The trap of creating for creativity's sake
Imagine there are two artists. Artist A feels creative today, so she wants to paint some clouds. Artist B is fascinated by clouds ands wants to explore them further in her painting. What differences, if any, do you think would arise in their artworks?
In Learning By Heart, Corita Kent and Jan Steward stipulate that Artist B will have a much easier time discovering and clarifying her painting than Artist A because of limitations. While the desire to express one’s creativity is vague and abstract, the curiosity to explore clouds is both based in reality and thus provides built-in limitations.
In the first scenario, the person wanting to paint some clouds will likely pull up a photo of clouds and paint what they see, drawing from past experience. Perhaps some cloud forms or colors may be changed, but there is little room for the imagination. This is an excellent exercise to practice skill and technique, but not for creating meaningful art.
Contrast this with a person who wants to explore the wispy beauty of cirrus clouds. After doing some research and finding that cirrus clouds are high clouds, they might imagine these wisps are strands of God’s hair and make art about this specific notion.
I used this concept of limitations this week to make a parody of Sally Rooney’s books with salad ingredient characters (hence, Salad Rooney). Thinking of different foods while researching book quotes that could fit within the project was a “search filter” so that I could easily scan through quote options and decide what could work. Who knew blue cheese would make such a good Connor? (Normal People reference for those scratching their head).
Of course, you can absolutely make art from abstract ideas. Most impactful artists do! However they have also added containers to restrict their art, most likely through their process or within their style (e.g. conveying death through a collage of ‘70s album art).
What is the motivation behind your creative work? Are there practical limitations? If not, what can you do this week to notice what you may be fascinated by in the real world?
Limitation is what differentiates a flood from a lake.
— Corita Kent & Jan Steward
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