georgia_okeeffe,kadira_jennings

Preliminary drawings

The subject of diving deeper seems to be coming up a bit lately. Last week I spoke of it about the concept of the muse and this week I would like to pursue that subject a little further and night of what I am currently doing in my own art practice.

Recently a girlfriend and I were to talking together and we decided that we would like to begin a collaborative project to dive deeper into our own art practices. This collaboration centres around using the artist Georgia O’Keeffe as our Muse for the project. 

We began by having a discussion on what appealed to us about Georgia O’Keeffe. We spoke about our vision for what we wanted to create. We decided the first thing we needed to do was study Georgia’s methodology in more detail. We asked questions like, how did she arrive at her final images? What were her influences? Why did she decide to create in the way that she did?

Questions are always a good place to start. I began my exploration by reading several books on her life and her art practice. From this in-depth study, I have concluded that like everyone, Georgia had major turning points in her life. One of these occurred after she had spent much time drawing and painting in the traditional manner and was then exposed to the teaching of Arthur Leslie Dow.

Dow believed in what came to be known as the Modernist principle – that the subject of the artists’ work should be their personal ideas and feelings. His solid background in Zen Buddhism influenced his teaching and he developed a new way of teaching art. This is why he taught his students to learn to see a subject in a completely different way, encouraging them to visualize effectively through the harmonious arrangement of line, colour, and NOTAN (the Japanese system of arranging lights and darks).

 

Arthur Dow concepts

Arthur Dow concepts

I bought Arthur Dow’s book and I am currently studying it and working on some of his exercises, following in Georgia’s footsteps. The link is below if you are interested in purchasing it.

 

 

He taught his students to above all appreciate the elegance of design that was based on nature but never replicate it.

When asked about the strongest influence on her work O’Keeffe replied,

“Some people say nature, but the way you see nature depends on whatever has influenced your way of seeing. I think it was Arthur W. Dow.”

He became her most influential teacher and a strong mentor.  This had a very large influence on her art practice, to the point where she destroyed all of her previous art work and began again from scratch.

 O’Keeffe wanted to avoid replicating what she saw and chose instead to uncover the true Essence of a subject from nature itself. This is a view that is closely linked to what is at the heart of Zen Buddhism, of realising one’s place in nature.

Georgia herself said, ” Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.”

Other influences came from Symbolism and Romanticism. The romantic movement took artists from the academic structure followed in the past and allowed them to seek out and follow feeling and emotion above reason. The Symbolists also were searching for a deepening of the spirit and emotions and not just a representation of nature.

Like many of the modernists, O’Keeffe spent her life trying to paint the emotional truth—not the hills above Ghost Ranch but how it felt to look at the hills; or how a flower made her feel. In order to do this, she pared back and pared back the detail, all the while looking for the essence of colour, line and form to find that kernel she was looking for.

So why am I telling you all this?  Because all this information relates to how we are going about working on the images for this exhibition, Paring back, and searching for that intrinsic beauty in the subjects we are choosing.

 

This Weeks Question: What would it take for you to dive deeper on your own creative journey?

Look For Next Week’s Post: Continuing the unfolding of this journey.

Muse,Painted by Raphael in 1511.

Painted by Raphael in 1511. Source: Wikipedia Public Domain

Creativity Crisis! I’ve Lost My Muse – How To Find It?

I think that before launching into a discussion about how to find a lost muse, it would be good to begin by identifying exactly what one is.

The Historical Significance Of The Muse

The dictionary suggests that it is a person — especially a woman — who is a source of artistic inspiration. In mythology, the Muses were nine goddesses who symbolized the arts and sciences.

Zeus brought the Muses to life to celebrate the victory of the Olympian gods over the Titians. Each one had her own domain over a particular gift in the arts.  Apollo, the god of music, art and poetry, was their teacher.

The Muses inspire creation. Many people believe that the inspiration they acquire to write literature, a poem, or any artistic creation was beyond their control since it came from the Muse they called upon. Traditionally Athena, in Greek Mythology was the goddess of art among other things.

 

Current Uses Of The Muse

So how is this relevant to an artist today. Well, artists are still seeking inspiration and many of them use a muse of some sort.

