Problem Solving Power | The Perks of Creative Variety
The start of my art adventure is hard to pinpoint, as it is muddled in with all of my general creative pursuits throughout my life. In my teens I found my creative release mainly through writing.
My teachers commented that my stories always had an element of death in them. Take from that whatever you like.
As I hit my twenties I dabbled in performance - my introvert self was scared stiff but I pushed to get out of my comfort zone for a while. Coming up to my thirties I discovered a love of puppetry and started making puppets - realising my own character friends, who came to life from felt and cardboard - and this also led me to building theatre props. Throughout all of these things I sang and wrote songs for myself as a personal emotional release too, noodling with guitar and piano, and tooting on the tin whistle. I did also draw throughout, though it was private and doodly. I would never have thought to try a full painting - this was stepping into “artist” territory and I felt like I wasn’t of a standard to fit in there.
During this whole time, my creativity was never my actual paying job. I worked in retail or libraries during the day, and creativity was nurtured in the nooks.
In my late thirties, however, I decided I needed to change this. I wanted to make creativity my primary focus and to find a way of working for myself, professionally, that I could love and life off of. I went back to college to figure out Art (in all of its incarnations), and dig down deep to find out what Art I could really do (but still with a definite fear of calling myself an Artist).
I believe a lot of things can be categorised as “art”, and I truly feel that all of the creativity you invest yourself in, in all its various forms, intertwines inside your creative heart and only strengthens it. Sometimes “chopping and changing” your focus is considered as flighty - the ol’ phrase “jack of all trades but master of none” is usually not said with an intended tone of positivity.
But, certainly in terms of creativity, I think giving yourself permission to love a lot of things is a gift.
It turns out that much of artistic practise is problem solving. It’s being faced with a task, not knowing how to complete that task, and trying out solutions until you find one that fits. I have found that, the more things I learn about in the arty-crafty universe, the more knowledge I have to play with when the road gets foggy.
My time exploring puppetry and props definitely nurtured this point of view in me. At the time when I started, there wasn’t many easily-found resources to learn from. So I cobbled knowledge together bit by bit, from library books and the odd short-course. I need to say, I was never a professional puppet/prop maker at any point - everything I made was purely for me, because I wanted to learn and the feeling of building something tangible with my hands was a confidence boost. The great thing about making these types of projects is that they never require just one skill. They force you to combine perceived opposites, say, sculpture with textiles; or woodwork with knitting. In trying to figure out how to actualise a character, or make a fake cake, you need to open up your options.
The saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” is one that became my permission slip for aiming to keep learning. If you don’t know that a certain type of glue, or a way of weaving, or a specific tool exists, then you can never think to use it. And who knows, that very thing may be the solution that makes a future process easier or possible. Of course, you can find solutions for problems using everyday things - that’s the beauty of creative thinking.
My point is not that you need to buy all the things you learn about, but that your knowledge of them will help you to spot similarities or possibilities in whatever else is around you.
Creativity is all about the brain making connections, and those connections become the nuggets of ideas. Thinking of the words for a poem can conjure imagery ideas, which could later turn into a painting. Music, similarly, inspires storytelling, and those stories create moods and motifs, which could translate into a sculpture or a design. Or as you knit a scarf, perhaps the rhythm pulls you towards a song.
Creative variety also helps you to play and combine processes to develop new outcomes in your work.
For example, you might try out a printmaking technique and feel like the end result needs something extra - so you might think to try drawing over the top of it with ink, or cutting up the print to use within a collage. You might paint a watercolour and feel it just doesn’t have impact for some reason - so you might add in some coloured pencils on top, or import it into a digital program to edit. Processes and materials don’t need to be used in isolation - they can have a mingle and who knows what they’ll create!
If you have one true style, or type of technique, that you love and don’t want to divert from, that’s great! Being an expert in your field is highly valued and I absolutely admire (and sometimes, yes, envy) that certainty.
Not everyone, though, finds their “thing” immediately, or even years down the line - and that’s ok!
If you have an interest in various creative pastimes, techniques, materials or mediums, then embrace the joy that variety brings! Specialism does not make you an artist - creativity and doing does.
Thanks for reading!
Keep making to make happy!
Love Gem x
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