Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Looking beyond the obvious

Have you ever written a post that you thought was helpful or especially good and then wonder it anyone read it? I was looking back through the posts I have on my sidebar. Those are the ones that are general enough to hopefully help someone who is wondering about a technique or an artist's practice. I wrote one post early on in my blogging history called Evolving Ideas and slotted it under Creativity which is an area I've explored extensively in my teaching career.

There is a tendency to place creativity on a pedestal as a characteristic of thinking that is unique and found in a small portion of the population. This is not how I see creativity at all. There are so many strategies that prod us into creative thinking. These techniques/ strategies can be learned and applied to all kinds of situations to encourage original thoughts and divergent thinking. In art, techniques for creating new ideas are important. In Evolving ideas I've combined several techniques to illustrate how easy it is to move beyond your "everyday thinking".

Several other simple techniques include:

Randomness (making creative leaps)
Randomness or aleatory, a lateral thinking tool, is the introduction of chance elements into your thought processes. It is very useful when you need fresh ideas or new perspectives. The controlling aspects of your mind are removed and you are left to respond to an idea that is randomly generated. In a previous post I wrote about a compositional technique used by Robert Kushner who stood on a chair and dropped pieces of paper to mark where the flowers would be in his large screen paintings. This is an excellent example of using randomness. When generating themes or ideas for paintings, you can choose a folder in your phot0 collection and decide to do something with the -- th photo or you could open a dictionary and put your finger on a word. I have a friend who when she feels stuck in her art she closes her eyes and chooses 3 colours and creates a painting using them.

The pause, either short or long, is a great solution when ideas are fading or you need to change direction. Sometimes we are afraid to take a break because we fear being stuck permanently. Nature abhors a vacuum and when faced with silence , your mind will desperately think of things to fill it.

SCAMPER (a combination of actions)
This is one of my all time favourites for discovering new ideas that will get you out of a rut. SCAMPER is an acronym for a list of words that can be applied to make you think differently about an issue, problem or concept.

Substitute - What can you substitute? What can be used instead? What other ingredients, materials or processes? e.g., Instead of .... I can .....

Combine - What can be put together in a different way than usual? Can you combine two disparate ideas? Different materials, actions, or purposes?

Adapt- Do you have something you can adapt for use as a solution? What can you use insted of something you don't have? What else is like what you need? What can you copy from the past? Is there someone you could emulate?

Modify - Can you change a work in some way? Think magnify - Can something be added, used more frequently, made stronger, thicker, etc. Can you exaggerate? Think" minify"- what can be removed, made smaller, condensed, omitted, split up, understated etc.

Put to other uses- Are their materials you can use in a work that are not fine art materials? Do you have other works that can be combined with present work? Can an old painting be modified and reused?

Eliminate - Are there aspects of a work you can eliminate? Are you trying to say too much with details? What can you eliminate?

Rearrange- Can you rearrange elements or colours? Can you interchange materials or patterns? Would a difference sequence of working change things? Think about other layouts/compositions you never use. Try working faster or slower than usual.

An attempt from early in my career to combine my poetry and art - not something I usually did or have done since.

I'm curious if other artists have any ideas they use to move themselves beyond the obvious and the everyday thinking ruts we often find ourselves in.


Kim Hambric said...

I "read" this post very quickly, while waiting for paint to dry. I am now going to try working quickly (I'm always slooooowwww). Let's see what comes of that. Later I will reread this post and give it the time that it deserves.

Marie said...

Great post with great ideas! (The last post on my blog alludes to finding solutions when stuck.)
Besides doing art, I love learning about the creative process principles which can make life in general lots easier and more fun!
And yes, I've written posts which I was certain were good and worthwhile & also certain that they remained unread! I keep trying & am glad you gave this subject another go.

Mark Sheeky said...

Brilliant post! I wonder if Robert Kushner disliked where some paper landed and decided to try a second drop? It takes guts to stick to randomness.

I sometimes go to Wikipedia and click the Random Article link and make a work based on that, or flip open a dictionary at random.

Perhaps the ultimate test of creativity is the ability to imagine every possibility, but then have the courage to choose just one.

hwfarber said...

I think I must have learned these techniques/strategies in a former life. I can honestly say that I don't ever remember being stuck.

And randomness might be an apt description of my life--probably not a good thing--oh well; too late to change now.

Great post.

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Greetings Margaret,

An interesting post and I especially like the play of words, which sometimes can do more than a series of images to get the mind moving along a different terrain.

Thank you for sharing,

Kathy said...

A wonderful post, Margaret! I like the way you engage us in considering so many aspects of creativity. I think that humans are innately creative. We find all kinds of solutions to things - including how to fit more groceries into one small bag. I don't really think about how to begin creative thought because I think that I engage in it all the time. It's hard to turn it off.

Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.