Brain Stretching

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the best advice I've ever received about art was "Don't make it good." Occasionally I have to remind myself exactly what this means. I get comfortable perfecting my same techniques and materials day in and day out, and rarely do I have time anymore to make anything craftsy, anything that wouldn't be considered part of my body of work.

It doesn't always have to be meaningful, or part of the whole. It doesn't have to have a message. It doesn't have to be good. Sometimes it's just coloring in a coloring book.

For some reason I was inspired to start the new year testing the limits of my abilities. I decided to paint, but in a way I never do, or at least haven't in over 10 years.

The two tests were as follows: One landscape done with acrylic, in 20 minutes or less, start to finish. The second was another landscape, in oil paints. I never, ever use oil paint.

I figured the time limits and difficulty using materials I'm totally unfamiliar with should put me in "the child zone," a place where I'm inexperienced, immature, and without practice. 

(experiment with acrylic)

(experiment with oil)

Man, that was hard. Oils are crazy, by the way. And acrylic, used like this, might as well have been a new material for me.

Now, they're not very good, and I'm definitely not going to start a new career in this. But that's not the point. The point is, I sat myself down to make something that I knew beforehand I wouldn't be good at. I wanted all my skills removed. I wanted there to be nothing left but pushing paint around a canvas and that spark of creativity only a child has. And having a time limit adds to the panic, which requires a lot more of my brain.

I think everyone should test their minds like this every so often. For artists, working in a different medium or with different subjects might be enough to "reset" your creative brain into not relying on your skill set, which in turn floods you with creativity for the art you are passionate about. 

Or, you could do something really crazy and write a book if you're a sculptor, or write a song if you're an author. Anything that requires new skills is guaranteed education. Don't make it good. That's the whole point.

I think I want to spend more time in 2012 being openminded and courageous with my art.