Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to find ideas for art

Ideas for art are as infinite as snowflakes, but sometimes thinking up a good one seems as rare as seeing a snowflake on a sunny June evening.  One thing I like to do is trick my art process into creative discovery by playing with materials in unusual ways.  One of my favorite techniques for finding ideas for art involves a cereal box and several friends.  We sit together with lots of smeary, messy, colorful art materials on a table in the middle of our circle.  One end of the cereal box is taped shut and each of us reaches inside with chalk, paint or crayon and makes a mark without planning, or looking at it afterwards. Around and around the box goes—each person adding more marks and becoming more physically marked with each pass.  At some point the laughter and mess comes to a climax and we declare our masterpiece finished.

After the box has been opened and allowed to dry, we make small squares or rectangles of white paper and “frame” different areas as possible ideas for art.  The resulting art piece might be a faithful rendition of the cereal box inspiration, or it might use the cereal box miniature as a starting point whose final image evolves beyond the initial appearance or association.

When I make art using this kind of creative discovery,  which is similar to the way I painted the Journey Oracle cards or find images in the faces of my drums, I believe I am inviting the Lords and Ladies of Chaos and Chance to come into the studio and play.  I understand they excel at situations that are out of control, and it feels like gambling to see what they can create with random enthusiasm, and how I can respond by applying the order and structure of art.