That’s what Picasso said, and it has a nice ring to it. But what does it mean?
This has been a hot topic among artists, and there are too many perspectives to summarize. So I’ll just give you my conclusions, based on their knowledge and my experience.
Copying is a good way to learn. By copying your heroes, you learn about their process and how they arrived at the results you admire. And it’s all good, as long as you don’t try to pass it off as your own.
That’s a relief, because I’ve spent a lot of this week copying the work of John Alcorn, a mid-century artist/illustrator I admire. You can see the results in my sketches.
Stealing is about transforming others’ ideas into your own. The thinking here is that there is no such thing as an original idea; everything is a juxtaposition.
That’s okay, because when you put existing ideas together and add yourself, you turn the work into something else: art.
You can do this. If you’re wanting to create and don’t know what to do, Austin Kleon has a suggestion. “Think of your work as a collage. Steal two or more ideas from your favorite artists and start juxtaposing them.”
I’ve been recommending this book lately, to everyone from my 25-year-old niece to my 60-something friends. Which is somewhat surprising, considering that I first read A Life of One’s Own 30 years ago.
What makes it stick with me? Joanna Field (pseudonym for Marion Milner) describes her journey of self-knowledge, starting in her late 20s, when she realized she had no idea who she was. Everything she knew about herself came from outside: from her parents, friends, culture.
So Milner decided to notice what made her happy and record it in a journal ( a great exercise for anyone interested in the inward journey). She found, as many of us do, that happiness is in the smallest things: a gust of wind, toes in the dirt, chocolate…
I learned that during the worst depression of my life. In fact, it was what saved me.
That’s why I love a phrase I read in a recent interview with a woman managing a rare and horrible illness. She said the only god she prays to these days is “the god of tiny pleasures.”
Where does confidence come from? Wish I knew, because I’d like some more.
At least part of it must be how other people see us and what they reflect back.
But for that to make a difference, we’d have to listen to what they’re saying. And if you’re like me, you don’t.
I didn’t realize that until Coleen looked at my shoes and said, “You’re so stylish!” Although I’d heard it before, this was the first time I actually heard it, which made me wonder why.
I thought of all the people in my life and the positive things they say, and how I never really listen (though the negative comments lodge in my brain forever).
What happens to the good stuff? Usually, I discount the words as they’re spoken. “What does he know about it? She’s just saying that to be nice. He says that to everyone. She must have really low standards,” and on and on and on and on…
There’s another stopping point for certain words, since I attribute them to someone else and act like they’re already taken. For instance, stylish belongs to my mother and Lynda and smart is about Steve and Sam.
That’s not right; I know it and so do you. But to tackle twisted thinking, you first have to hear your self-talk, and that’s what one compliment—maybe the first I’ve ever heard—did for me.
So bring it on folks. I’m ready for all the adulation you can muster.
That’s how long it takes to make it through the Artist’s Way, recover your creativity and make powerful changes in your life.
At least that’s what happened in our group, thanks to Marlene Pelligrino, our facilitator and companion on the Artist’s Way. It couldn’t have been easy to keep us on task, get us to shut up, help us confront the uncomfortable, and dare to make real changes.
But look at the results:
Margaret found her inner strength
Coleen merged her engineering brain and artist brain
Shelia uncovered her true self
Avril returned to psychic readings
I’m teaching a visual journaling class
You’re taking a color mixing class
So thanks Marlene, for your big heart, radiant energy, and profound sticky notes. And thank you to everyone in our group, for your listening, sharing, tears and laughs. After all,
What are we here for, if not to make life less difficult for each other? – George Eliot
“Understanding is love’s other name,” Thich Nhat Hanh teaches in his latest meditation, How To Love.
He makes one of life’s great challenges so simple. And so beautiful, as summarized by Maria Popova in her weekly “interestingness digest,” BrainPickings.
“To know how to love someone, we have to understand them. To understand we need to listen,” Nhat Hanh tells us. That means expanding our hearts:
When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited. We can’t accept or tolerate others and demand that they change. But when our hearts expand…we accept others as they are and then they have a chance to transform.
But the capacity to love doesn’t just transform our loved ones. It inevitably transforms us.
If you have understanding and love, then every moment—whether it’s spent making breakfast, driving the car, watering the garden or doing anything else in your day—can be a moment of joy.
There’s just one more piece of the equation, perhaps harder than any other: to love ourselves. Nhat Hahn’s advice:
Trust that you have a good and compassionate nature. You are part of the universe. You are made of stars.
This is my “vision board,” a map of sorts, created after nine weeks of doing The Artist’s Way.
It’s actually the second one I made. The first tried to say so much about my dreams, it wound up saying nothing. That’s what makes this a great example of how the creative process works, at least for me.
1. First ideas are rarely the best ideas. What comes to my mind first is probably the same thought everyone has. The result is expected, predictable, safe. Boring.
2.There’s no way to do things well without first doing them poorly. To learn something, you have to be willing to fail.Besides, “mistakes” are often the opening to new, more interesting compositions (as in the black paper covering up where I spilled ink).
3. Ideas come from all over the place. I cut the ducklings out of a book years ago and the words from a recent magazine— and somehow they wound up together on my desk (magic, in my mind).
4. Surprise yourself. You could say ducks are my totem: it’s one of Sam’s nicknames for me; my mother gave me many duck sculptures; and I often feel like an “odd duck.” But I wasn’t thinking of any of these things when I made this piece.
5. Express your unique self. My style has always been about simplicity and clarity, as you can see above. One image and three words: I can remember that and keep it in mind as I go about my day.
The vision boards of the other members of our group are as unique as we are. And isn’t that ultimately the purpose of art?
Thanks PearI Buck: I couldn’t agree more. Order clears my mind, calms my soul, and pleases my eye.
Unfortunately, the forces of chaos are powerful. There’s even a word for it: entropy, which means that systems tend toward disorder.
I live with three people and two cats who are just fine with that. I don’t think there’s anything malicious in their disregard; they simply don’t see a problem till I freak out.
Then, of course, I’m the bad guy. Someone might even say bitch.
But is it too much to ask that people rinse their dishes and put them in the dishwasher? I don’t think so. Is it fair that I straighten up after everyone else? No way. Is it likely to change? Not if entropy has anything to do with it.
So chaos, you win. But don’t even think about messing with my studio—or get ready for WAR.
I get it. He’s autistic. I can just hear the teachers talking about his “social skills deficits,” parents whispering that he’s “out of control,” and kids calling him “weird.”
I know because that’s how it was with my son. Although Ben didn’t have the same experience, he experienced the same pain: not understanding the social conventions, what he was doing wrong or why he was being picked on.
I remember one time driving to his therapy group when he told me the tortures he’d endured that day. (The minute I dropped him off, I went straight to the neighborhood bar for a scotch, something I’d never done before—and haven’t since.)
Somehow Ben made it through all this to become the young man he is today—beautiful inside and out. People love him wherever we go, because he’s so there when he’s with you. He looks at you without pretense or judgment and really listens, and responds thoughtfully.
No wonder Ben is pissed when people refer to autism as a disease. He sees it as his identity—and wonders what’s so great about being “normal.”
But getting back to the other little boy. His mother posted something on Facebook and the town’s fire fighters, adults, and children all turned out to celebrate.