Don’t Let Anyone Kill Your Art

January 4th, 2014 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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This post arose out of a conversation I had with my little cousin (who is now 19 and in her second semester of college, so I guess she’s not so “little” anymore, lol). Around Christmas I asked her how her art classes had gone, knowing that she had planned to major in Art and had likely faced a rocky transition into college art classes. Boy, I didn’t know the half of it.

“Oh, I changed my major,” she replied when I asked her. “I took an art class and the teacher basically killed my desire to do any more art.” She went on to describe how the art teacher had insisted on each student doing dozens of drawings each week, ostensibly to “practice their skills,” but then apparently had used the opportunity to harshly critique rather than build their skills up.

She seemed pretty buoyant about the whole thing, and about her future in her new major, but I was sad about it. While we spoke, I encouraged her to keep at her art, even if it was only a hobby, and not to let it go just because of one teacher, whose opinions were not fact (and whose art teaching methods seemed a bit suspect).

Now, my advice, while perfectly fine, is easier said than followed. How often has my enjoyment of my own art been tainted because I didn’t get the reaction I expected from my audience? How often have I doubted myself and my abilities because of an offhand judgmental comment from someone else? When I make art, I am literally displaying part of my soul…and when someone else finds it unworthy or is indifferent to it, I am wounded as a result, even if I gamely try to continue on.

This is a dangerous path for us artists to travel; once we start prioritizing others’ opinions of our works (especially the ones that seem meant to destroy our desire rather than perfect our skill), then we can easily lose the passion for our art that we began with. And yet, many of us fall victim to this specifically because our art is so close to our selves. We have to actively combat this problem, otherwise the creative fountain within us will be stilled–not by lack of ability, but by the anxiety that comes from wondering whether anyone else will like what we make.

I leave you with this point: art, in whatever form it takes, is a subjective thing–the beauty of a piece can’t be quantified completely. Thus, no one else’s opinion is more unbiased than your own opinion when it comes to your artworks. If you like your work, and other people like it, that’s great. If you like your work, and you’re the only person in the world who likes it, so what? Art is meant to soothe, to inspire, and to be enjoyed rather than to be cut apart and analyzed to death like a dissected frog in a lab. If it only soothes, inspires, and brings enjoyment to its creator, then it has done what it was designed to do already; other people’s positive opinions are just icing on the cake (and the critical people don’t deserve a slice of the cake).

(now I just have to follow these words of wisdom when it comes to this blog! LOL)

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Creativity Boost: Be Around Creative Folks Like Yourself

December 21st, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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On November 18th, I had the unique pleasure of singing with a massive choral and orchestra group at Gardner-Webb University–we presented an evening of classical music the likes of which I hadn’t done since my college choir days. And boy, was it an evening of creativity and art! I was nearly bowled over with it!

I really didn’t expect to be so moved or touched by performing with this amalgam of musicians, and yet I was; I was up there singing my heart away, feeling for all the world as if I was in my element at last. I had come in dressed for performance like always, and some part of me viewed the event as “business as usual,” but it certainly wasn’t! With almost 400 people packing the stage for the choir/orchestra numbers, I felt myself part of a large, well-oiled musical machine, and it was ELECTRIC.

I got home, kinda dazed, after the performance, and wondered over my reaction for a little while. The thought that kept coming back was: “I was around people like ME!” All of the performers were classically trained musicians like me, and this was a collegiate performance, much like the ones I enjoyed being in during my own college years. I had gotten in touch with a part of my musical soul which had lain dormant, likely, since that time. It felt so good to know that other people were as passionate about music as I was, and were experiencing music in the same way. This group musical experience sparked a mini-tidal wave of creative musical ideas, which I’m still happily riding.

Want this kind of experience for yourself? Here are some ways you can find other artsy people like you, no matter what art you make and enjoy:

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Glasses Off: 4 Inspiringly Creative Sites

December 14th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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Sometimes, when it feels like I’ve squeezed all the creativity out of my neurons, I feel at a loss…and then I remember that the Internet is a wondrous place full of other awesome people being creative and posting about it. Once I read about their projects, I find my creative juices replenishing themselves like mad! Here are four sites you’ll want to visit if you’re feeling creatively drained:

Instructables
A classic site for learning how to make things…read through some of these articles and get inspired!

