Posted by: Liz Massey | September 2, 2009

Surf’s up: Top Creativity Links for September 2, 2009


Photo courtesy of SXC.

The Artist That Could

Every adult should have a pathway back to childhood stories that inspire him or her, and this post on the power of persistence from FineArtViews Blog by Clint Watson is just such a path. Remember “The Little Engine That Could”? This is the art world’s version of that story.

He tells a story about his gallery owner days and a certain artist of (at first) very modest talents.

“Back when I owned my art gallery, a man came in one day and wanted my opinion of his art. You see, his heart’s desire was to be a professional artist.

“Unfortunately, this man’s work was, frankly…terrible. I thought to myself that he truly should not give up his day job.  But, believing in hard work and ‘luck,’ I encouraged him to continue with his artistic pursuits as long as he truly loved and enjoyed it….and I asked him to periodically show me his work so I could see how he was doing. (Plus, he assured me that, since he had a family to support, he would not quit his day job until he was 100 percent sure he was ready to support himself with his art).”

Sure enough, the artist became better over time. Good enough, in fact, that he eventually became a professional, making his living making art. Watson concludes,

“David Leffel once told me, Talent is overrated . . . it’s what you DO with the talent that counts.’ … Richard Schmid says essentially the same thing in his book, ‘Alla Prima,’ where he advises would-be artists to, ‘just assume that you’ve got talent and move on to learning and doing …’ (and if) David Leffel and Richard Schmid say something regarding art…’d be advised to take heed.” (original emphasis)

Not a long post, but a good one to re-read when you’re having an “I’m not good enough” sort of day. Practice your craft long enough, and you can be good enough!

Why Does the Best Design of 2009 Still Look Like 2000?

This is a stimulating review (in Fast Company’s Networked Culture section) of a controversial New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell on overconfidence in decision-making and its impact on recent design trends.  Author Valerie Casey notes that while overconfidence plays a role in design “failures,” it cannot explain everything.

“It is not overconfidence alone that creates a global financial collapse or failed military operation. Gladwell contends that leaders of all stripes and industries, in war and peace, recessions and booms, base their future behavior on what created past successes. Instead of understanding current situations as ones requiring different and new thinking, leaders often fail to adapt.

“In many ways design is the ultimate practice of adaptation. Designers modify their environments by creating objects and systems to promote better behaviors and experiences. But are there times when we resist adaptation? In design, as in business, don’t clients or partners deliberately select us because of our track records of past successes? Because our portfolios give an indicator of future success, are we really encouraged to drift away from what we know? I would answer yes, and yes.”

Casey backs up her assertion that design has stagnated over the past decade with a handful of telling product design then-and-now shots. This percieved lack of adaptation matters, she says, because,

“Design is at an inflection point. We are playing a more significant role in industry and policy. Now our challenge is how to describe our value. We need to adapt to our current role in the world, as problem-solvers not stylists, as collaborators not lone inventors. We need to represent and celebrate what design actually does, not the way it used to look.”

Overall, the piece is an intriguing read and even if you disagree with Casey or Gladwell, will have you talking about design’s meaning with your friends.

Who Is Your Creative Alter Ego?

This is a fun post from Creative Juices Arts blog on the importance of not fighting the images and motifs you receive in your artwork. Blogger Chris Zydel writes about a friend of hers, an Ivy League white-collar fellow who nonetheless found himself writing country-western songs about crazy, elusive women (although he is happily married) and driving a beater car and hanging out at hole-in-the-wall bars.

So far, so good, except that Zydel’s friend got fearful about the imagery he was being given in his songs.

“His songs are quirky and kind of dark and twisted and full of emotional angst … So he keeps trying to get his songs to conform to who he thinks he is and more importantly who he thinks he should be … But his nice songs have no energy or juice, for him or for anyone else. So he feels stuck in his creative process much of the time and is only really creatively on fire when the scruffy, broody Ford dude takes over. Then the words and music flow.

“In other words he is only stuck when he is second guessing what his creative muse is so generously offering him.”

The entire piece is an excellent meditation on why it’s so important to follow the direction of one’s creative energy and not try (at least initially) to get it to conform to any sort of external standards of quality or appropriateness.

Bonus Links!

Creativity in Business Conference

An Oct. 4 conference presented by the Center for Creative Emergence related to organizational creativity in Washington D.C. Sounds cool!

SciFi Scanner – John Scalzi’s Guide to the Most Epic FAILs in Star Wars Design

A short guide to all the design flaws in the original Star Wars trilogy. Hilarious!

11 great resources for night photography

Steve Bernardi of PhotoNaturalist blog has compiled a great list of links for taking night photos.


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