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Thoughts on Being an Artist and the Creative Process

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While surfing about this morning, I happened upon a great list of quotes on art, artists, and creativity. I selected some of my faves for you here. Many creative people struggle with their fit in society, whether socially, career-wise, or in terms of their values versus what they see as the predominant cultural values. Maybe these quotes can offer a little reassurance and encouragement.

"Becoming an artist is about developing a dialogue between what you are communicating and what you’re absorbing from your surroundings." - John Ferrie

I have also thought of creativity as my own conversation with life. It's how I talk to myself about what I think life is about, what questions I have, what the view looks like from here, what I believe. The actual process of that creation opens my eyes and ears more, as in a conversation.

You get something out of your head that you are sure you believe in, or sure you feel. As you put it on the page, very often something shifts. You become less certain of the certainties and more clear-headed where you had doubts before. You reply to that, creatively, after it's steeped a bit inside you and alchemy has happened. Then you put that out on the page, canvas, or some other medium. Eventually, the process repeats itself. Every time you go through the cycle it gets deeper and more interesting.

"Poets and painters are outside the class system, or rather they constitute a special class of their own, like the circus people and the Gipsies." - Gerald Brenan

Ah! Someone has finally explained a mystery to me! A few years ago, my husband Scott and I were in a grocery store picking up something for an office party. It was about 7:30 a.m. and we were dressed for work (hospital psychologists). A man in the checkout line turned around and said, "I'm sorry, but I just have to ask. Are you members of a theatre troupe or something?"

It still makes me laugh. To this day, I have no idea what prompted his question, but given the artistic inclinations of my husband Scotty (aka "Costume Boy") and myself, I have to admit I'd rather be among the Gypsies and circus folk than sitting among 'respectable' corporate moguls any day of the week.

"The sociability of artists is a paradoxical and precarious thing, and ceases the instant they begin their actual artistic work." - R. G. Collingwood

Bless you, R.G. I always thought I was just fickle. I know many of you periodically socially inhibited creative folks can relate. I have no less than ten people waiting for me to get back to them to set up time a lunch date. These are people I love, but I cannot bring myself to pull the trigger and set up actual commitments to see them.

It so happens I'm in a creative dive right now, and it occurs to me now I've never once considered telling people I can't be social because I'm in the middle of creatively diving. I know when I come up for air that I'll be a lunch-scheduling wild woman, but now just doesn't feel like the time. There's too much internal conversation going on. It's time I just told it like it is, because extroversion at all costs — well, it costs.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences as you explore your own creative rhythms.

To read more quotes, visit Ascender Rises Above.

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About Laura Young

  • SHARK

    “There is only one difference between a madman and me: I am not mad.” — S. Dali

    “One should never listen to an artist talk about their work.” — Shark

    “Who was the first Museum Director in history to decide that stuffing your face was an integral part of the art experience?” — Charles F. Stuckey

    Gallery —
    —- Restaurant

    ====
    PS: The link to yer photography site errors out. You need to add “.com” to the end of the hyperlink.

  • SHARK

    “Beware of a psychologist who uses the phrases ‘These are people I love — but I cannot bring myself to pull the trigger’ in the same sentence.” — Shark, PhD

  • http://ascenderrisesabove.com/wordpress/ AscenderRisesAbove

    Hi Laura; this is a great forum; my first time here.
    I posted the quotes for StudioFriday; which was a prompt asking who artists interconnect with; if you want to read more:

    I am going to have to return and check out more of this site.

  • Vern Halen

    Didn’t D.H. Lawrence call art “a punishing obsession?” Whoever said that said it all.

  • duane

    Laura says:

    “Many creative people struggle with their fit in society, whether socially, career-wise, or in terms of their values versus what they see as the predominant cultural values.”

    I would amend that to the following:

    “Many people struggle with their fit in society, whether socially, career-wise, or in terms of their values versus what they see as the predominant cultural values.”

    That one-word change expresses much about what I think of artists yakking away about their square peggedness.

    Now, Shark has inspired me to be creative and come up with a pithy quote. Hmmm. let’s see…

    “Artists are ordinary people with an unquenchable desire to express just how extraordinary they are. — Duane, PhD

    I have to get back to the board room and do something useful.

    Just funnin’ with ya, Laura.

    But c’mon, “a special class of their own”? Oh, lordy.

  • Baronius

    Duane, I think the reason that artists use that kind of language is because they don’t fit in with *themselves*. By which I mean, it’s not society that’s 80% normal and 20% artist; it’s the artist himself.

