Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Idea Factory

“I have an idea a minute.” Fleur Cowles

Now that's a lot of confidence. Cowles passed away in June at the age of 101. She was a painter, writer and founder of the short-lived but legendary magazine Flair. The prevailing view was that Flair was ahead of its time, but even its financial failure didn't seem to throw Cowles off her stride.

I come from the opposite viewpoint - my head is usually empty. I need to really dig for ideas.

Everybody takes photos, flips through magazines, keeps journals. In Twyla Tharp's book, The Creativity Habit, she talks about scratching for ideas, by getting out and going someplace, rooting around in books, wandering the hallways of your mind. Fine, but I think the tricky part is developing the awareness of ideas as they flit by and the discipline to write them down.

Years after taking a class aimed at using more of the subconscious mind, I still recall the instructor’s analogy: the subconcious mind was like a trained pet. You can train it to retrieve things for you, fragments of half -forgotten songs, etc. But if you continually ask your subconscious mind to be on the look-out for cool art ideas and then you don’t bother to write them down or act on them, your "pet" may wander off. Does this make any sense??

Kind of breathtaking to notice how much the prolific Cezanne got out of his subjects. Many times what you're looking for is right in front of you. Cezanne had something like 18 sketchbooks haphazardly filled with sketches of subjects right at hand - his family, his surroundings. And it sure does not seem like he felt the need to go in search of any exotic subjects in order to explore his ideas about nature, volume, space, color and so on.

Here's Basket of Apples (Art Institute of Chicago).

Judging from my immediate surroundings, I am ready to start a dirty dishes series.

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