Friday, January 20, 2012

5 permission slips for creative play

List by Danielle

'You get better at dancing by dancing. You get better at skiing by skiing. You get better at creative work by doing creative work. Your creativity needs feeding and care.'
From Raw art journaling by Quinn McDonald

So I requested a stack of books from the journalling post earlier this month, and they're amazing. Full of colour and quirk, and some brilliant exercises to get you started with various ideas and techniques. (I'm starting to feel like I'm overloading my slender window of 'grown-up time' each day with expectations of artsiness, but that's another story.) Best thing about these books? The authors and artists want you to play. They want you to have fun with colours and shapes and words and creating stuff. They tell you that anytime is a good time start, on whatever scale feels most comfortable to you. I'm sure there are times to stretch yourself creatively, and do something outside of that comfort zone, but for someone with a current creative balance of near-to-zero, that's a really timely message. Sometimes you just need a bit of encouragement to let go of perfectionism and doubt, and pick up a paint brush or some craft shop bits and pieces and see what happens. If you're thinking of making 2012 the year you get the 'play' back into your work-life balance, try one of these beauties, or have a browse around the 745s for your own inspiration!

'When looking for materials to use, don't overlook the objects you would normally discard. This is your opportunity to give them a second chance. Every object has the potential to become something great - just like every artist.'
The elemental journal : composing artful expressions from items cast aside / Tammy Kushnir
In The Elemental Journal , readers discover myriad new ways to craft a very popular mixed-media project: the art journal. Using five different elemental substrates as the basis for her creations, author Tammy Kushnir guides readers through the process of gathering found objects from their attics and garages - and even the dust bin - and crafting them into personal and meaningful works of art. The Elemental Journal is a new take on using found objects in mixed media art, marrying journalling with cast-aside items.

Tammy's art is stunning, but truth to tell I found the book a little daunting. I'm not there yet in terms of techniques, tools or time. I love her use of cast-aside items, though, and the pictures are gorgeous. Her journals are very personal objects, and assembling them is a way of exploring your emotional life. If you do have a bit of time on your hands and wanted some guidance on new ways of fitting a range of media together, the well-illustrated step-by-step guides here would be very handy.

'There are no rules. There's no right or wrong way. It's up to you to let your journal evolve into what you, personally, want (or need!) it to be. This book provides a map, as it were, with signposts along the way, but you choose your destination.'
Artist's journal workshop : creating your life in words and pictures / Cathy Johnson
Based on her own 40 years' experience in keeping an artist's journal, Cathy Johnson knows that an artist's creative life can benefit from written and visual explanations and experiments. Over the course of this book, you will benefit from the tips, techniques and exercises that will make your artist's journals your own. You will also discover how to use your journal to celebrate any occasion or milestone, work through a problem or creative block, plan future works, sketch from life and experiment with new materials or techniques. With 24 contributors from around the world there is a variety of styles and perspectives throughout the book, and with 15+ exercises you will learn to personalize your journal in a variety of ways.

Colourful and encouraging, this one would be particularly inspiring if you were a reasonably experienced artist thinking of keeping a nature journal, or a travel journal. As a recent beginner to painting, I found the beautiful variety of journal pages a bit daunting, as above. I think the desire to make things look good would stop me before I started... but if you're a bit more confident, there are a lot of great suggestions here.

'I don't make art to be perfect or to produce what someone else defines as art. I choose to make meaning, not perfection. Through art, we figure out who we are and where we are going.'
Raw art journaling / Quinn McDonald
Raw art journaling brings self-expression through the act of art journaling to its most basic, "raw" and easiest level ever. Beginning and seasoned artists and writers often come up against blocks when prompted to write or draw something original. This obstacle is addressed with exercises such as creating found poetry, the words as tarot exercise and a wide range of abstract, doodle-like design suggestions- just to name a few. Chapters cover surfaces to journal on; what to write and how to incorporate words-as-art into journaling; transferring the exercises into a variety of media including photography and textiles; and creating basic backgrounds with paint, tape, stitching and more.

Seriously, I would quote the whole book here if I could. If you're surrounded by books with what looks like unobtainably gorgeous artwork, this is the one that will give you the license to play and learn. It is endlessly, sensibly encouraging, and I love it to bits. It's not as pretty as the other books, but that's kind of the point. I really love the section on making found poetry collages. There are a lot of practical ideas here to just get you started, making something.

'As children we drew all the time, sharing our fears and joys or stories of imaginary friends. As adult that joy of expressing ourselves seems to get pushed aside...As you read this book, I hope you begin to take more joy in the fact that your daily world is a giant library of visual inspirations.'
Creative illustration workshop : for mixed-media artists : seeing, sketching, storytelling, and using found materials / Katherine Dunn
Whether you have experience drawing or are completely new to it, this exciting workshop-style book provides practical, inspiring, and creative exercises which will expand your drawing skills and provide a framework for integrating illustration with other mixed-media techniques, With a focus on drawing what you love and what is familiar, you will be led through the development of several illustration exercises, which launch from jotted notes and eventually blossom into unique mixed-media creations. You will become familiar with a wide variety of media and approaches to drawing, learn how to work through 'creative blocks,' and discover ways to scan and layer your illustrations using a computer.

Another wonderful book, full of simple encouragement to play with colours, shapes and textures. There are some practical suggestions for turning the things that you see every day, the things that interest you visually, into a story you can share with others. The artist lives on a farm and her love of animals and nature shines through her colourful paintings. One of two titles on the list from Quarry Books, a publisher I will definitely be seeking out in the catalogue!

'On your mark, get set, play!'
Mixed-media dollhouses : techniques and ideas for doll-size assemblages / Tally Oliveau and Julie Molina
This book takes the artistic approach of assemblage and collage, and combines it with the long-loved tradition of making doll houses--but these doll houses are anything but traditional! Begun as an artistic challenge between a group of talented friends, these mixed-media doll houses include beautiful castles, undersea fantasy-lands, gothic attics, inspiring tree houses and much more. Authors Tally Oliveau and Julie Molina share a host of interesting alteration techniques while showing readers how to construct beautiful, fantasy doll houses. Readers learn to how to construct or repurpose found boxes into rooms and houses, how to decorate interior surfaces, how to build miniature furnishings, how to make their own paper dolls, and how to embellish their houses using a variety of imaginative materials.

This book! About half an hour after picking up my request I was buying two copies off ABE Books so that I can invite friends to start a dollhouse project and have the book there to refer to. Although it shows you a range of basic techniques for assembling your art, it's the sort of book that lends itself to kickstarting your own creative ideas and creating dollhouse rooms which are entirely your own. The pictures are awesome, there are a variety of styles and approaches - from fairly simple to bogglingly elaborate - and the collaborative nature of the project means that you have a multitude of imaginations at work, so prepare for surprises!

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