Monday, May 21, 2012

Are You Following Directions or Creating Your Own Path?

"Heart Strings Attached" by Melissa Klein

(will be on exhibit at the Art Shack at the Juan de Fuca Festival)

Painted during a time when life was very…. complicated. I felt like I could feel the ground shifting daily as I was making positive changes, but also upsetting the status quo and "daring to disturb the universe."
$800 24" x 36" Shipping Available


My little sister volunteers at her son's elementary school. They teach art by showing the children the work of a famous painter, and then having the kids "create" work that imitates the style of that artist. I found this disturbing - because as both an artist and an educator, the creative process is a matter of discovering your own voice and discovering those unique qualities of personal expression. Those great artists are great because they were able to tap into a new way of seeing things that was different and opened up other people's eyes. While I think that it's a good idea for children to learn about art history and study the techniques that other artists used, by teaching children to imitate rather than to develop their own expression doesn't serve to develop their creativity. I'm NOT advocating just "letting them do their own thing and everything is just great." as a way of learning either - when I set up an art lesson there are specific skills sets to master and I want them to learn that process and be accurate within those guidelines. Then they can use those techniques in any way they choose. My high school art teacher Elaine Weinstone put it really well: "Is that distorted because you wanted it to be distorted or is that distorted because you didn't know how to draw it?" (True confessions, it was the latter - I hadn't mastered proportion.)

Another way that people learn art is to do the "follow the demonstration" example - i.e. "Here is how you make a landscape just like this and these are the steps. Follow the directions and you will wind up with something that looks just like it!" There's nothing particularly wrong with that - it makes people happy, gives them a goof-proof format to follow and gets them involved in art. I admire Bob Ross for making art accessible to a wider audience. However, it doesn't really teach them how to develop their own vision.

So... How do artists see things? What are they looking for? For me - some of the basics are: how colors interact, edges, hand/eye coordination, composition, optical illusion and personal symbolism. I developed the "Art Factory" as a way to demonstrate those concepts through having people interact with those elements in a way that is process rather than product oriented. The idea is to activate the right brain and engage in the creative process in a nonjudgmental, supportive atmosphere. Many businesses are discovering that by having their employees take art classes and using drawings they are finding solutions for previously unsolvable problems. It's cross training for the brain, and the benefit is to be able to see the world from a different perspective and find new opportunities for solutions. Betty Edwards, the author of "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" reported that her students saw the world in a clearer, more vivid way after taking art lessons.

The Art Factory is a series of workstations for visitors to explore these ideas through hands-on activities which will be supported by the fabulous "Team Art Factory" from Lincoln High School: Angel, Grace, Marcela, Brandy, Stephanie and Linda Chapman - who is a wonderful artist/ceramicist - Most of all - it's fun! We had a blast doing the "dry run" of the projects. Shout out to the team!!! You rock!!!

Here are a few tips on carving out your own creative path:

1. Know the rules. And then break them. Accept that there may be some fall-
out for disturbing the universe.

2. Don't look for approval or permission, you are not going to get it. It may be that by following the standard format, you made life very easy for some of the people around you, and they want you stay in that comfortable (for them) position... But was that what you wanted? My husband gave me this great advice when I was stressing about making some changes: "Don't worry about disappointing people who don't care about your best interest."

3. Your true friends will still love you, now you know who they are. Those who cannot accept the changes need to be let go with love and good will.

4. Be very kind to yourself. This is new territory - and you will make mistakes. Forgive those mistakes and work to do it better next time. The universe provides opportunities for another go-around.

5. Get an accountability partner. She/he don't have to be in your field, but they have to have a light in their eye and a fire in their belly. Look for them in unlikely packages. Reach out and stay connected. Last year, I was at a conference for artists to develop their business skills. I was at a presentation by Jackie Peterson who offered a book called "Better Smarter Richer" - I knew that even with all the best intentions, I was unlikely to actually read and do the activities in it and didn't want another dust collector on my shelf. There was another woman who seemed really interested in it as well, she was a complete stranger, a fabric artist, and seemed a bit daunting. I asked her if she wanted to do a book study together and do a chapter a week. She agreed. This evolved into a weekly check-in; an important routine that keeps me moving forward on my "to do" list and she has become one of my best friends. Now I have two accountability partners - another one from Christine Kane's Uplevel Gold program - and they have both had a huge positive impact on staying the course.

Hope to see you there - and whatever you do - enjoy the weather!

Best Wishes,

-Melissa • • PO Box 2272 Sequim WA 98382 • 360-809-0083

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I'm proud to announce the "Art Factory" workshop at the Juan de Fuca festival.  This workshop was developed as a way to introduce people to the artistic process which is different from the typical "How to make a _______ just like this!" Creativity is a process of solving problem and alternating between being the different roles of the creative process:  Explorer, Artist, Judge and Warrior (adopted from the "Whack on the Side of the Head" book by Roger Von Oech).  Understanding the creative process and how artists come up with creative solutions can be a key to finding solutions that were previously insurmountable.