Archive for July, 2012

No New Ideas

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 26, 2012 by scratchyb

I was doodling at a show one day and came up with a sketch that I thought would make a cool pyrography painting. Then my girlfriend bought me a t-shirt on Threadless that had the same elements, same concept and motifs, but different design. It was just close enough to kill my enthusiasm for that particular design, but it got me thinking a little bit about the nature of ideas, the old saying that there are no new ideas. That saying pre-dated the Internet, but what happens now, when we are all basically tied into the zeitgeist, and the zeitgeist is composed of all of us?

I get my ideas from the outside world, just like we all do, but I also go to great pains to keep from being derivative. I usually let an idea stew for a few months, even if it means potentially missing the opportunity to be a “leader” in a trend and not just another dude on the bandwagon. And why should that matter anyway? How many innovators were overrun by the people who copied and then improved upon their innovation? Truth be told, I’m doing the same thing, as are most of us. But part of staying creative includes realizing this, and making the effort to keep the pool of influence wide enough to avoid clear and obvious influence.

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It’s All in the Details

Posted in Art, Process, Technique, woodburning with tags , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2012 by scratchyb

Close-up photo of woodburn details

I once had an art teacher call me “tedious Eric,” because I worked over the tiniest details with careful precision. At least, I think he was referring to that, and not my personality.  Anyway, I never broke the habit, as you can see here. This is one tiny part of a larger piece I’ve been working on, and even as I asked myself why I’m focusing so much on this repetitive pattern, I understood that I couldn’t do it any other way. Repetition of patterns is almost meditative, and it allows me to get into a state of mind where I can think through other things, solve other problems even as I focus on the work in front of me.  Of course, when I changed over to stippling further down, it broke the rhythm and I started to feel a little fidgety and anxious.

Take Frequent Breaks

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 23, 2012 by scratchyb

Something I normally don’t need to remind myself of, unless I’m working on an art project. During the sketching phases, I’m distracted and fidgety, but once the idea starts fleshing out, and I’ve tossed out or added new elements, I get into the zone.  And that’s when time slips out from under me, and I don’t snap out of it until I realize that I have to be at my day job in 15 minutes, or that my hand has cramped up, or my shoulders and back have cramped up. This can be bad when I’m burning, because I can forget I’ve got a hot instrument in my hand instead of just a pen.

I’m not one to glorify marathon work sessions. I value the downtime of a break, even a working break. Sometimes, when I’m working intently on some repeated patterns, other ideas emerge that need to be given some rudimentary form, or they’ll nag me all day and night.  So I stop for a while to sketch them out, and then let them sit for a while.

But the most important thing is to know when to get back to work.

Break’s over.

Asking questions, learning from others

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 9, 2012 by scratchyb

My mom likes to chat people up. With a few pointed questions, she can get almost anyone to spill an abbreviated version of their life story, or their dreams, or their skill set. It was always the skill set that interests her the most. She used to bug furnace installers, auto mechanics, and maintenance crews about what they were doing, and as a kid it drove me nuts.

It was downright embarrassing, having your mother constantly asking these questions. I refused to do the same. As a result, I never learned unless someone took it upon themselves to teach me. I didn’t ask, because I didn’t want people to find out that I didn’t know. And I didn’t know, because I never asked. It wasn’t a lack of curiosity, I had plenty of that. It was a deep sense of inadequacy that kept me from researching anything that couldn’t be learned from a book. And I just avoided situations that required new skill sets.

It took me the better part of a decade to break those habits in my adulthood, and I still find plenty of progress to be made. Over the past couple of years I started the practice of asking about any topic that I didn’t know about if it came up in conversation. That’s a first step, working with people you already know and situations that are fairly familier. But just walking up and talking to people is not my default behavior, even though I know how enlightening it can be. So I’m steadily trying to trick myself into developing the habit of encountering new people doing things that interest me and asking about the process

Just today I came home to find that the people across the alley from me had torn down their garage and seemed to be rebuilding it, by themselves.  These people have always interested me, because they have sculptures in their yard and I always had the sense that they were working on something in that garage of theirs.  So, did I stop to talk to them? I wish this post could have a more positive end, but really, I pulled onto my parking pad and brought the groceries into the house. Lesson learned, boundaries discovered. Now I just need to start pushing my toes over the line. I’ve done it before, I can do it again.