This morning, I want to talk about basic tenets on creativity and how I learned to work.
As a lone artist, sitting alone with a painting, having one yearly show somewhere. I spent the first 12 year of my career doing this. Until people found out that my work in the gallery consists of making things move. It was “theatrical.” So they asked me to put some of these sculptures on stage.
What I found there was fascinating, because it was the first time I collaborated with other artist.
I went into this art with an Oregon blue-collar worker background. And I studied a run-off-the-mill artistic aptitude, then took it further. Dealing with the basics was the key to my success. In fact, the things I do now resembles much of what I learned in basic painting. I regret to say that a lot of newer designers don’t have a strong skills in basics.
I sort of bank internationally on the idea that I live in Portland, Oregon. There’s a perception that this area is full of creativity and a pioneering spirit. The perception that details and skills matter. The perception of a holistic and altruistic attitude about art. People outside the area even talked to me and said that they love the idea that people are sitting out there in Oregon and thinking about our projects all the time.
In Europe and Asia, there’s a lot of disdain for a lot of things American, but the design world hasn’t been touched by this. At least in my field, US has an unbelievable reputation abroad as being a maverick who stands up and say “this is not good.” They are aware that the innovation, love of risk and lack of pride and ego ego that we have that makes us able to break out of the norm or tradition. Maybe we exude confidence?
You have to learn to take the spark and turn it into practice. This is the difference between a creative thought and a creative practice. Thought is a moment. It’s about keeping that creative spark hot and taking it further.
All creatives have ADD. ADD allows you to bounce back and forth between the brains. It’s almost as if you have a file system and a pile system.
How to get random creative thoughts. This is an important thing to understand. It can come naturally, or you can get it from a subject.
But here’s the first you don’t do: you don’t reference anything else for a while.
My big beef is this: once you get an idea, you immediately assemble a pile of research and picture. My idea is to take what I call “the golden minute.” You have to give yourself at least 5 minute gestating this into your own gut before you choose to go forward or look at anything else.
This spark of an idea is going to be an intuitive blast. For me, there is no such thing as “random” in an artist’s mind. Because everything is a summation of nuances in her mind from her lifetime.
A hunch should be taken seriously. It’s like an archeological dig. Write it down. Keep it going. Don’t start researching. It doesn’t come in a flash. It comes in a simple thought. A color. A music. The type of fabric that a story exudes. This sort of indirect textures and nuances that came from that will add up to form something really powerful.
Also, don’t get others to do anything for you. Stretch yourself, then do it with others. People I work with who are very successful are pre-computer. There has been times that I’ve done no research before I come up with something, and somebody tells me “somebody else has already done it”—but only very rarely. This is what separates the good from the bad. I can almost tell you that those who took the chance and risk succeed, and one that relies on focus group fails.
However, you must also manage your risk. I do safe Disney commercial project. But along my schedule, I do things that I don’t understand, that I won’t make any money for. Introduce an adventurous avenue or sub-area of your mind that complements your more banal area. Later in my career, I get to design most of what I built. My company sometimes wonder: why are you taking this project if we’re not making any money off of it?
This is why I’m drunk with theater: I got to make sculpture, then give it to an artist who not only puts it on, but also makes it into something else—and my audience pays to be there!
I’ve asked architects and graphic designers to think more of their works as a characters. Theater always seem like a character to me. Think of spaces as living and breathing. We think of characters all the time. Designers’ ways of thinking should be no different.
[Video: “Serious Play”]
So the real question is: how do I be original and not derivative?
- Give yourself first blush at an idea before you look for advice.
- This ADD thing, you have to learn to work with them. You foster it, because there’s no such things as a bad idea. Believe in the resolution of random idea that, if being thought as minor, might be a missed point.
- I apply strange factors to idea. I call them “filters.” Freeze your idea. What does it look like frozen? What does it look like when it melts? Also, walk around it. A lot of really creative people walk around.
Understand that, even though you’re learning about creativity, you’re never going to learn it in your lifetime. So refine what you already got.
There is a known factor for creativity in Portland, and we need to use that. We can make our city a more commanding presence in the art scene. So do your part. Thank you.