Sortrature.com
From crafts to fashion, wedding ideas to travel, this site has a little bit of everything to delight your sense of creativity.

Demilked.com
All sorts of articles and photos, concerning photography ideas, architecture, and even web design, among others!

FindInspirations.com
A visual catalog of all sorts of design ideas and articles, arranged in a Pinterest-like flow down the page.

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Glasses Off: 4 Delightful Fine Arts Sites

December 7th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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No matter what kind of art your heart revels in, you can turn to the Internet, much as I do, for both inspiration and information. Whether you dance from your heart or sing from your soul, paint or sculpt with all your energy, or bring characters to life from your mind, here are four sites you’ll enjoy browsing:

Zhibit
Do you make art? You can make your own free art website here, and explore others’ websites to find kindred spirits!

Musicovery
Musicians and music lovers of all sorts will enjoy this site, which allows you to discover music you might like based on a specified mood.

DanceSpirit Magazine
Learn what’s happening in the world of dance, from dance tutorials to health information and getting a dance job.

TheatreLinks.com
This site is a great links resource for learning more about drama/theater–it lists sites about theater history, stagecraft, the acting industry, and much more!

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Online Artsy Fun: Sketch ‘n Paint!

November 30th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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sketchnpaint
Feeling artsy, but don’t have a sketchpad or image creation program handy? Check out Sketch ‘n Paint! over at OneMotion.com–it’s what Microsoft Paint wishes it could be.

colorselection
You have a palette of already-chosen colors down at the bottom, and you can further customize your color by hitting the HSL and RGB tabs to play with color sliders. Mix white and black into your color to your heart’s content, choose how saturated you want the color to be–it’s ALL there!

brushselection
Right beside the color selection panel, you’ve got settings for your brush. Play with brush size, pressure, diffusion, and other settings by clicking and dragging over the individual words–the more red that covers the word, the stronger that setting is. (For instance, a Size meter fully colored with red means a REALLY big brush)

fileundoetc Along the right side of the browser window, you’ll see various file settings; the top ones are for creating, opening, and saving files, plus undo and redo buttons.

Farther down, you can open and close the Paint module (the color and brush panels), modify the lines on screen, erase lines, and pull a color back into your brush with the eyedropper.

And, way down at the bottom, you can zoom in on your image, move things around on it, and even put masking on or take it off. (Like I said, this is what MS Paint wishes it could be!)

This completely freehand tool is easiest to use with a physical mouse rather than a touchpad, but it’s great fun regardless. Visit and start playing around…you might just find yourself randomly making a masterpiece!

Link: Sketch ‘n Paint!

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A Little Creativity Pep Talk

November 23rd, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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Feeling remarkably un-creative these days? You’re not alone!

Creativity, for me, seems to ebb and flow like the tide. At “low tide,” I end up staring at my works, adding a little bit here and there sometimes, but usually just reading it/playing through it and not making changes at all. But at “high tide,” I stay awake all night working on a project because I know I’ve got to “strike while the iron is hot,” and boy, is my brain ever on fire! LOL!

The wonderful thing? Both of these levels of creativity, and all levels in between, are perfectly NORMAL. Even if you feel stuck at “low tide,” or even if you’re wondering where most of your creativity “water” went, you don’t have to stay there. Relax–the more you worry about being non-creative, the less creative your brain can be!

Here, I’ve gathered a few visual quotes that have helped me when I’m feeling particularly “ebbed out” with no inspiration. Enjoy, and get re-inspired!

creativityenemy
Source

seewhatsunseen
Source

creativeadult
Source

notperfect
Source

childartist
Source

losefear
Source

curiositysurvives
Source

intelligencehavingfun
Source

creativitytakescourage
Source

uncertainties
Source

quotes_destiny
Source

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4 Simple Tips for Writing Poetry

November 16th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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As a poet since at least the age of 7, I’ve experimented quite a bit with writing and reading poetry, working with word choices, line breaks, rhythms, punctuation, and several other tools to help get just the right effect for my poems. For me, poetry is very natural and has always been so.

But for some, poetry can seem at first like the most approachable and the most difficult literary form out there. Sometimes it seems like poetry is so “simple” that it’s easy to over-complicate it or mess it up.

