Thoughts on Creativity: Finding
Your Visual Voice
Wendell H. Arneson
Creativity grows out of the desire for change. The word change has
to do with unpredictability (how much or how little is up to you
– but do not repeat old solutions!
Creativity involves a leap of faith and confidence
– faith in the creative process: ultimately art is a journey
not directed by product but by the passage of thought, vision, intensive
observation, time, and commitment.
The desire for change, faith in process, and the
discipline to work is the critical components in becoming a more
Perhaps the greatest single barrier to becoming more
inventive/creative is the fear of risk. Creativity demands
that we step into the unknown.
“The artist should fear
to become the slave of detail. He should strive to express his thought
and not the surface of it. . . The artist has only to remain true
to his dream and . . .must see naught but the vision beyond. . .
Have you ever seen an inchworm crawl up a leaf or twig, and there
clinging to the very end, revolves in the air, feeling for something
to reach? That’s like me. I am trying to find something out
there beyond the place on which I have a footing.”
Albert Pinkham Ryder
Art, your personal work, is about vision, growth,
Stay awake, stay alert.
Continually look, observe, and re-evaluate. Never stop questioning
or looking to see if you are using “old” or repeatable
Do not begin a work by visualizing
the solution before you begin. “If you know what a work is
going to look like before you begin, why start???”
“When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m
doing. It is only after a sort of “get acquainted” period
that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making
changes, destroying the image, etc, because the painting has a life
of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose
contact with the painting that the result is a mess.”
Start Simple (with the mundane) and create
the dialogue with the work (through process and intensive observation).
“The subject is the bait, but the bait withers
away and the reality of the subject-matter is left and the bait
– the subject matter – disappears. The reality is the
residue of the subject-matter . . . this residue . . . perhaps has
something tenuously to do with what one started with but very often
had very little to do with it.”
“Art should be born from the material.
Spirituality should be born from the language of the material. Each
material has its own language and is a language.”
Take risks and more risks!!
∑Understand and push the elements of art (line, value, texture,
shape, color, and space). Consider and be inventive within each
element – to the role it plays in your work and its impact
on its content.
"When looking at your work, keep asking
the simple but profound questions: “What is too
even? What is too equal”?
Seek clarity of your idea while honoring mystery and ambiguity.
“Painting in this sense tends towards
a complete interlocking of image and paint, so that the image is
the paint and vice versa. Here the brush-stroke creates the form
and does not merely fill it in. Consequently, every movement of
the brush on the canvas alters the shape and implications of the
image. That is why real painting is a mysterious and continuous
struggle with chance – mysterious because the very substance
of the paint, when used in this way, can make such a direct assault
upon the nervous system; continuous because the medium is so fluid
and subtle that every change that is made loses what is already
there in the hope of making a fresh gain.”
” . . painting is much more immediate
language, and much more direct, than the language of words: much
closer to the cry, or to the dance.”
Clarify your ideas by continually looking and asking about the
“nature of predictability”.
Invest in your passion. Where do you
find your greatest excitement? . . . land, figure, interior, non-objective,
scale, color, contrast, black & white, subtlety, intensity,
etc., and any/all combinations.
If you are confident or consistent in what you do, get to a place
where you don’t feel so comfortable. Do not use repeatable
Promote (celebrate) the things (ideas) that are more eccentric,
things which are more you! . . . any combination or single thing
that makes your work different from others. Every subject has been
done by someone, but not by you – through your eyes, experience,
Honor mystery and ambiguity.
“Painting isn’t just the visual
thing that reaches your retina – it’s what is behind
it and in it. I’m not interested in “abstracting”
or taking things out or reducing painting to design, form, line,
and color. I paint this way because I can keep putting more and
more things in it – drama, anger, pain, love, a figure, a
horse, my ideas about space. Through your eyes it again becomes
an emotion or an idea. It doesn’t matter if it’s different
from mine as long as it comes from the painting which has its own
integrity and intensity.”
Willem de Kooning
Learn to trust, recognize, follow, and push your personal
instincts and signs.
"The act of creation is a kind of ritual.
The origins of art and human existence lie hidden in this mystery
of creation. Human creativity reaffirms and mystifies the power
of “life”. “Life” is the subject and the
object of everything I make. When the act of creation is really
successful, the “thing” creates itself. The artist is
only a vehicle, a tool. Once created, the “thing” has
a life of its own. I want to live and make things that live.”
The artist Philip Guston (1913-1980), who
bravely returned to imagery late in his career as a painter of abstractions,
perhaps best revealed the entanglement between artist and image
as manifested in paint: “You are faced with what seems like
an impossibility – fixing an image which you can tolerate.
What can be Where? Erasures and destructions, criticism and judgments
of one’s acts, even as they force change in oneself, are still
preparations merely reflecting the mind’s will and movement.
There is a burden here, and it is the weight of the familiar. Yet
this is the material of a working (process), which from time to
time needs to see itself, even thought it is reluctant to appear
. . .Where do you put a form? It will move all around, bellow out
and shrink, and sometimes it winds up where it was in the first
place. But at the end, it feels different, and it had to make the
voyage. I am a moralist and cannot accept what has not been paid
for, or a form that has not been lived through.”
That is the reason that accident always has to
enter into the creative process, because the moment you know what
to do, you’re making just another form of illustration.