    I’ll definitely grant you that artists can be pompous. But there’s a self-alienation (if that’s a word) that makes an artist think of the creative experience in the third-person. It’s the Process, the Muse, the Bad Excuse for Not Doing Laundry. It can be developed and made more orderly, but not really controlled. The Brenan quote reflects the sense that even the artist knows he can’t be trusted.

  • http://laurayoung.typepad.com Laura Young

    LOL, yeah Shark, pulling the trigger with people I love. Perhaps I was in a bit of a mood. Wanna have coffee sometime?
    Hmmm. Interesting discussion around the pompousness of artists. When I look around at the flesh and blood people I know who are trying to do give their art (painting, photography, writing scripts, whatever) more attention and commitment, pompous would be the last word that would occur to me. Maybe quotes that come down from iconic individuals or those who have achieved a degree of commercial success are tainted in some way. Maybe success taints the artist or maybe people who feel like they are different and say so (trying to understand the nature of the difference, “is it because I am an artist? Maybe that explains it best.”) always end up setting themselves up for ridicule. I do appreciate Duane’s taking the word “creative” out of the sentence for that reason and do think there is some truth in that. I do, however, think that since the predominant culture consists of somebody, after all, not everyone is feeling that struggle with fit. Some people are just fine with the status quo. Some people do fit “the norm”, by definition.
    In my experience of talking to people (which may not generalize, I admit), there often seems to be a rise in both a desire to express oneself creatively accompanying that sense of “mis-fit”. Chicken and the egg, maybe? Are the “creatives” (those who place a particular importance on artistic expression) more likely to be/feel “mis-fit” or are those who feel “mis-fit” more likely to seek artistic expression as a means of working out their shit and making sense of it all? Maybe a bit of both.

  • http://laurayoung.typepad.com Laura Young

    BTW, thanks for the heads up on the incomplete link. All fixed now.

  • T.Barnes

    I love this blog posting. I was just surfing the electronic world and happened upon this post. I am looking for a creative way to make a career card sort for artists and would love to use some of your language on a few of the cards. The idea is to get at what creatively drives the artists view of the world of work. Let me know if I have your permission.

  • http://laurayoung.typepad.com Laura Young

    Hi T,
    Would like to know more about the card project and what you would like to use first, since I don’t know you, but my inclination is positive. Go ahead and follow my url which will lead you to my contact info so you can e-mail me and we can discuss it off-line.

  • J Rose

    I have been an creative person all my life. I think some of these comments are from people that feel insecure about their own lack of creative abilities. Artists are not pompous for being artists- just feel & can express themselves through media that does offset them from the mainstream commercial society we live in. Difficulty for us is that we have to occupy the same world of apathy and greed.
    However I can appreciate that some artists are lovely warm sensitive people and some are narcisstic..hey like a lot of people in society. We should all embrace difference whenever we come across it because of the very fact it is different – within this samey modern society we live in. I can say from my own perspective that I wish I didn’t have a compulsion to express my creativity, as it a difficult ‘thing?’ to live with. It takes a great deal of perseverance to see your ideas/visions through to a level you are happy with and this ongoing process does affect other parts of your life…the art taking priority all of the time. I find if I’m not doing it I’m either thinking about it or discussing things which are close to my heart. Fancy living with someone like that ! The upside it, we can be fun, be exciting and passionate, when we let go that is…:) I’m sounding like I’m on a dating website…”I don’t know these blood*y artists.”

  • J Rose

    I’d just like to say thanks Laura for your thoughts, I stumbled across your blog and it makes perfect sense to me. I could do with printing copies off and passing them around some of my family members- may give them a little more insight about me :D

  • http://laurayoung.typepad.com Laura Young

    Hi J,
    Thanks for the comments. You are right about the discipline and dedication needed…not to mention the cost and strain it can put on relationships. It’s so easy for there to be romanticism around artists (and I don’t mean that in the hearts and flowers way). But when it comes down to it, we have the same bills, same societal demands, same decisions to make about how we want to live and what we are costs we are willing to pay for that. And they are questions that don’t go away. Being an artist in your 20’s is different than being in your 40’s or 50’s and you start thinking about things like “Oh yeah, what am I going to retire on?” It’s very difficult to mesh it all together in a way that works long term because life continues to evolve. Same can be said of people from all walks of life and in all types of work. Paradoxical how something so seemingly different maybe isn’t entirely…