Sunday, April 06, 2008

Those of you who have known me for awhile know that I have this ongoing creative battle between words and images. Or maybe, it's more like a sibling rivalry between them, each one trying to get the most time and attention and love from moi, the mom. I know, I know, why does it have to be a battle? Can't we learn to compromise? Learn to share? Meet everyone's needs? All great ideas in theory. In practice I rarely find time for either, much less both.

Recently I coincidentally found myself, or, if you don't believe in coincidence, then I serendipitously found myself simultaneously reading two books - one on the craft of writing, the second on the lives and craft of visual artists. Usually I don't try to read two books at the same time. The irony wasn't lost on me, even trying to figure out how to share reading time between the two was challenging. The writing book had the edge in my interest level at first. Then I decided to keep track, carefully splitting the time equally and reading one chapter in each book every day. Eventually however I set the writing book aside and gave the art book my full attention. I'm one chapter short of finishing the art book, only a third of the way through the writing book. I'm not drawing any conclusions on the "meaning" of this uneven split except maybe that the art book was more appealing because of all the lovely eye candy, and because I have a lot going on in other parts of my life right now and I didn't want to think in as much detail as the writing book required of me.

In any case, this isn't leading up to any ephiphany, it's just a long path leading to a book review. I bought this book after my first serious attempt at doing a collage ACEO, discovering that collage looked a lot easier than it was to create some of the techniques I'd seen, any of the techniques I'd seen. I went to Barnes & Noble and spent an hour sitting in front of the technique books shelf, pouring over my choices, feeling overwhelmed. I finally decided to wait to buy any of the how-to's and instead bought this one that was more generally about creativity and specifically about the life and creative process of fifteen different artists.

I brought it home where it sat on the coffee table for months before I picked it up and gave it my attention. At first I thought it was just going to be mainly eye candy, like a glossy magazine that has a bit of story and some photo captions with each article that might enhance the article but, let's face it, you're really buying it for the photos. I was surprised to find the written chapters were just as fascinating and full of inspiration and beauty as the images.

The author did a fantastic job of covering all the facets of creativity and the lives of artists that I might have wondered about, posing questions and addressing issues that I've pondered either to myself or in conversation with other creative people. I particularly appreciated the fact that the lives of the artists were presented truthfully, no glorifying or glittering of the reality of living with the long hours, uncertain outcomes, and possibly unforthcoming financial rewards that are real issues for most artist's. It didn't present a glossy magazine persona of each artist that would intimidate as much as inspire. Instead it told about artists who have creative blocks just like the rest of us, and artists that refuse to allow themselves to stop working even when or if they do. It told of artists that, just like the rest of us, struggle to find space and time for their art. It told of artists who support themselves by their art and artists who realistically choose to find other sources of income.

It was both enthusiasm modifying and inspiring and it helped me to give greater definition to my personal relationship with my own creative urges. It helped me validate what seems obvious and yet slipped past my grasp almost because of it - that there's no one right way to be an artist, no one relationship with our muse, no one approach to art - as a business or a calling - that's more noble. It's more about what's right for each artist in the context of their whole life.

Cover Image

Living the Creative Life - ideas and ipsiration from working artists
by Rice Freeman-Zachery

No comments: