Friday, January 19, 2007

Creativity

This is an author's blog, but since everybody else has been blogging about their adventures in writing, I thought I'd take another tack. Especially since it's a while before my next book is out. ;)

Creativity is a many-legged creature. I think everyone is hardwired to be creative in one fashion or another, whether it's baking delicious confections or making unique records of memorable moments in a person's life (aka scrapbooking, which I have been assiduously avoiding, because I think it could easily possess me.) Some people claim they're not creative or artistic, but when you start asking them about hobbies, they invariably have one, and it invariably is creative in some fashion. (Okay, my fella may be an exception. I think his hobby is watching television--but he can be very creative in the projects he takes on at the college he runs.)

And I think that creativity metastasizes--it spreads and feeds on other little rivulets of creativity, not killing them, but expanding them into streams, and then rivers, and then great oceans of creative ... stuff. I think that participating in other creative activities feeds the creativity required for writing.

But sometimes I think that's only an excuse for why I love my own personal creative outlet (the one that isn't writing). I've taken the same oil/acrylic painting class through the continuing education department of the next county's junior college (the one in my county doesn' t have much continuing ed, no matter how often I tell the president he needs to offer more) for several years now. I see it as paying $6 a week for studio space.

In these classes, I spend hours trying to get just the right shadow on the hip of a cantering horse, or the right shape to a little boy's arm (usually I wind up painting over it and starting again at least once). (A few samples.) It requires me to look at something and see what's really there, see that this blue is cerulean and cobalt with a whole lot of titanium white, and that if I splat the white paint in a row just so, it will look like a breaking wave at the ocean, but if I want a cloud, I need to leave more gaps and use less paint. I've progressed from painting a single large flower or simple landscape to painting hydrangeas and little boys at the beach. (I still can't paint roses. And I cheated when tackling a portrait, and used an opaque projector to trace the outlines of a photograph onto the canvas--but it looks pretty darn good.)

These hours are important to me. I work hard to protect my Tuesdays in town. There's a community choir starting up at the local college on Thursdays, sometime this semester, and I'd like to participate in that (I'm an alto--or maybe a tenor, depending). Because all writing and no art and music makes Gail a dull girl...

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great paintings, Gail! And I agree, creativity comes in many forms.

JoAnn Ross said...

They are great paintings, Gail. I envy you; I've always wanted to paint. (Yet never did anything about it, like so many people who've always wanted to write a book, lol) I took classical piano for 12 years, played folk music in coffee houses during my flower child days, then taught for several years and played in nursing homes, etc. I used to enjoy playing as a creative release, but gave my piano away when we moved across the country because I'm a perfectionist and without practicing my former 6 hrs - 8 hrs a day, I just no longer had the reach. My husband was sad about that, because he just liked listening to the music in the evening, but it only stressed me out.

I also did counted cross stitch for 20 yrs, working up to designing my own pictures that looked like photos or impressionist paintings -- 26 stitches per inch on linen. But then I started running out of walls and it got too hard to see those teensy squares. :)

So, now I make greeting cards and do scrapbook pages, which satisfies my need for something creative that isn't a job. A lot of the scrappers I know have gone to creating pages digitally, but although they can get very cool effects with overlays and masks, etc, I so don't want to spend my "play" time on a computer after working all day on one.

The nice thing about working with paper and cardstock and embellisments is that it's very tactile and while satisfying in it own right, I've discovered it can spark answers for my books, as well. Not long ago I was scrapping a page of pictures my son had taken of his kids, whom he'd taken back to Arizona to show them where he'd grown up. They were wading in Oak Creek, in red rock Sedona country, and although it's hard for any picture taken there not to be spectacular, something was missing. So I tried adding a photo of him in the same exact place when he was the same age as his son, and the entire theme of the page clicked into place. It was then I realized that the problem I was having with Impulse was that my hero's past with his father was important to who he was, and I'd been ignoring it. So, I ended up with a great page for his memory book, and a book fix. Not bad for one afternoon. lol

Nancy Morse said...

Great paintings, Gail. I especially love the one with the sheep. Something about it spoke to me.

I'm a craftsperson at heart. I love knitting, crocheting, macrame, anything that involves working with my hands, especially in the garden where I can get them nice and dirty.

Shanna Swendson said...

Ooh, maybe I'll try painting someday. For now, I'm taking a music course at the community college. I've always loved to sing and have sung in choirs most of my life, but have a phobia about singing solo. This class will beat that out of me (or kill me).

We'll see if having to perform Italian opera arias in front of people enhances my writing in any way.

Christie Craig said...

Gail,

I agree, creativity fuels other creative fires. I took up photography, partly out of my need to be creative, hoping to use it in my freelance. When it became more like a job, I had to look for another creative outlet. I've played with painting and someday hope to make more time for it.

My daugher is an artist. She's agented, and has lots of art shows.
I'm proud of her, I don't think I'll be good, but it's fun to play.

CC

Gail Dayton said...

Exactly! It's our time to play! JoAnn, I hear you about those teensy linen squares. I've done lots of counted cross-stitch, but gave up when my eyes started crossing on my middle grandson's birth announcement. I had to give it to the daughter to finish. You should take a painting class, JoAnn, just for the fun of it! It may not turn out to be your thing, but it's fun to try new stuff... Hmm. I also have lots of quilt blocks waiting for me to finish sewing them together, too. And a crocheted afghan we're already using, that isn't quite finished either...It's not fringe hanging off the ends. It's where I started a new color... Oh well.

Samantha Hunter said...

Gail! Those paintings are awesome. I love the horse race, the sheep, and the desert landscape... there are some elements that are just so striking. You do interesting things with lines...

I'm also fascinated that you do something so visual. I do as well. About a year and a half ago I was yearning for something else to do, something creative, and took a quilting class. It was the best thing... I'm a complete quilting addict! I've probably made about 12-15 various quilting projects since I started, including two larger quilts and I'm working on several more now.

They actually come out great, which is a miracle. I say this because when I went to the class, I didn't own or even know how to thread a sewing machine. I barely knew how to turn one on, LOL. Also, I never considered myself a person who knew how to use color, but it turns out that leads me down some interesting paths -- I put colors together in different ways, and it usually ends up pretty nice. :)

So now I hand quilt, machine quilt, I'm always doing something new, for gifts and for us. And yes, there are definitely spaces of time where I quilt more than I write, though times like now when it's the opposite, but I need to make time for my projects. They really do ease my mind...

Great topic!

Sam

Anonymous said...

Very much enjoyed the time I spent reading through here...great stuff.

Thank you...

Nancy Morse said...

There's one thing all the members of my family have in common - we can't sing. Can't carry a tune to save our souls. My cousin, however, wants to sing in the worst way, so she joined a choir and...lip syncs. I kid you not.

Maybe it's like that old question, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a person wants to satisfy a creative urge to sing and opens her mouth and no sound emerges, is it singing? Hmmm. And I thought I was the strange one in the family.

Terry Z McDermid said...

A friend and I were just talking about this topic yesterday -- and listing all the ways our family members were creative. My brothers are both very musical, with instruments and great voices, singing in local groups; my sister quilts, does scrapbooks, and always makes all her cards; and I write, in addition to singing in the church choir (a soprano now that I'm not teaching every day). Our parents encouraged us to find an outlet of some sort and both my parents had a variety of creative skills. Something we've tried to foster in our children. I know it kept my family sane to have outlets for our creativity when we had to move a lot for my dad's job. We also all had good grades in school and received scholarships for college and some of that has to be attributed to being well-rounded and looking at life in different ways -- something that's now being replicated in our children.