If you’re new to poetry (or even if you’re not), try out the following 4 tips to create and shape your own lines. You might be surprised at the grace your words can have!

#1: Read Your Poetry Aloud

This is the first and probably best overall tip for writing poetry–reading your words aloud can help you solve most poetry issues, such as off-beat word rhythms, weird punctuation, awkward word choice, and the “flow” of lines together. Plus, it can help consolidate the idea behind the poem, so that you can cut out unnecessary material if need be.

#2: Play with Line Breaks and Spaces

Poetry can have a visual effect as well as a verbal and mental effect. Check out the differences in these three examples, all identical except with regards to line breaks and spaces:

Example #1

you smiled
and my watch stopped ticking
you spoke
and my heart and breath waited
to make sound
so they wouldn’t drown out
your voice

Example #2

you smiled
and my watch
stopped
ticking

you spoke
and my heart
and breath
waited

to make sound
so they wouldn’t
drown out
your voice

Example #3

you smiled and my watch stopped ticking
you spoke and my heart and breath waited
to make sound
so they wouldn’t drown out your voice

The line breaks and spaces in a poem give the reader’s eye a little rest, as well as implying small pauses and intakes of breath. As for the “correct” line breaks and spaces, it’s all subjective; it’s all up to your interpretation as to what “feels right” in your poem. (Side note: of the three examples above, I like #2 the best–the short lines lend a slightly breathless quality to the words of this love poem, and the amount of spaces make me think of halting, stuttering, “first-date” kind of feelings. Which example do you like best?)

#3: Use Your Natural Language

You will get the most natural and flowing poetry if you use words and phrases that are natural to you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a few “vocabulary words” in your poetry every now and again if it makes sense, but your poetry doesn’t have to look like a dictionary or thesaurus threw up in it, either.

Trying to use unfamiliar words can make poetry feel stilted and un-expressive–the last things you want your poetry to be. Make your poems sound as much like you as possible, warts and all; after all, you’re the only one who can write like you!

#4: Commas or No Commas? That’s Your Discretion (Mostly)

Punctuation in poetry is a relatively thorny issue–some folks say you need it, others (like me) think that line breaks/spaces can achieve the same goal without cluttering up your verses. But there’s really not a wrong way to use punctuation in your verses, since poetry is not just communication, but art.

Do whatever looks and feels natural for your poetry, whether it’s putting punctuation in or not. Just please try to avoid the following style, which I call “comma-itis” (LOL):

when a poem,
has commas at the end,
of every line without,
really making sense,
it really annoys,
most readers,
no end.

Summary

Poetry doesn’t have to be daunting–trying any one of these tips (or all of them together) can help you write a set of beautiful verses. Put pen to paper (or open a new text document) and see what you can come up with!

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What IS Creativity, Anyway?

November 9th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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I’ve written a lot of articles on this little blog about creativity and creative pursuits. But I got to thinking one day, as I was writing, working on websites, humming my own music, and otherwise engaged in the process of creativity; I wondered, “I know I create all the time–I’ve done it since I was a kid. But WHY? What IS creativity, anyway?”

Creativity is one of the slipperiest words I’ve ever tried to define. I have such an intrinsic knowledge of it–creativity is, quite simply, in everything I do. But describing exactly what that impulse is and why I choose to pursue it is VERY difficult. Nevertheless, here are the definitions and descriptions I have come up with:

Creativity: The Desire to Make Something that’s Needed

One part of my creativity stems from seeing a need for something out in the world, and wanting to apply my talents to that need. I started making super-informative fansites back in the early 2000s because I had seen a string of cookie-cutter “fan” sites whose content was all copied and pasted from each other; I felt that our fan communities needed something better, something more in-depth, and so I took it upon myself to create the kind of site I was looking for.

My writing also falls into that category–when I write something, it’s partially because I have not seen a piece of writing like it before. I write stories and poems in part because the tales and emotions contained within me filter through my experiences and my mindset, creating something unique and yet still relatable (well, most of the time, LOL).