This may take the form of people, places or things. For example, it might be a person who inspires you, such as your partner, or your child. I have often found the country of my birth to be one of my muses, as I return again and again to that subject matter. Every time I go there I am creatively inspired, and I rush around taking photos of things and memories I want to take back with me, and not forget.
So we are not limited to only one of them, in fact, we may have several, I know I do. I think however the special nature of the muse is that we can return again and again to that subject and somehow we always find inspiration from it. This means that we need to have a deep emotional connection to our muse, for if we don’t the connection will not last. 

I have recently embarked on a new project, collaborating with a friend who is a photographer. This collaboration centres around using the artist Georgia O’Keeffe as our Muse for the project. I will be elaborating a lot more on this project in future posts.

If you feel you have lost your muse, or never had one, there is a great book on this subject, “Marry Your Muse,” by Jan Phillips.

It is a wonderful resource for diving deeper into your art practice and learning how to take on a muse if you don’t already have one.

This Weeks Question: Who or what is your muse?

Look For Next Week’s Post: Diving deeper into the topic of the muse and how I am applying that in my art practice.

dahalia,flowers.florals,flower_art,kadira_jennings,unfolding_in_the_studio

What Is Unfolding In The Studio This Month? Well, I have spent much of this month working on a new painting. So rather than a long blog post this week, I have put together a video of the whole painting from start to finish.  Well, not quite finished actually.  I have got paint on all the canvas, It is going to take me at least another whole day painting session to go around and put glazes and finishing touches to the work.  It has been quite a marathon this one,  as it is a fairly complex painting.

This is a fairly large work, measuring 102×84 cm or 40″x33″.

 

 

What’s coming up next….I have begun a rather large collaborative project with a photographer friend.  My next works will also be flowers or plants, however, they are being created from a different mindset.  So I will be sharing some thoughts and images of that with you soon.

This Weeks Question: How does collaboration help your creative development?

Look For Next Week’s Post: Creativity Crisis! I’ve Lost My Muse – How To Find It?

 

a blank canvas photo

Why is the blank canvas so intimidating and more importantly what can we do to counteract this phenomenon?

When you are first beginning to paint, confronting a blank canvas, is a bit like a performer going on stage.  Actors call it stage fright. Artists – well I call it Pencil Paralysis – as it applies to the white page as much as the pristine canvas.  Why do we fear beginning so much?  

Fear of failure would be my guess.  Particularly adults.  Have you ever watched children who are given a box of crayons and a piece of paper? Do they take ten minutes trying to decide what to draw? Do they worry about what it’s going to look like – hardly!

children drawing photo

When it comes to creativity adults are at a distinct disadvantage. Why? Ego is the main reason.  We have a facade to preserve.  A certain reputation to uphold. We have learnt somewhere along the way that failure is not ok and heaven forbid that we might look stupid! Learning something new always brings up those anxieties, we feel stupid even though we don’t want to look stupid.  So we often feel that it’s better to not begin at all. If I don’t begin – I can’t fail!

Oddly enough this kind of paralysis doesn’t just happen to beginners. Veteran actors and musicians have been known to have terrible stage fright before a performance, even though they have been performing for years. The fact is that every new canvas, every new performance, brings up performance anxiety.  Will I do OK, will I make a fool of my self, or will I outright fail?

Something I often talk about as an artist is the concept of failing forward.  teaching ourselves that it is alright to fail, to not measure up to the high standard we set for ourselves. If we can grab onto the fact that every failure leads us one step closer to success, we can learn to see failure, as not a bad thing, but a positive step.

Every artwork that has ever been created has been done so along the path of many mistakes. There is, however, something particularly daunting about a white canvas.  So one solution is to give it an undercoat of some kind.  I usually give mine a thin coat of acrylic burnt sienna or raw umber.  For some reason, it is easier, to begin with, a coloured background than it is on a white one.

 

 

blank_canvas,Undercoated canvas,kdira_jennings

Undercoated canvas

 

 

Other artists will draw up their picture and then put a very thin layer of paint as an undercoat, in different colours on different parts of the canvas.

Many artists offer the advice of just putting some colour onto the blank canvas.  Where is not important – it is breaking through the white canvas barrier that is important.

So why not give it a try? Allow yourself to be daunted by the tyranny of the white canvas – no longer!

 

This Weeks Question: How do you overcome pencil paralysis?

Look For Next Week’s PostWhat Is Unfolding In The Studio This Month?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pix Credits: 

Photo by ReillyButler

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

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