Collaboration. Speed sketching. Painting in the dark. These are my secret weapons, and I’ve used them over the last several years to bring on new ideas and to bring me back to my creative self. They are all ways I’ve devised to push my creative boundaries. Creativity is often where most artists today are lacking: Gimmicktry, the well-made object, and spectator sport is where the art world seems to be dragging along. As a professor I do preach the importance of craftsmanship, and I adore work that really challenges… you know those pieces that require you to think. But I often wonder, where is the creativity in it all? How do you reinvent, refresh, reimagine your work so you can continue growing and evolving as an artist?
You are looking to start a new body of work, and you have a vague vision of the impression you want the work to make. How do you get there? Try learning not to judge, most of the time we don’t even know we are doing it. Thinking critically, making aesthetic decisions, solving visual problems; especially for trained artists (those of us who were consistently pushed to approach our work with a critical eye), all seem to be at the forefront of our process. However we have to remember “crit” happened after the work was completed. Somewhere along the line we start to integrate the process of critique into our art-visioning process. We try to predict the outcome and adjust our work before we have even attempted it. Sometimes making mindful decisions, whether based on formal aspects of art-making or perhaps in order to push the perception of a specific message, can make the act of creation somewhat oppressive. Oftentimes it is apparent in the final product. This is not always the case and as professionals we want to make work that is intentional. Yet if you are not happy with your work, or you are trying to reach new ground you may need to get over yourself. Shake it up. Try to get lost!
I spent the better part of graduate school trying to unlearn what I had taken away from my studio art undergraduate experience; where all my professors had very specific ideas about what “art” was and what it was not. I needed a recovery program! So I began my Master of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Art, and I soaked in the amazing depth and breadth of experiences and the different kinds, styles, and approaches to art. There was a constant intermingling, and we learned how to engage with art and more importantly learned how it flowed through life and our personal experiences and histories. To enjoy such diversity in the arts, I had to learn to lose control.
Lose control! There is a magic and undiscovered treasures to be found in losing control. Not everything is meant to be, nor can be, intentional. The idea of the artist as genius, if it holds true, is only so in the moment where the artist discovers, accepts, and then declares as their own the "unexpected". The unexpected is an artist’s work. It is intentional, in that, they were willing to do the work knowing they would not be able to fully predict the outcome. There was a searching, a realization, and then a thoughtful engagement with the materials and the concept(s). They were willing to EXPERIMENT. You can make the decision to create, choose your materials, your surface, your palette, etc., but there is a point where you must make without judgment to manifest that which you otherwise could not.
Whether these discoveries were born from your unconscious or whether they are gifted from the Universe, something outside of ourselves has become known. These unknowns are the building blocks for a new place to sit. If getting lost is not a practice you are well versed in, it does take some patience and practice. There are many great ways to get started, for example, having someone else make some of the decisions for you. Let someone pick the subject, colors, medium. Collaborate! You cannot control what flows from another being. Setting up experiments for myself has been the catalyst for a number of successful series. Another way to break through to the unknown is to work as fast as possible; literally and figuratively, put on that No Regrets t-shirt and make things… How you get there does not matter, and it may not be pretty or easy. Many successful experiments are at the end of a road littered with failures. However you can forget yourself and rediscover the joy of art, which is found in the making. Gift yourself.
Tabatha Lendquvist-Grace, Artist/Owner Lendquvist Studio
*Originally published on Wordpress December 3, 2017
Tabatha Lendquvist-Grace works from her private studio located in Walker County, AL. She is an Interdisciplinary artist working across and in various mediums to include painting, bookmaking, and poetics. She taught Design I at the University of North Alabama and taught Drawing Foundations as an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Tabatha has been involved in a number of community arts projects with At-Risk youth and has experience teaching art to youth and adults at various private and public schools, institutions, and art organizations. She earned a BA in Studio Art from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a Master of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College.