Creativity: The Urge to Nurture Something into Being

Another part of creativity is the almost-primal urge to just MAKE something, something that’s just yours, born of your mind. In that way, it seems like procreation; you’re affirming that your brain cells, your mind, your SOUL is alive with every word you write, every brushstroke you paint, every note you strike. I experience this with every art form I work with, from singing in choirs to writing my novel and my music, from creating websites to even making my own crafts. Everything I make has my own stamp on it; every idea in my head needs effort from me to come out, and that effort is joyful because it has MEANING and I can actually focus on it. Creativity literally gives meaning to things that might not have much meaning otherwise.

Creativity: The Need to Show Others Your Original Self

Lastly, I believe creativity is about self-expression–not just expression of the self’s effort or expression of the self’s needs, but about explaining what kind of person I am. Much of my music flows from this idea; each melody and each lyric is strained and purified through my perceptions, and when I play my original songs I am literally baring a piece of my internal world, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Especially these days when so much is negative in our world, a good-sized dollop of creativity seems like a needed taste of hope–it’s a way of saying “Hey, I’m over here–I’m a person too, with loves and needs and dreams.” (Sometimes, especially early on, I used my creativity to ask whether I was a good enough person or not; now, I use my creativity to show how I’m good enough. It works both ways.)

Are There Other Explanations of Creativity? You Tell Me!

These are my own personal definitions of creativity, but I’m just one creative person speaking from one mindset–what are your definitions? Tell me in the comments!

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Crazy, Funny, and Just Plain Weird: Experimental Music

November 2nd, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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Music is not just about melodies, rhythms, and harmonies, nor it is only about songs that sound “pretty.” Sometimes, you just have to push the boundaries of what most folks think of as “good music” to develop something wildly original.

That’s what experimental music is all about–using standard musical techniques in the pursuit of comedy, combining music and visuals together for a new experience, remixing songs or melodies together to create new melodies, and even arranging random “non-music” sounds into music. Take heart: if the music you make fits into this category, you’re in great company! Here are a few examples, gathered from around the Internet:

Videos


This whimsical remix of songs from the Disney film Mary Poppins is oddly catchy!


Experimental choral madness, indeed! How can random sounds be music? When they are arranged like this!


John Cage, arguably the 20th century master of experimental music, offers this musical experience, recombining, rearranging, and composing this piece out of many different types of harmonies from other songs.


HILARIOUSLY weird video (and really addictive little dance tune), featuring comedian Ken Shimura’s character “Baka Tono-Sama.” “Ai~n” translates loosely to “Did I Do That?!” (1990s Steve Urkel, anyone?)


2:15 of strange electronic music and even stranger bovine visuals.


SILLY He-Man music video…must be seen to be believed. (If this isn’t experimental music applied in a comedic audiovisual way, I don’t know what is!)


Haunting and ethereal–”weird” in the best way!

Non-Video Sound Clips

Pop Danthology (SoundCloud)
Cool mashup of all sorts of pop songs from 2012–revisioning music in a really cool way!

Mythic Morning: Choral Works II
Collection of Danish composer Per Norgard’s avant-garde, post-modern choral music.

Malaysian Composers: Leong Yoon Pin
As of this writing (October 2013), this online radio showcases Leong Yoon Pin’s experimental instrumental music.

More Weird Music Resources

John Cage on Experimental Music
Experimental Music: Wikipedia Article
FreeMusicArchive: Experimental Music
Weird Music History (because today’s music is yesterday’s experimental sounds!)

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Beginner Beading, part 3: Pretty Patterns

October 19th, 2013 by , in Saturday with the Spark
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Making beaded jewelry is not just about selecting good beads or perfecting your techniques–it’s ultimately about making beautiful jewelry with lovely beaded patterns.

I don’t claim to be a perfect designer by any means, but I know what kinds of patterns I like to see in jewelry, and that’s how I design my own beaded necklaces thus far. Here are some examples:

jewelcolorsxsilver
This necklace (which is the slightly-messed-up one from last week) displays a couple of pretty design tactics:

clearxpearl
A little different strategy was employed with this necklace, my first take on using white pearls in a design:

purplexpearl

denimxsilver

bluexpearl
(Not sure why this necklace’s beads showed up so green–they’re actually Pacific opal beads, which are blue-green. Oh well!)

Summary

Working with symmetry, different bead textures and shapes, and colors which play well off each other can make any beaded jewelry project lovely. Try it out–just lay a few beads together on a table and rearrange them to your heart’s content. You just might come up with a randomly gorgeous pattern!

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