Changing the Creative Process
“So what is it exactly that you do?”
Like most of us, I get that question a lot—and like many of us, I can give several different answers. First and foremost I usually say, “I’m an artist.” But even that isn’t always a clear answer. In the post-modern world, art, commerce, and creativity can involuntarily pull you into society’s thick cloud of one-way thinking. It’s important to recognize these illusions and see past them.
For example: surviving in New York City as an emerging artist is not as glamorous as most people—including me, when I moved here—think it will be. New York City has no problem breaking you down while simultaneously showing you the door out. Art school often feels like a whirlwind of psychological conflicts and personal problems, confusion and frustration. Both venues drain your bank accounts—financial and emotional—faster than you could flip an egg. Survival is a big question, considering pretty much everyone has a cyber paint brush, a DSLR camera, and a potential short film.
On a deeper level, the way art is created, viewed, sold and sponsored is changing daily. Time, reality, the camera and the photographer are not always necessary anymore. A photographer would capture an image to capture a moment in time, but we can catch the reruns of these moments anywhere in time and space. Reality is perpetually questioned as it has gotten replaced by television. We are consistently manipulated by images reeking of inauthenticity, regurgitating out the same brain-numbing messages. We drown in a sea of social media and hashtags, feeling like the smallest fish in the biggest pond where the water is barely translucent. Money twists the dreams we aspire to. It creates what we see, who we hire and who holds the power to change (or not change) the game.
The challenge is to detach from the current and get paid for it. We live in a society of specialization, but artists have no such boundaries. This, I realized, isn’t a bad thing.
Midway through art school I began to realize that I was only learning the alphabet from A through J. I was making fashion pictures that I thought were acceptable, emulating something that has already been done before. Questioning my sanity but hungry for more I kept challenging myself to take classes outside of my “field of study” and found close mentors whom I could confide in. Perseverance and a lot of reading and writing led me to finally create work that was allowing myself to be heard for the first time. Not a copy or an imitation, actually me.
In the time since then, I’ve pursued a series of questions and realizations, conversations and times of isolation, to gain clarity on my own work and artistic process. I also figured out that if doing so could help me as an artist, it could also help others find clarity in their own work and processes, especially if they’re in states of confusion, stagnation, or artistic/creative blocks. The following is a sample of the helpful thoughts, questions, and action steps I’ve discovered and journaled about:
- What do you have to say? What draws you? Continually look inward. Watch yourself like a hawk. Watch what happens around you and watch what happens inside you.
- Keep looking at the larger audience. Realize that people like to be a part of things that are larger than themselves. Don’t show the world what they already know. Why should anyone care?
- Keep your pulse on culture. Illusions are everywhere.
- Collaborate. Asking for help is not a weakness. Recognize good mentors. Learn to take and leave advice.
- Where else can your work live? Is the medium for your message the strongest?
- Keep things simple. Avoid distraction. Do as much as you can with the time and resources you have. Anything can be used to your benefit.
- Keep taking risks. If it’s uncomfortable, do it. You must be willing to open your private life to the world. Sometimes selling your soul teaches you about your soul.
- Exercise. Eat healthy. Write a lot. Take a break every now and then.
- We make our own luck. There is no such thing as limitation.
Some of these may resonate with you more than others. That’s fine. You may come up with some of your own. That’s fine, too. But no matter what you do, be open to changing your own creative process through this kind of clarity work. Sooner or later, you will find your truest self and most authentic work.
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