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DESCRIPTIONA book looking into inspiration and creativity
BY SAMANTHA GRAY
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I - ENVIRONMENT
PART II - PROCESS
ORSON WELLES MARCUS MUMFORD THE BUCK THE CROW THE COYOTE LOVERS EYES NEIL YOUNG
PART III - SKETCH
LLAMA THE BEAST MASTER HUNTER AN EDUCATION LAURA MARLING
Ive never seen myself as a creative person. Whether Im drawing, painting or trying out some other artistic method, I always see my work as a reflection of something in my environment, as opposed to something I created on my own. My drawings are usually based strictly off of reference photos; my sketches are inspired by music and movies. Even my own ideas are usually driven from a desire to be funny or deep, two conflicting needs that I cant quite reconcile. I suppose this has quite a bit to do with who I am as a person, and how I havent quite settled on who that person is yet, after 22 years. I think you show a part of yourself in your creative efforts, and the fact that all of mine are based on movies, television, and books worries me time and again. I feel inspired, but not inwardly so. Am I the only person consistently unable to inspire myself?
This book was a search for answers. I draw when Im most inspired, which is why drawing is the focus of this book. I looked for what inspired me, and when. This has been a very busy time in my life, and a time of change. I will be graduating in just a few weeks, and theres a lot still to be seen and done before I do so. I wondered if that would affect what I drew, what inspired me, and what my goals were. I wondered if I would find out a bit more about who I am before I head off into the world.
I think theres been a stereotype for a long time about artists of any type being lonely and tortured souls. You could look at Hemingway and his alcoholism and suicide, or Sylvia Plath and her depression (and suicide, with her children in the other room). Orson Welles, who is featured in this book, was also a brilliant creative mind who drank himself into oblivion by the end. I wonder if those who pursue artistic endeavors use this as an excuse to be lost and unsatisfied if the very best of us were, why should we be ashamed or fed up with the fact that we cant find ourselves? Perhaps that even makes us a bit more dramatic and memorable in the end.
I hope I can become creative someday. But Im afraid that will only happen when I possess the ability to inspire myself and form ideas on my own. I made this book to study what inspires me and how I work; to hopefully learn a bit more about myself and how to change the things I dont like. I want to be inventive like Hemingway and Welles, but perhaps I dont have to be bound to their fate. The best I can do at this point is learn from them, and myself, and take those lessons to heart.
1PART I - ENVIRONMENT
3Perhaps Im just too settled in my ways, but the environment in which I draw has a huge effect on my concentration and output. Am I a cranky old soul when it comes to this; the type who would complain to the waiter if the group at the table next to them was talking too loudly? Absolutely. I latch onto what works and stick to it, losing all ability to focus or feel inspired if I change my routine at all.
Right now, my best working environment is my room. I try to draw or read in cafes, but there are far too many distractions. If I dont like the music, I get cranky. If I feel like my hair doesnt look very good and Im around people, I get cranky. Ill admit it. In my room, I can be a total mess and watch whatever movies I want, listen to whatever music I want while I draw. I can zone in on the only thing that should matter what Im drawing.
5The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heavens sake. -Kurt Vonnegut
7PART II - PROCESS
8I decided to focus a good deal of the book on the drawing process, because its something Ive never thought about before. I know where I need to be and how I need to feel to start a drawing, but once I start, I lose track of what Im doing until Im finished. I wondered if there were any hidden bits of creativity or inspiration hiding in there to be found.
I discovered that documenting the drawing process pretty much ruins it. The best thing about drawing a picture is having hours pass in no time, zoning in and coming away with a product you can be proud of. Getting up every several minutes to take a snapshot completely took me out of the zone, and made getting back into it a bit tricky every time. It was certainly neat to see these drawings in their unfinished stages, and Im very glad I found a way to combine two visual media that mean a lot to me. I also loved being able to see how long each drawing took by checking the time attached to each photograph; Ive never kept track of how long it takes me to draw anything. But despite the plus sides, I think progress shots are not something I would do again if I can help it.
I learned from this experience that theres a pattern to the way I draw, but a very loose one. It varies depending on the reference, and what media Im using. I usually begin with a light outline of everything, or at least the parts I find essential, and then start filling in the shadows. I was told in my art class in high school that you should shade from light to dark, but as with so many other things, I do this incorrectly.
I think the greatest thing about drawing a person is not just making your drawing look like them, but also capturing their essence. Im not sure if that makes much sense, but it remains important to me. You get a feeling from different people, even just through photographs of them. I think that feeling, and my need to portray it, causes me to draw some people more than others (i.e. Marcus Mumford). You can capture it in different ways many times its in their eyes, but not always. Ive had drawings before that clicked when I added a detail to their nose. Im not sure how to explain it better than that, but its something I truly gravitate to. Animals have a personality too, and I love drawing them almost as much. They can have so much grace and power, or humor and wit in them. Its part of the fun to capture that.
I do not suppose I shall be remembered for anything. But I dont think about my work in those terms. It is just as vulgar to work for the sake of posterity as to work for the sake of money.
This semester, I became a huge fan of Orson Welles. I was given a collection of movies at the beginning of the year, one of which was Citizen Kane. My love of classics like Casablanca and Breakfast at Tiffanys led me to give this widely acclaimed film a chance. Welles impressed me to no end the fact that he wrote, directed, and starred in Citizen Kane at the age of 26 was amazing in my eyes. I watched other films that he starred in, like The Lady from Shanghai and The Third Man. I became increasingly inspired by his talent, and read as much as I could about his life. Through pop culture over the years, I already knew the less glamorous aspects of his life in later years. But I knew that through his success and failure, there was much to be learned.
Dont test the ones you love; It will only tear us down. If you want to feel alive, then learn to love your ground.
Everyone who knows me is aware of my love for the band Mumford & Sons. I feel irritating even writing about it, because I know everyones heard me go on about them already. Ive been lucky enough to see the best of this band, when I attended their memorial concert for a young Philadelphian who passed away last year. They came over from London just to play to his family and friends, and refused to let the media cover it because they werent looking for any attention or good press. Even before that, their lyrics and passion inspired me more than any band has before or since. Ive gotten through many days just on the hope that theyve given me. I cant help but draw them because Im very grateful for what theyve inspired me to persevere through.
I was a stricken deer, that left the herd Long since. -William Cowper
The CrowWhere the vast cloudless sky was broken by one crow I sat upon a hill - all alone - long ago; But I never felt so lonely and so out of Gods way, As here, where I brush elbows with a thousand every day. -Harry Kemp
The CoyoteWhenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and numbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me - I am happy. -Hamlin Garland
But do not ask the price I pay; I must live with my quiet rage. Tame the ghosts in my head That run wild and wish me dead. -Mumford & Sons
Neil Youngs music reaches back through my years as far as I can remember. My musical taste has always been inspired by my dad and my older brothers, and I remember recognizing the meaningful melancholy in Youngs jangly voice even when I was in elementary school, listening to Harvest on cassette with my brothers. For years now, my all-time favorite song has been Heart of Gold by Neil Young. Theres something so simply honest