Getting started seems so simple but is often the most difficult part of the creative process.
It was interesting to watch the programme ‘Imagine’ this week in which Ian Rankin, the Scottish crime writer, talked about getting started. He said he was lucky if he got one good idea a year, but if you’re a novelist then one idea is all you need.
He has folders full of newspaper clippings, articles, jottings on paper napkins, scribbled notes he has collected, but around the time he had decided to start his new book he had been to a funeral and it occurred to him that this was the place the next of his works was to begin, at the graveside. He didn’t know where it was going; he did not know how it would end, because all he needed to know was that he had the idea to get started.
Then I read about Christine Kazeil, an artist from British Colombia, who is inspired by the colours all around her on Vancouver Island and says she is so in love with the buttery paints made locally in Vancouver that just opening a new pot of divine orange or sumptuous red moves her to get started on a painting. She does not have any design or end in mind she lets the paint and intuitive marks lead her on a journey of discovery.
These two artists, one a painter and the other a writer, seem to me to tune in to a very similar creative process. I wonder if they have found, as I have, that thinking too hard about how to begin, where to find inspiration , looking for the end result before you have even started is, for me at any rate, a block to creativity. Yes there can be preparation work as I did this week. However that was me ‘getting started’. At home I had found two pieces of hand made water colour paper, I took them to the studio and smeared three colours of neat gouache on it, then sprayed it with water, let it run freely wherever it chose and then left it to dry for the evening session. I had no idea where it might go or what other materials I might use but the drawing was started. In the end I chose a wax crayon, a white stick of soft pastel, a water soluble coloured pencil and a fountain pen which would not work properly.
I think I was using the ‘What if’ theory and I think I am a little bit fearless, but to be really inspirational you have to be a lot fearless. When the fountain pen was not working I thought ‘What if I dip it in water, will it get the ink flowing?’ Well it did in a quite unpredictable way; it either produced a thin scrawny line or a splodgy blot. Then I thought ’What if I dip the pencil in water and what if I scribble some pastel on then cover it with a bit more gouache?’ And so the evening went on until I had discovered different ways of making marks and shall be disappointed if my fountain pen begins to work properly again.
Other artists there on Thursday seemed to me to be making some fearless moves and pushing a few familiar boundaries, either in use of materials or unusual viewpoints. I liked Teresa’s use of Brusho, (must invest in some) I liked Chris’s three heads, Andrew’s portrait seemed a new direction for him and Russell was trying to move away from graphic depiction.
I must say well done to our model, Ken, who though suffering from a cold and not feeling fit enough for a standing pose managed the sitting pose very well. I hope he is feeling better and has not contracted something worse from being exposed to the draughty elements of Red Brick, particularly after the heating goes off for the last fifteen minutes.
I have to say I almost did not write this blog; Knowing Ken was ill when Tony asked me if I’d like to ‘write the blog for us tonight’ I mistakenly thought he said ‘model for us tonight’. Of course my answer was a very prim ‘I dooon’t think so!’ Poor Tony he didn’t know what had come over me. Hope I’m forgiven Tony.
by Sandra Cowper
Paintings and drawings by Andrew, Cathy, Hadyn, Chris R, Patrick, Paul, Roger, Russell, Sandra, Sue, Tony and featured artist Teresa.