The past three-hundred-and-thirty-some-odd days have been an emotionally & creatively taxing time. Not only has all the constant news (pandemic, social justice, & election) been distracting and distressing, but it has left little room in my brain to "waste" time and just create. I've had this feeling that this is the time I should be producing meaningful work—that I should be finally making the work that gets me noticed. But this led to its own issues of paralysis. The pressure is so great to make good, meaningful art, that I can't produce any ideas whatsoever. We keep hearing that things will get better, give it a few more days, a few more weeks, a for more months.
Now, we are a year into this pandemic. I have decided enough is enough. I have to figure out how to create again. It doesn't matter if it is meaningful. It doesn't matter if it's a new & unique idea. It doesn't matter if it's technically impressive. Because I have learned, if I do not create consistently it's almost impossible to come up with new, meaningful ideas.
For the last two weeks, I have been taking time to just create. I wanted to find a method that would only take fifteen minutes. A few years ago, I had tried automatic drawing as a form of meditation. It was a useful tool to get me to sit down and put pencil to paper. Because the purpose is not to produce meaningful work or even finished work, it reduces the built-up internal pressure. The goal was to just make marks.
During that time, I also viewed a show put on by Thomas Ingmire at the San Francisco Public Library. That show had work he collaborated on with composers. He made marks inspired by their music and created alphabets from those marks. His work came out abstract and full of emotion.
Combining these two methods would get me to make marks & then to turn it into a low-level creativity exercise. I started the first week by selecting a tool whose range of mark-making I wanted to explore. I warmed up a little bit with that tool—to work out some kinks in the tool (some still had the gum they shipped with), my hand, and my head. Then, I would put on a random song. The first few days were songs from my favorite list. As the week went on, I felt safe enough to stretch myself with music I had not heard before. I created marks inspired by the music for the span of one song. When the song was over, I identified markings that seemed indicative of that page. I pulled out letterforms that naturally formed among those marks. From there, I quickly developed an alphabet and wrote out a pangram where I could massage the forms a bit.
The second week, I wanted to stretch myself even more on the creative side. Instead of automatic drawing, I decided to try automatic painting. I began by creating shapes with my brush. Sometimes these stay abstract. Sometimes they become representational. Then, I combined them with some lettering based on one of the alphabets I had created in the first week.
Because of my design background, usually, I start a piece by thumbnailing. Then, refining it. And ultimately, making sure the lettering and the illustrations work together to tell the same story even better together.
But here, I wanted to work more intuitively—to think of the design over the concept. The illustrations didn't have to do anything with the lettering. But I still wanted them to work together through design, texture, and color.
This has been a very successful experiment. It has brought peace to my mind and allowed my creative wheels to begin turning again. It has given me the creative energy to finish some simple projects and to start planning new ones. I will definitely be doing this again in the future.