A Day at the Art Festival

The Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts was at Lake Ellyn this past weekend. There were several dozen booths filled with painted canvases, mounted photographs, custom jewelry, handcrafted pottery, and many other forms of artistic expression. The least expensive item was on sale for $7.00 and the most was $65,000.

Jeremy Ashcraft.jpgGlen Ellyn is a small town that has a strong understanding of the arts. The village has several galleries and an indie art theater. Some would argue that my hometown has more happening in the arts than most culturally elite cities.

I had a lot of fun walking through the booths. It didn’t take long to figure out which booths held artists of the highest caliber compared to people who threw something together and called it art. A simple conversation with each “artist” revealed the truth about his or her status.

Mark Schroll.jpgMark Schroll and I enjoyed a wonderful talk about his selections and techniques. He was a down to earth artist that focused on the details he found fascinating, intermixed with a passion for generalizing Americana in a way that left the person feeling great about life. He seemed to appreciate my interaction, as I dove into the heart behind his work.

Jennifer Collander.jpgJennifer Collander’s art caught my attention. There was something about her whimsical style coupled by the pains in life that brought a new perspective to the ordinary. The painting I’ve pictured captured my attention for the longest of time, as I tried to understand the warm swirling feelings it generated for me. It made no sense, except that it made me want to be more expressive in life, which is why I’ve written this post.

Kelly Griffin.jpgKelly Griffin and I hit it off well. Halfway through our conversation about how she captured her image, she realized that I understood art more than most who pass by. After briefly sharing my background, she talked about her background in television. It didn’t take long to realize that we could artistically collaborate. She also had what it takes to be a great producer.

Laura Gardner.jpgLaura Gardner was well traveled and captured numerous international sites on canvas, while backpacking. To keep things compact, she taped her canvas to small cardboard palettes for travel and then stretched the canvases after returning home. Her work was beautiful and depicted the true feel of the locations unlike those artists who only paint distant locations based on photographs.

April Dippy.jpgArtistic works included hand carved cutting boards, furniture designed for children, pottery and jewelry of every type, and numerous photographers distinguishing their styles through color, mounting and subject matter.

Table.jpgGetting to know each of the artists personally made a big impact in my day. I love engaging with real artists that are not only in touch with their feelings, but have mastered their art in a way that allows them freedom of expression.

Getting Past the White Blank Paper

A common question I get is, “How do you get past staring at that blank white sheet of paper when you create?”

My answer, “I doodle on it until it’s no longer intimidating.”

The key to any creative project is getting started. You can start at the beginning, the middle or the end, as all elements will have a part in the final creative piece. It might take on a different form or launch you into a better direction or story, but all elements are part of the journey that develops the idea into something worth sharing.

I remember being mesmerized as a little kid watching Mary Poppins. She was wholesome, magical and very smart. When Jane and Michael struggled to clean up their room, she reminded them that, “A job begun is half done.” This statement proved to be true in life and helped me understand the three things necessary to move a creative idea through to completion.

  1. Start Anywhere and in Anyway.

IMG_3363Creatives tend to start with a doodled idea on the nearby napkin. I’ve yet to meet a great film director who doesn’t have doodles in the margins of his notebook. It’s a natural process for creatives to doodle out ideas and turn them into something greater than intended.

For some, clipping magazines for a vision board will kick their ideas off in a powerful way. Others create living reels, storyboards and mood reels. Another might shoot off lots of photos, stick them on the wall and arrange them to find a potential story. There is no wrong answer to spark ideas that can cross over to your next big thing.

  1. Improve Upon the Idea

Once the creativity has been started, the refining process kicks into gear. All first ideas lack luster and rarely fit the final work of art. The journey of creation requires rework 80% of the time to bring the art to life. Three steps will help the creative hone their ideas…

  • What If: Asking what if questions force the mind to consider multiple angles and perspectives on the art. By interrogating the idea for all possible vantage points, a richness of greater value is added to the work.
  • Examine & Re-examine: Focusing in on the craft and bringing the idea to a master level allows the creative to determine the best possible way to share the story or idea. Instead of retelling the age-old story of Sleeping Beauty, Disney diverged from its standards and told the story of Maleficent. Critical and creative thinking can help this process explore new avenues of possibilities.
  • Inspire with Imagery: Finding quotes, verses or images that spark emotions related to your idea will inspire and move the process forward. The creative always welcomes the possibility of sparking something new that polishes an idea or brings it into a unique and fascinating light.
  1. Add Magic

The sparkle or the ah-ha moment lifts the idea above scrutiny. That simple element of magic also transforms the art into something entertaining that must be talked about among friends. Whether it’s a unique moment in a story, the juxtaposition of two seemingly unrelated items, or an uncanny perspective that enlightens, the magic gives the art wings to transcend the culture to something better than its current state.

Get started in anyway you choose and then recreate to make your work better and better, until you finally find the magic element that will make your idea worth sharing by others. It doesn’t matter if your audience is a business team, little children or out of town relatives, everyone needs to be entertained enough to open their minds to your shared idea.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers



Labeling the Creative

LabelLabels are dreadful, even the good ones. All too often people try to categorize what they don’t understand, as if it will bring a sense of security where its not needed. The creative spirit is allusive to many and requires a label from the logical to understand why a person is unconventional.

I’ve been called unique, weird, innovative, imaginative and creative. Each label was an attempt on the person’s part to categorize me into something close to what they understand. They’re uncomfortable with me not living life in what they believe to be an appropriate manner – A lifestyle based on logic.

Most get away with slapping a label on a creative because the majority of people require the same. I’ve read estimates that there is one creative person for every 10,000 logical people. That means for every motion picture cast and crew of 300 people, there are 3 million who don’t have a clue how to relate with those creatives. However, not knowing how to interact with a creative doesn’t stop the 3 million from enjoying their film.

The good news is that most creatives have had to learn how to relate to their audiences and investors in a logical fashion. Since the creative is capable of living in both worlds, at least for a time, the one looking for fans and funds bridges the gap.

This dynamic relationship drives a certain level of fandom based solely on the unknown. Every performance or released product appears to be all the more entertaining as the creative gives fans glimpses into their soul – The most rewarding form of story.

After reading a heartwarming story, one person told me the author had talent or the ability to achieve what others cannot achieve. His friend politely disagreed and argued that the author was a genius, as defined by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. His writings suggested that genius rises from a superior capacity for contemplation that leads the artist to transcend the smallness of ego and enter the infinite world of ideas.

I suggested that the cautionary tale of artistry was the person who isn’t truly creative, but puts on the appearance of the artist. He can notably get stuck in his own ego based on the rise of fandom. However, the true creative continues to create regardless of those who appreciate his creative bent.

I’m not suggesting that all creatives are naturally humble, but the ones I’ve met create because of who they are, not how many fans they obtain. The creative flourishes during the time people notice his work and during the time no one takes notice.

Schopenhauer said, “The man in whom genius lives and works is easily distinguished by his glance, which is both keen and steady, and bears the stamp of perception, of contemplation.”

There may be a parallel in how my friends argued about genius and my perspective of artistry. I define a creative as someone who observes and contemplates the very perceptions he has acquired, in order to reduce it to a medium for public consumption. Genius or not, there’s no room for ego or labels with the artist, as he must move from philosophies to thoughts, spreading the life changing ideas the public is so hungry to receive.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers