I don't understand

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Posted by Maureen on June 28, 2002 at 04:08:17:

In reply to: Originality issues- advice needed posted by Nick on June 27, 2002 at 20:42:04:

Hi Nick,

You know me...I have got to look at your original premise first and
then move to the next issue.

I think that you may have concluded for yourself that your work is
non-original and boring. You could have arrived at those conclusions
in many ways for many reasons. I cannot debate with you your own
feelings and thoughts because there are too many things that could
have brought you to this point. Including the shear act of having
spent a lot of time working with similar design motifs in your work.
Sometimes repetition can feel boring and make us feel the work is
unoriginal. You can just imagine what Van Gogh must have felt when
painting those darn sunflowers over and over and over again. And
don't mention poor Cezanne. However, whether or not someone else
perceives your work as boring or not is really out of your control.
They view your work and may find it boring and unoriginal or they
might view it and find it fresh, crisp, beautiful and inspiring. The
latter more accurately describes how I have heard your work
described. If I find something beautiful, it is not boring to me. I
might find it to be beautiful and fresh and totally original. I
might find it to be beautiful, retro, not original or reminding me of
all sorts of things. But still beautiful. So my experience of your
work would make me first and foremost say that I don't share your
experience of your description of your work.

Second...what is new under the sun!?! I can't imagine that you are
wanting to create something totally and completely original that has
nver ever been done anywhere on the earth by anyone throughout the
ages in any media. The main problem with that as a goal is that you
will never ever know if what you have done is original or not. You
would have to spend all of your life researching what has been done
everywhere on the earth by anyone throughout the ages in any and
every media to first of all be sure that what you do does not
duplicate that or is not too close in similarity to it. And you can
be sure that you will miss something. So, that can't be what you
have in mind.

If you are seeking freshness in your henna designs...freshness in how
you organize them...freshness in how you construct them and where the
ideas spring from, then here are a few suggestions. Put all of your
current sources of inspiration away...consider them to be inside a
box you are not going to enter for a while. Don't look at
them...don't go back to them...leave them in the box. Then go within
yourself and begin to sketch and doodle. You can't allow yourself to
judge what you sketch and doodle. Just do it. Keep those sketches
and doodles like a journal. Not a journal for mehndi...but just a
journal of where your doodles and sketches take you on any given day
and at any given time. You will have to commit yourself to doing
this for quite some time...years in fact. What emerges from this
will be your signature that you will recognize in some of those
designs. You will see your recurring themes. You will see pieces
that are brilliant to you and pieces that were torturous and forced.
But what you will see before you is a retrospective of your work.
You will recognize each piece as having come from within you at some
period in time for some particular reason and know its inspiration
was that moment in time or the things you were feeling and thinking
at that time...and not some picture you saw or design you copied.
You will know, because to do this sort of journaling well, you will
write those thoughts, places, feelings, dates etc. down along with
the doodles and sketches.

If you can begin to create for yourself your own books with sketches
and designs with accompaning thoughts and data, as an artist you will
draw from that source over and over again. The sketches and words
take on new meanings as you grow older and change. You will make
this a habit and it becomes a powerful tool in your work. What also
occurs, is you will oneday run across a piece of work somewhere that
looks very much like something in your book...in fact many things in
your book. You will wonder if they copied you or did you copy them
in your sleep. But your notes will remind you where those ideas came
from...within you and descriptive and representational of your own
unique experience. What comes out of you may sometimes look and feel
like the work of someone else. If you are working from within your
own creative space, you won't know that until you have completed
creating the design or object.

To talk about the work...the design...the sculpture...the
painting...etc., is to talk about the end product.
Creativity...creating...takes place in the process. It sounds like
you are seeking your own signature in your work. I think it is there
in some of your pieces. I also do not think it is embodied simply in
the designs and motif. I think there is a way that you lay your
lines and paste that produce something very different than if someone
else laid the same lines and paste in forming the design. You have
a "touch" to your work that belongs to you. I hope you recognize

I think if you begin to document your process and where your ideas
and inspiration come from, that that will be helpful. To continue to
document it and journal is to continue building what will be the
greatest tool of your life. If you are already doing this, you may
need to look back over those real early pieces and see take note of
the similarity or differences between those and your current pieces.
And trace the journey between the earlier pieces and most recent
pieces. I think the answers you are looking for will be there. But
if you haven't maintained a good record of your work to look back on
to measure and compare, then you can see how important and valuable
that would be. Please start one now.

Your comparisons can not be made with the works of others. You must
compare where you are now with where you come from. Whether or not a
piece is original can best be measured by you and your process in
creating it.

So my harsh and critical analysis would be this. In matters of art,
an artist must learn and use self-critic and use it above all other.
You must be your most harsh judge but must not judge too harshly.
You must tell yourself the truth about what you see when you see
the "product" and not allow feelings and thoughts to belie what the
eye sees. You must understand your creative process and how it leads
you closer to or away from what you intend. You must be honest to a
fault. And that includes being honest about where you succeed and
where you fail. Learning that the most valuable judgement of their
work is their own self critic and learning how to do that without
self deception is a skill an artist has to develop as keenly as any
other skill related to using tools, concepts and objectives in their

Hope some little piece of this is helpful. None of it comes easy or
overnight. Just more goals to work towards.



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