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August 2011

The Creative Environment

    Have you thought about the role environment plays in creativity?

    I hadn’t either until recently.  But according to the social psychologists, there are plenty of reasons to consider environments, and that’s in the plural because scientists are usually not content with a single definition. 

    There’s your personal environment, the space where you create.  You might think that any space will do but not so; creativity can flourish  with stimuli, or get killed by distractions.  For me, this is easily translated to mean that if my studio is comfortable, brightly lit with plenty of space, no room for clutter and stepping over the dogs and having to move ten canvases just to get to the one that I want, then it’s pretty supportive of my creativity. 

    Since creativity is also about problem solving that not only stretches traditional rules but might even break one or two, your environment should be able to support all this risk-taking.  Which means that my space will not necessarily be shared with critics who come stomping down the hall and stand in the doorway with demanding looks on their faces and tails wagging because it is time for the afternoon walk.  It means there will be lots of book shelves for the reference library containing all the rules I intend to break, and at one time one of those table top fountains which I eventually got rid of because it was so annoying. 

    But environment extends well beyond personal space.  There is the social environment made up of other artists, critics, and the general public.  This environment can exert a powerful force for conformity without a hint of originality.  It is one we cannot control; we can control our reaction to it, but most of the time we are not aware we are reacting to conformity but to what we perceive as popular taste.  Give up that spark of inspiration and stay with something safe.  Don’t rock the boat, or the easel, or the pottery kiln. 

            There is even a macro environment, made up of the political influences prevalent in a society.  During periods of political unrest, wars and severe social uncertainty the creativity manifested in the affected population goes down.  The opposite is true, that in times of peace, calm and security, the creativity within the population goes up.  Many cultures have experienced a flourishing age of creativity after freeing themselves from an oppressive regime, ancient Greece being one example.  Not to mention the creative decline during the Dark Ages as a result of centuries of famine, struggle, invasions, turmoil and distress. 

    This is not all doom and gloom, though, for creativity can flourish between creative individuals who form connections and challenge the status quo.  That’s the beauty in creativity, that originality begins to stretch the walls surrounding it and over time what was once considered outrageous is now the new convention.  Does this mean that some artists will eventually give up if their various environments are out of sync?  Maybe.  But now you know enough about environments in the plural so maybe you won’t be one of them.   

    With that in mind, I'm passing along this article from Tim Handorf,  over at the blog, titled  20 Amazing TED Talks for Art Majors  These are TED talks from world renowned artists, museum curators, philosophers, and they all look pretty fantastic.  I love TED talks but don't always have time to research the ones that might interest me, so I appreciated  receiving the link in my inbox this morning.  Thanks, Tim.  The talks are definately on my  recommended "listening" list. 

Why Your Fine Art Should Go With The Couch

We like to joke about buyers only looking for fine art paintings that go with the couch.

What we're really thinking is that maybe they aren't sophisticated enough to appreciate "real" art when they see it.

Which makes no sense when the purpose of creating art ought to be that you sell it to the people interested in buying it, and if they want to buy art that goes with the couch why shouldn't they?

Sure, some art buyers don't know a lot about art history.  But they know what they like.  And they like the idea that artwork can provide design inspiration, pulling their room together.  They like the lifestyle implied by what they see in the art - that it appears sophisticated, hip, sculptural,  fashionable, wearable, humorous, funky, affordable, expensive, or potentially valuable.  They like the idea that they can find something unique, hand-made, possibly one-of-a-kind that is also multi-functional.  And they like to create their home and office environments according to their own priorities. 

There is an entire generation that may not view art the way their grandparents viewed art, but since when is that so new? 

As baby boomers pull back on their art investing this might be a good time for artists to look at the emerging core reasons the younger generation might have for buying art.  People still buy art that makes them feel good.  They buy art that helps them define a lifestyle.  And sometimes, they buy art because they like the way it goes with the couch. And their lifestyle.

Just one point of view worth thinking about.




Old Rules

I have a thing about old rules.  Too often, we keep them around out of convenience more than anything else.

Old rules let us move through our day without questioning the status quo.  And heaven knows we're busy enough with all the demands on our time.  Who really wants to question whether an old rule still applies in the new economy when it's hard enough dealing with the stock market these days?  Let alone the art market.

And, most of the time, old rules allow us to be lazy where our art is concerned.

lazy without really noticing because, after all, the old rule wouldn't be a rule if it wasn't true.  Except that circumstances change, buying habits change, even the motives people have for buying art change over time while the rule, well, it's pretty well stuck in concrete.  That's why they call it old. 

So what old rules are you allowing into your creative space without challenging their validity first?