Thursday, July 26, 2007

Courage to Create in the Raw

The following is an excerpt from and article House and Garden magazine entitled "Give us Courage and Gaiety..." The article was published in May, 1966. I don't kow who the author was.

"Nothing of beauty was ever created by anyone afraid of making a mistake. You can copy the tried and proven, but almost certainly you will miss, if only for lack of that one-of-a-kind horseshoe nailthat was so much more important than you ever would have guessed.
You can adapt someone else's ideas,
but timid adaptations are the surest road to stodginess.
Only the courage to venture gaily forth on your own will be rewarded by a full measure of freshness and delight and by the abiding pleaseure of living with what you really want."

I find this fabulously inspiring. I read it whenever I feel myself in a bit of a creative block and tempted to look at ebay and flickr to see what everyone else is making.

I want to strike out and do my own thing. I want to make something truly original and all me.

These days I see alot of lovely things made using vintage images, and commercial imagery. Many of them are highly creative and exciting. They take the image to another level, and really show an artists heart. Some are formulaic and leave me cold. I often wonder if the widespread reliance on these images is making it easy for those who are fearful to avoid stepping out. Are we afraid we don't have talent enough to rely on our own imagination? So what if we don't? Are we creating art just to look lovely to outsiders, or do we want to express something that our heart wants to say?

Here challenge to anyone reading this who uses commercial or vintage images in your work:
1. Don't get mad at me. I enjoy alot of work done with these pre-made images. I just want to encourage you to stretch beyond them if they are a crutch or hinderance for you.
2. Examine your artwork and see how much of you is in it. Is it all about a picture taken by someone else and framing it? Are you taking it to the next level. or is it holding you back from the next level? If you are holding back, and ready to try to bust out, go on to #3. If you are satisfied with what you are doing or afraid to make a change, stop reading now........
...are you sure?...

3. Yay for you. Lay aside your premade imagery. Decide that for the next week, you are going to allow yourself to experiment.
4.For this week, stretch yourself by allowing yourself to make your own marks. Take a sketch book with you wherever you go. Doodle, sketch, draw shapes. Journal about it.
5. Finger paint. Take a piece of paper and your acrylic paints and make a lovely mess.
6. Pick something you have always wanted to draw or paint and do it. Don't worry if it looks right or not, just do it. Then do it again, and again. Journal about it.
7. Tell yourself every day that you are creative and talented, and your heart has something to say and the right to say it. Journal about it.
8. At the end of the week look back at what you have made, and see how far you have come. Look at what you love about what you have made. Ignore what isn't perfect. That stuff improves with practice. Journal about it.
9. Don't give up. You can do it. I did!

If you would like to share with me the results of your experiments, please email me at Let me know if it is ok to post your stuff here.


Zhenia said...

Thanks so much for this post, Amy! I remember when I started out. I tried to mimic another artist's style because it seemed like that was the type of art everyone trading liked. It was pretty and featured tonnes of rubber stamps, images from collage sheets, etc. I couldn't do it at all because it wasn't me. It didn't say anything to me or, more importantly, about me. So I stopped and started doing my own then.

But it can be terrifying. Since my art is only a hobby at the moment, there's not as much fear (except for the fear of wasting art supplies), but my writing, which is my job at the moment, suffered from the fear of making a mistake. Once I accepted my imperfections and that I would create an imperfect work that was perfectly me, it became easier. It's still hard some days, though.

CarolCot said...

That article is inspiring, but to be honest, I just got more inspired by reading your post! Thank you for the encouragement.

Jeanne Rhea said...

Great post! My son loved the bird couple that you made. It was hung within fifteen minutes of his seeing it.

Calla Visage said...

I love collage. I am inspired by seeing other pieces of bits and bobs arranged in a totally new way to incorporate a whole new work of art. I think the most important part of that process though is to make sure your own input is clearly expressed while incorporating the other items. Without that – you are just scrapbooking.

I like vintage images with a modern twist to them too.

That is what altered art is all about. Not a bunch of rules, and realizing that we all see things differently.

That being said… Mixed Media is a wonderful Art Form (Wiki says)

“Mixed media, in visual art, refers to an artwork in the making of which more than one medium has been employed.

Mixed media tends to refer to a work of visual art that combines various traditionally distinct visual art media. For example, a work on paper or canvas that combines paint, ink, and collage could properly be called a “mixed media” work.

