Thursday, July 26, 2012

Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit
I'm reading Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit."
I've only just begun.
I read constantly, blips and blurbs from this book and that. Sometimes I take what I need from one source and then put it down. After which I pick up another book, and read bits and pieces from that. Sometimes I finish it.
Other times I don't.
I've taken the pressure off of my having to finish every book that I start perhaps because the work that I do on a daily basis is so deadline driven. As a commercial artist, I must finish everything that I start because if I don't, then it will begin to affect others who are involved in the process; the editors, the art directors, the clients, and the purchasers of whatever service or product my illustrations are connected to.
But this book, even though I've only just digitally swiped open, feels different.
A lot of what I've been doing in my studio recently has been related to the building of my skill and dexterity. The repetitiveness of my process feels new to me only because it is so new. I'm referring to the cutting and sewing and silkscreening that has been so prevalent in my practice since early this year. I think that having been immersed in Illustration since art college, it's  slowly eroded away the obvious challenging feelings that can accompany the building up of skill within a creative discipline until they become, as Twyla Tharp suggests, habits.
Her words have already begun to affect me in a way that a good conversation can with a friend, or mentor.
I think part of me is always in search of a mentor, but I find it more difficult as I get older, for whatever the reasons may be. Perhaps it's my inability in not knowing how to do so, being shy or fearful about it, or maybe through my own experiences I've concretized my own way of thinking, and so I've built up a resistance to suggestions that don't match my own -- some would call this stubbornness... I call this stubbornness.
Or maybe it's just a logical tendency to become this way after several years of working within the same creative discipline; as one gains more experience in whatever field he or she specializes, there is less of a tendency to ask others for help, and more movement towards sharing knowledge with those who have less experience.
The books that I read have oftentimes become the sources that I tap into whenever I need advice, direction, or solace. I'm particularly inspired by the experiences of others in fields which lay outside of my own. This is not meant to sound arrogant, but I do believe in the importance of having a holistic approach to one's art practice, and that means being open to the ways that others (who's professions are unlike mine) do things in order to grow a better understanding of new ways to work.
Because working in the same formulaic way, day-in and day-out can result in a kind of monotony that I assume would manifest itself in one's work. Although I have no proof of this, I can see the logic in this statement. Part of what I think is so fascinating about the creative arts, is the intuitive component of it. That even though one can plan and strategize exactly how to resolve a particular drawing or painting for example, there is still that component of improvisation, which I believe, lifts that work to a higher level. However, I think it's a mistake to assume that this quality of inspiration that shows up in one's work is somehow the product of genius, or "born of some transcendent inexplicable Dionysian act of inspiration, a kiss from God on your brow that allows you to give the world The Magic Flute." (1) Rather it's the hard work that fuels the creativity; the exercises and the repetition that occurs within the artists' process that is the foundation. "If art is the bridge between what you see in your mind and what the world sees, then skill is how you build that bridge." (2)

1. Tharp, Twyla with Reiter, Mark. The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life: A Practical Guide. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003: 28.
2. Tharp, Twyla with Reiter, Mark. The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life: A Practical Guide. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003: 41-42.

* photo above from by Richard Avedon.


Sheila said...

forgive the OT comment on this post... do you know if your iphone cases will be avail for iphone 5? they are beautiful, like all your work, but I need to ditch my old phone in the fall and I don't wanna ditch my new case with it!

MJC *-* said...

Marcos, I haven't been visiting your blog for a while, but as I'm reading your last post you put a smile on my face because it's a joy to read it! Glad that you write about "The Creative Habit", I also wanted to buy it, but now I am reading "The Artist's Guide" by Jackie Battenfield. It's a great book with so much useful questions in it and I have a little notebook where I can answer those questions. She owned a gallery and uses the same method for her own 'artbusiness' now. I just want to read every artist help book there is :) because I'm always looking for ways to improve my workflow...(sometimes it's just so challenging to keep it up)

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I featured you on Illustration Age, because I'm an assistant editor there.

Marcos Chin said...

hi Sheila, thank you for the email -- so far, i'm not 100% certain if they will be available for iPhone5, but it's looking very likely they could be. i'll definitely make an announcement once i find out for sure. thanks for asking!

Marcos Chin said...

hi MJC - thanks for the nice email, and the point towards Jackie Battenfield, i'll make a note to check it out!... workflow is a tough one to manage and improve... gosh. also thanks for featuring my work on Illustration Age as well :-D