Current mosaic projects, work in progress, and how to instructions
Before I start my next big mosaic project, a water/beach scene, I decided to blog about my creative process. If you are a creative person already a lot of these tips on creativity might sound obvious to you. I am trying to advise people who say to me, “I can’t draw a straight line.” Well, neither can I but I find that the crooked, meandering and asymmetrical lines are more interesting. The imperfect, happy accident, soulful burst of creativity is what I am aiming for but it takes me a lot of coffee, donuts, brain work and observation of what is around me.
1. Tips from a graphic design professor that I still remember and use!
Everything around you has been designed by someone whether it is a person or “Mother Nature”. I had a great graphic design professor, Joe Kuzai, in college and I still remember a lot of his inspirational tips and here are my favorites:
Think of the most ridiculous thing possible and then work your way backwards.
Typography and text is really interesting as the shapes of letters and numbers are really beautiful.
My professor, Joe, drew this “ugly duckling” example in font on the chalkboard. (See Illustration A). Do you get it?
Draw 50 thumbnails of ideas. Just grab a big piece of paper and a sharpie and scribble out as many rough ideas as you can. I never make it to 50 but I can usually come up with 3 good ones.
Scale: Would it be more interesting larger or smaller or used for a different purpose? (See Illustration B, courtesy of Art History Nerd: http://www.etsy.com/shop/melaniemross).
Here is a tip I learned in painting class: Look at an object reflected in water for distortion and abstraction. Always remember that you are not a slave to making something that is an exact replica of what you are looking at in the 3-dimensional world.
2. Wander off your normal path
Wander through a garden
Get lost while you are driving
3. Go to a museum
Scale: Look at the actual size of a piece of art. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is very small in size and Diego Velazquez’ Las Meninas is very large, spanning a whole wall. In a book or on a computer screen everything is the same size.
Real color – not pixels: observe the actual quality and texture of brushstrokes and color. Again, books and computer pixels don’t capture their unique quality.
4. Learn new skills
Glass fusing – I am still not an expert glass fusing artist but it forces me to measure my glass with a ruler and cut it straight and then wash it very carefully. When I mosaic I ignore measuring and washing.
Interior design – I took a basic interior design class at community college and it reminded me of concepts I had learned in the past but also made me think about good color combinations. Prior to this all of my art was monochromatic (i.e., one color – usually shades of gray).
5. Investigate something you find interesting
For me I find fractals and Fibonacci sequences really interesting. It also justifies my hatred of measuring anything precisely with a ruler (see Item 4.).
Naturally occurring patterns like a chambered nautilus, a snowflake and flowers are examples of Fibonacci sequences and the theory of fractals. There is an order in nature to things but no two things of the same kind are alike.
6. Coffee and donuts
A little caffeine and sugar is highly motivating!
If you are health conscious try oatmeal with 2 squares of Ghirardelli chocolate thrown in there.
7. Clean the garage (shed, closet – wherever you throw stuff you haven’t tossed out yet)
I found the inspiration for my garden ball when I found an unattractive, cheap glass globe light fixture that we would have thrown away.
See before and after photos - Illustrations C & D.
8. Go for a walk or run
Running is like meditating for me and I forget my physical pain and effort of moving my body when I think intensely about my project.
In my head I imagine myself going through the actual physical process of creating the thing.
9. Look at art and garden books
In the July/August 2011 issue of Elle Décor architect Michael Graves put “Art Books” on his “12 Things He Can’t Live Without”.
I like to sip a glass of wine while I look at my art and garden books. My current favorite book is called “Venetian Gardens”.
I know I told you not to look at books in item 3 but now you know the actually quality of what you are seeing in your book so it is ok!
10. Clip file of pictures and royalty free clip art
Gustave Courbet said, “Show me an angel and I’ll paint you one.” Now that you have your ideas and inspiration you might need a visual reference.
Dover Books offers many books, some including CDs that have simple, royalty free images. Use a template of a flower and then you can look at a real one to get the color, shading, etc.
I keep a binder of old postcards and pages from magazines of images that interest me, like pirate boats, flowers, bridges, Mt. Rushmore, etc.