Creative Process, Part 1

colorformsplates2

I read blogs more than I read anything else these days.

I would never have thought that would happen, because I don’t have time to poke my nose into other people’s lives, and in the beginning, blogs did not have much content.

But now, there are many blogs that are content-full and make me think, make me smile, and make me feel creatively inspired.

And I want this blog to be like that.

I think it already is, to be honest, but I want to take this further in 2014, and enrich the experience for you – and thus, for me as well.

In that vein, I am going to spend a few posts exploring creative process because it is a fascinating concept, and is quite present in the atmosphere of late.

Art Is a Journey . . .

I know that sentence has become a cliché through overuse, but that does not make it less true.

Art IS a journey, and creative process defines the paths we take while on that journey.

People say a lot of stuff to me (most of it good, thank heavens), but two things have been said so often that they stand out . . .

1. Where do you get your ideas? (I always say “the shower” but there is more to it than that.)

2. How do you do what you do? I wish I could follow you around for a day! (First of all, you would get all lost because even I don’t know where I’m going, but I could tell you a little bit about how I do what I do, and I will.)

Ideas are THINKING, and making art is DOING,

THINK and DO. Remember those books in early grade school? They had the right idea.

You may notice that often, when you are DOING some art, you are interrupted by THINKING of new ideas that may be related – or may not seem to be related at the time.

You are interrupted because we cannot actually multi-task, so your brain switches channels momentarily.

ASIDE: Want proof that we can’t multi-task?

Sit in a chair with a magazine or something similar in your lap. Raise your right foot off the floor. Rotate your foot in a clockwise direction.

While doing that, write a number 6 with your finger on the magazine.

Your foot will change direction because drawing a six means moving in a counter-clockwise direction, and your brain switches channels there.

Try this and try it with other people. I have run into only two folks who can do it (with GREAT effort), and I don’t know which planet they are from, but most people realize they can’t actually think and do two things at once.

SO – back to creative process.

When your brain leaves the task at hand to offer a new idea, it is making connections in new directions.

SEEING these connections and FOLLOWING the directions they suggest, is at the heart of creativity.

I will be sharing many examples of this process, and by the time I am finished, all of you will recognize it in your own journey. And embrace it – because it is good for you.

Today, I will start with a simple example.

The COLORFORMS® THINK and DO

I love rainbow colors and always have. I think most people do.

As an artist, I spend a lot of time looking at and appreciating art.

And it inspires me.

The next THOUGHT, common to all creatives, is “I would like to DO something like that.”

Here comes the copying/stealing/plagiarizing ugly subject, and yes, I know about the book, and will be talking about that later.

The truth is that great artists have always copied other artists.

If they are true artists, they do that to learn, and if they are true artists, you would never know the copy is a copy – because of creative process.

By the time they have finished a piece, they have followed the suggestions and directions of their own creative muses, to the point that they have created an entirely new thing.

And so it goes.

Follow me, if you please, along this path . . .

One of my first fused glass projects was this set of coasters, which you have already seen . . .

ravencoasters2I REALLY love rainbow colors against black and a lot of my graphic design over the years has demonstrated that.

So, when I saw this plate on Pinterest, I really liked it, and wanted to DO something similar . . .

escape-1plate2

The process is pretty basic, and it’s a very generic design which could not be copyrighted by the maker, but a funny thing happened on the way to DOING my “copy”.

(This plate can be found at the Glass Haus. by the way)

DO: I got out my black and colored glass and cut the black rectangle.

THINK: I would like colored squares better than the bars used in the original plate, so . . .

DO: I cut a square each of bright red, yellow, green, and blue, to . . .

THINK: line up along the plate with some space between them.

Already, we’re different, but watch what happens then . . .

DO: I measure things and find that the four squares will not fit the length of the plate because I have cut them too big.

THINK: Bummer – I wanted all four colors on the plate.

THINK: Then, I was “interrupted” in my pouting by the idea of cutting each square corner to corner both ways, and switching the parts so each square had all four colors.

