Learning from the masters
Everyone who does some kind of creative work has a great advantage: doing something creative is one of the key ingredients of life happiness. But it's not always easy to start a new project, find a new, original idea, and work in a way that makes us improve from one artwork to another.
There are many traps awaiting the creative individual: you can fall into a pattern of repeating yourself, have trouble with making up something new, or changing from one project to another. Let’s now explore a wonderful source of inspiration: the greatest artists of all time.
Labour of love
Van Gogh, Degas, Kandinsky, Renoir, Monet. Pick your favourite. How do they do this – to stay independent, be original, and, most importantly, be remembered and recognized forever? As many psychologists say, people like these posess the key ingredients of life happiness.
According to American psychologist Abraham Maslow, there is a hierarchy of needs that have to be fulfilled to reach life happiness. The top one of them is “self-actualization”. From there we can safely assume that those, who achieved self-actualization, are not only happy but they know how to get inspired and create something unique. According to other Maslow’s findings, they also posess spontaneity, are independent and avoid stereotypes. They are creative, have rich personality, and have a philosophical, not malicious sense of humour. Sounds like a description of those greatest artists, that are never to be forgotten? Great. Then let’s see what can we learn from them.
This is probably one of the most difficult things to keep when working individually. To be persistent, means to keep working on your project, painting, design, book, or whatever else you’re doing, to constantly improve it; which sometimes means to throw something to the trash, or take a risk of possibly making your artwork worse than in the previous state; which may feel like moving backwards.
When spending hours and hours on such work, it’s easy to lose that feeling of enthusiasm that allowed you to actually create something. Whether you have someone above you (for example, a client or a boss) or you work on your own (having to be your own judge), it’s probably just as difficult at times. So how do the masters stay persistent when all these problems are so common (and, in fact, natural to humans)? Their secret is “the flow”, as a hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi named it. The flow is a condition in which you are so fully engaged, that you don’t see anything around and you even lose the sense of time. All your other needs and concerns seem to fade away as long as you continue doing your favourite activity. In this state, it’s much less possible to doubt in your work or lose your passion for it, no matter how time-consuming and challenging it might be.
Some of the older artists may not seem so “bold” to you anymore, and it’s very often being said that nowadays there is nothing new or nothing that would shock anyone, in the terms of etiquette in the world of art galleries. This is so common, that anyone can easily feel bored by artists trying to “shock” us again and again; especially that advertising is getting more and more aggressive and advertisers also try to attract customers by shocking them. Maybe even you do the same, if creating a project that is meant to advertise your client’s product.
To me, the key is not to shock, but to be different; not to challenge everyone around, but to challenge yourself. Maybe you resigned from using a certain colour, font, or shape in your designs, because you believed (or were told) that it’s kitch or disgusting and shows lack of style? Then try to work with this “thing” and maybe not make it the key feature of your next project, but at least understand the nature of it – and why is it not accepted by you or your audience.
The activity of creating something that is “inspired” by another artwork earned a bad opinion when copyright holders started to complain about violation of their rights, which is not only performed by teenagers who “steal” images to decorate their blogs, but it’s an issue since ages. Artists of all kinds argue about the originality of certain pieces. Advertising agencies just buy their rights to use others creations, mostly without naming the authors.
All this may keep you away from the great thing about art; the dialogue between generations of artists. So let’s have an exercise: pick your favourite artwork (doesn’t matter if it’s a painting, music, someone’s performance, or anything else) and try to honestly think if it “resonates with you” – makes you think about something that is your personal experience. Then create a response to this, which will be your own artwork. This is just like if you were talking to the other artist, even if they lived centuries ago. Also, track other artists who did the same. This is very refreshing and a sure way of finding your own path in the world of art.
Being aware of the “big names” in the world of art is not only adding you “points” in your social interactions, but it’s a great source of inspiration that helps artists find their individuality. Try to find artworks that resonate with you and create something just for the joy of creating, but remember to challenge yourself and hear the dialogue between the artists that continues since centuries.