Full Steam Arts offers arts classes to artists of all ages & experience levels.
I invite you to open up to your creativity and have more joy in your life!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Art Rule: No Put Downs or Put Ups

I have a golden rule in my art classes: "There is no such thing as good or bad art" and logically it follows that: "No put downs or put ups in Art."

Well, technically there is "good" and "bad" art, but folks have been debating that for centuries & it largely comes down to individual preference. (See my earlier post on Meaninglessness.) And if you are one to view a lot of artwork, you might get that inner "buzz" which signals a resonance of universal recognition in a piece of artwork. Like a gut reaction; you are attracted to an image. This attraction can be beautiful or repulsive. And you can like or dislike a "good" piece of art.

But how does an artist create such a piece that speaks universally to people? Some have the ability as if it were channeled from a higher source; others work diligently for decades and may only hit it on occasion. Others struggle with it their whole lives, either loving or hating (or both) the ride.

But back to intuitive painting...

As we are accessing our internal material as creative expression, we struggle to not judge the result. Like with dreams, we can have preferences, but ultimately dreaming is a necessary part of restoring our body's vital energy and not up for debate on whether or not the act of dreaming itself is good or bad.

There are waking exercises one can do to influence dreams. Often discussing a positive dream topic can help a young child fall asleep peacefully at night. And with conscious effort, one can increase their ability to lucid dream and have some ability to alter the outcome of a dream. For example, turning around to face your pursuer or, in my case, I put the brakes on my out of control car and get out and walk to safety. But I didn't choose to have that car dream for the tenth time; I can only alter my actions and see how that affects the outcome.

Like painting, we should allow the topic to come through us and then sense into how we want to treat it when it appears on the paper. This can be a wildly liberating experience! We paint things we would never really do in real life. The sense of personal agency revitalizes us, much like a full night of REM sleep!

When I am teaching an art class, especially to kids, the artists struggle not so much with the put downs--they get that part-- but the put ups. This largely comes back to a child's recognition of what is universally accepted as "good" technique.

I cannot prevent each person from coming to the process of creating art with all their individual personalities--whether or not they jump into the project or hesitate & erase all efforts several times over. I have watched some kids have a little cry & then return to a satisfying, unrestricted effort. Sometimes I pat them gently through this and sometimes I let them struggle alone.

When we "put up" an image, we are forcing the range of human experience into a hierarchical preference. And the artist within hearing distance of our comment is affected by wondering where they fall on the hierarchy. It takes away from the individuality of the experience of art-making.

Is my dream of an out of control car ride a good one? Does it show that I have lost control over my life which points to some sort of defect in me? How do I come to understand these dreams and make meaning for myself?

For the child who hasn't developed the fine motor ability to work in small strokes--is he bad? Or what about the child who hasn't developed the cognitive ability to apply my verbal instructions to a visual representation?

I have always maintained that there are roughly two categories of art: representational or "photographic" and abstract or "interpretive." To develop your ability to create representational art, you must train your eyes to properly see what is there; not to draw what you know to be true about an object. This takes years of practice for most people.

To develop your ability to create interpretive art, you must trust your inner vision of the world, take major risks in both technique & personal vulnerability. This takes years of practice for most people.

Practice. Practice is the key to developing your artistic abilities. And an unwavering sense of entitlement. Each one of us is entitled to create art and develop our images without concern for put downs or put ups. If we worry about each image looking a certain way each time, we loose out on the important task of practicing and discovering what comes next in our images. Often, the "mistakes" are where we have the most juice and opportunity for growth.

My last car dream was fantastic: I discovered in finally crashing the car, I had a whole pit crew who came to my rescue and I was carried out safely on the their shoulders.

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