DO: I cut them and arrange three of the composite squares on the plate. Three of them WILL fit. I pick up the piece and head for the kiln. The glass squares slide so they are all catty-wompus.

BLAM!!

BIG THINK: I am transported suddenly to my childhood and my favorite toy  - and probably the beginning of my love for bright colors and art making . . .

colorforms04Dang! That little girl even looks like me! Do you remember Colorforms?

colorformsartOMG – I even remember how they smelled (that plastic off-gassing again, no doubt). This is not my masterpiece but I made many like this, I’m sure.

Quite a few years ago, the Museum of Modern Art reissued the “original” set and I bought it for $35 (crazy, huh?) just to have it. Unbelievably, I was able to find it in the closet. You can still get your own set on Amazon . . .

Original Colorforms

DO: I ran back out into the studio with the Colorforms set.

THINK: YES! A series of glass pieces based on Colorform designs.

At the beginning of this post (so very long ago), you saw the first two pieces in the series. here they are again . . .

colorformsplates2

Here is the inspiration plate again . . .

escape-1plate2

See what I mean about creative process?

Is my plate a “copy”? Absolutely not. (The shape doesn’t count, by the way. These are done on standard glass slumping molds, and you cut the glass to fit them.)

Is this a new idea? Yes, because nobody has done Colorforms in glass.

However, this “new” idea is made up of all the parts that came before – all the way from my childhood (which is a LONG way) to my seeing that plate on Pinterest last week, and all contributing factors between.

This was a long and winding path, and just one part of my artistic “journey”, but it only happened because I was tuned in enough to follow the switchbacks and recognize the connections my brain was making in its creative process.

I hope I haven’t bored you quite yet, because I have a lot more to say on this subject – AND I would love to hear your thoughts.

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7 thoughts on “Creative Process, Part 1

  1. Shauna

    Love this post starting with seeing your colorforms glass pieces. My first thought was “now THAT is my style”!! Then when I got to the part about Colorforms I melted because I so love those! I used them constantly as a kid and then for the 24 yrs. I worked with kids it was a great “excuse” to use them. I look forward to reading more of your posts on “the Journey”! Thanks Jess!

  2. Timaree

    I never used Colorforms. Didn’t even know they existed. I do like your post and want to hear more. I totally agree and often say I can’t copy as probably 99 percent of the time, it just evolves into something different and I like it that that is what happens.

    I tried the foot circling thing. I could do circles both ways but realized I was doing circles and not number sixes which I couldn’t do!

  3. Timaree

    By the way, I like the way the triangles came out so much more than the rigidly lined up stripes of the original. Much more fun and lively!

  4. Barbara Simpson

    I am a rubber stamper, so a lot of my cards are “copies” of cards I have seen or received. But in the process of “copying” other cards, my cards come out quite differently. But I am inspired by other cards and items I see.

  5. jessica Post author

    Exactly, Barbara – that is the way it works – and how it should be.

    Timaree – I am so sorry you didn’t have Colorforms – but you managed to become an artist anyway!

    Shauna – you know the LOVE! And, you know what? Colorforms are probably why you take to that look. I know they influenced my palette.

  6. mo

    Jessica, i love the idea of sharing the creative process. one of my favorite examples of that is Vivian Swift: http://vivianswiftblog.com/?p=11940

    and over on the Voodoo Lounge, Rice Freeman-Zachery does that with her sewing projects. i’m neither a sewer or a painter, but i enjoy the step-by-step explanations of the creative process.

    i particularly enjoyed your description of how your concept evolved and why. great post! thanks ;)

  7. Jeanne

    Don’t know how I missed them, but I’ve never even heard of Colorforms! Guess my childhood was more deprived than I thought….

    I do love your thoughts on the creative process. I have never been able to copy others’ work, even when I tried. But I am often inspired by their creations. I have always wished I had more creative vision to come up with my own ideas, but I don’t think it makes me less creative if I use others’ art to springboard my own.

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