When creating a painting or drawn work using mixed media it is important to choose the layers carefully and allow enough drying time between layers to ensure the final work will have integrity. If many different media are used it is equally important to choose a sturdy foundation upon which the different layers are imposed.

An old rule good to remember is “Fat over lean.” In other words, don’t start with oils paints. Plan to make them the final layer.

Many interesting effects can be achieved by using mixed media. Often, found objects are used in conjunction with traditional artist mediums, such as paints and graphite, to express a meaning in the everyday life. In this manner, many different elements of art become more flexible than with traditional artist mediums.”

I would add:

I like the idea of giving license to stretch and be brave in our creations. Most importantly, to create from the heart. I would like to add some “varied” vs. the old “tried and true” techniques to some of my future collage pieces. Change is a growing process. I do like to try new things.

Lia (artjunkgrl) said...

Wow, Amy, I got the chills reading your post. It is SO very inspiring. You expressed your thoughts perfectly. I hear what you are saying! I use images mostly and have thought of relying on them less, I've started to do some of my own sketching and ack! it looks scary, but it's something I want to try. I use images in my work alot simply because I've always been drawn to vintage imagery and it helps me tell a story. I love to express myself this way, but you are sooo right on about "next level". I've been doing my art this way for almost 3 years. I do want to 'break out' and get to next level. I know I have to just do it. Your post has really motivated me to try some of the exercises you mentioned and journal about them. I will let you know! Thanks for this wonderful message! xo Lia

stampsalot said...

Your comments were quite appropriate for me right now. I've been feeling like I need to put more "me" into my work and towards this end I've already started a sketchbook and I'm using my own handwriting. Although there are some beautiful patterned papers and images readily available, I hope to create more of my own backgrounds. Thanks for the affirmation. I'm stretching and think I'll be better in the end.

Pattie Mosca said...

When I first started to alter art, I tried to do work with magazine pictures, photo's ect..but it was very uncomfortable for me and I did not like it! now I alter with my own art...painting small pieces and then using them to use in the vision...Now I really like altering...
Art is such a personal thing....everyone has to find their own comfort level...It has taken me years to find mine...and many things were thrown away and lots of tears were shed before I finally allowed my art just to be my art in its raw whimsical way!!
Great post to inspire those who are looking to change...

LunaGraphica said...

Well said. ;-)

Spike said...

You really hit it on the head, here.

It's a good start to copy artists you admire. The exercise gives you some perspective with respect to seeing what attracts you--Teesha Moore's use of color and collage, Anne Bagby's form, etc.

However, it's just an exercise. There comes a time when you need to move on to YOUR use of color, YOUR sense of form in order to grow.

Right now, I find my fun in putting found images together--a coloring book robin in shades of red next to the sunblock he clearly forgot, and some text about skin cancer(!)


nicci said...

i tend to turn off when i see a bunch of 'vintage' imagery, that is photocopies of photographs of women from ages ago.

people add butterfly wings and pointy hats and mostly it bores me.

i do love collage, but it seems many people just sort of go with what they have seen 80 billion times on one website or one movement.

i should do a pointy hat butterfly wing chunky book to challenge people to use it in a way it hasn't been seen before. lol

Kristina said...

I agree with your post and your challenges but let me take it one step further... all I see these days on many artist blogs and in the mixed media magazines are images with birds, eggs, and houses. If butterfly wings and hats added to vintage images annoys you, why doesn't the abundance of bird egg and house imagery? Just a thought. Great challenge though! I'll take it up.

Tricia McKellar said...

For me collage is about arranging the things of our lives.

see my work at:



Amy said...

Hmmm. I didn't say anything about hats and wings did I? I am not annoyed by anyone's use of collage elements of any sort. Like I said in my post, I have seen all sorts of collage elements used in beautiful and artful ways. I am just trying to encourage people to stretch themselves, and try something new.
And, no, birds and eggs of any sort can never ever annoy me!

Healing Expressions said...

Hi Amy..I found your blog at ZNE and this post had my name scrawled all over it. I have been walking into my studio and feeling this sigh at the thought of heading back to the familiar vintage images. I do so love them but in my heart I know its time to stretch and move beyond them and take a leap into the kind of creativity that I know is dying to pour out of me if I will risk it! I hope to begin playing this week and we'll see what happens! Blessings!

iHanna said...

Great quote, great thoughts! I totally agree with you about the pre-made images and a lot of art looking very "the same" even though from different artits. I'm not taking the challange though, I've never used bought collage images (yet, hehe).