A comment from one of my Text and Image
students inspired me to address the issue of giving ideas time to percolate. Here is what she said about the last lesson, which involved making a series of small collages that tell a story:
[This exercise] reinforced my sense that ideas need time to percolate before being expressed. I had been thinking about the assignment for days, so when I had time to work on it, everything just flowed.
I find I definitely need some percolating time, but this does not mean sitting around doing nothing while waiting for it all to come together seamlessly. For me, it is the struggle that seems to work: I have a few sessions of wrestling (or playing) with ideas and materials, when it all seems so "out there" and unresolved. Then, after a break (usually of working on something else or at least doing a little housekeeping in the studio) I come back to the piece(s) and it DOES all come together.
I used to find this period of unresolved work so frustrating and even debilitating - I was sure I'd never have a worthy idea or make a good piece of art; I was sure that for real
artists it can't be nearly this hard or frustrating. Now, however, I have made friends with this part of the creative process, and I consider it fun, playful, and necessary
. I embrace the open-ended aspect of it, and I don't worry whether a piece will resolve itself or not.
Playing with Pouring Paint
Since making a regular practice of using my sketchbook, I do lots of playing in it, purposely pushing myself off-balance and mixing things up, posing unsolvable visual questions just for fun! It has made my art practice SO much more enjoyable, and maybe even more productive! I have totally let go of the idea that something has
to be resolved and finished, and it has made me more open to taking risks and pushing through the boundaries of habit.
Throwing Myself Off Balance
For daily inspiration to work in your sketchbook, check out the Sketchbook Challenge
, or just consider a New Year's (or Solstice, or Holiday) gift to yourself to take a few minutes each day to play with paint, drawing, collage, or stitch, whatever your medium of choice.
Circles (which have ended up all over my work)
Percolating and playing are inextricably related. DOING, engaging in the process, is what keeps you fresh, keeps the ideas flowing, and facilitates the lovely surprises and discoveries of making art.