Happy New Year! How would you like to start 2024 in a new, creative way?
Every Wednesday and Saturday, we will be posting an installment of our book, Through an Artist’s Eyes: Learning to Live Creatively offering you a pathway to art and the vision of the artist. Enabling you to develop your own inner creativity and apply it to the personal cycle of everyday living!
II. The Journey to Art
Creative Routines, part 1
Note: The following was written pre-pandemic and the use of zoom allowing employees to work from home. Although, depending on the situation, workers are retuning again to offices and businesses again as well as to public places such as restaurants and cafes.
We all have our routines—the scheduled seconds, minutes, and hours of our lives. Time often seems our main companion as well as our competition, dividing our day into slots: commuting, office, lunch, errands, shopping, pick-ups, and drop-offs. Striving to catch up, while inextricably falling behind and it feels like we are losing track of our minds, our emotions, our friends and most importantly, ourselves. Pressure, stress, and demands are consistently with us caused by a variety of factors ranging from the need for money and possessions to obligations and responsibilities, both short and long term. Speed, efficiency, regularity, and punctuality, dominate our daily existence while we find ourselves mainly “living” for our weekends, our vacations, even our retirements.
Begin with the commute—the daily work-week grind back and forth, round trip. The primary distinctions depend upon what day of the week it is, the degree of traffic, the weather and other conditions that aggravate us sometimes more, other times less.
Next you enter the office or store or school or factory or construction site, where you become even in the most satisfactory of situations, your job.
You may take a break at lunch, but you are probably expected to return according to the dictates of the clock—and your supervisor—1:00, 2:00, 3:00 p.m. Or maybe you don’t leave your desk until you depart for home and by then it already seems too late.
But what if you were to take this regimen apart—the artificial schedule imposed on your life—and insert the arts? Even if for just a few minutes, at intervals, here and there, until artistic creativity becomes almost like breathing.
Perhaps you could start with the people around you—portraits really—that could stir many a painter’s imagination. Have you ever estimated how many portraits you see each day, whether on the street, in the office hallways, or at the store’s check-out counter? Multiply those daily numbers by years and the total for your lifetime will be nearly infinite.
Truly look at others’ faces and actions, especially in a crowd, while you sit at a cafe or restaurant, on the bus or subway, or waiting for a meeting to begin. Now imagine that you are a master artist like Rembrandt and you have to study and sketch the passing humanity quickly.
Few artists in the history of art have been able to grasp and recreate a human being so completely as Rembrandt—not only the physical exterior of an individual but also the heart and soul. His subjects may have lived some 400 years ago in seventeenth century Amsterdam, wearing what may seem outdated costumes and hairstyles. Yet mankind’s basic features and characteristics have not really changed.
If you open a book, or check your cellphone for Rembrandt’s portraits, for instance, you’ll see a range of ages and attributes, from the fresh innocence of a young child to the worn cragginess of an elderly man. The artist captures the mood and emotions of his subjects, including laughter and sadness, anger and forgiveness, even the tender expressions of love.
Don’t stop at Rembrandt. Search the portrayals created by a cross–section of artists and sculptors, from ancient sculptures to the Renaissance to Van Gogh to Andy Warhol. Focus not only on a single portrait, but on groups of portraits as well. Then look around—you’ll be amazed at what you see from your own vantage point in a public place, whether you are stationary or moving. For example, notice the teenage couple giggling together over some secret only they can share. The businessman sternly surveying his cellphone or newspaper, while a construction worker, more hat than person, throws a rope to his colleague. The child staring beseechingly at her mother, asking for an ice cream, and the friends who have just met, enthusiastically embracing, already in the middle of a conversation.
What do you think you remember afterward? Will it be the flash of a smile, the determined set of a mouth, or the bright blue of two eyes? How about the interaction of the mother with her child, or between the two friends? Are you witnessing the affection of love and caring, or just an obligation of friendship or a little girl’s greed? What about the aloofness of the reading businessman?
You might take a note or two to record a memory of the day. Draw some outlines in pencil or charcoal if only for a brief time; you can forget yourself or other preoccupations by connecting to others with both the objectivity and wonder of an artist.
COMING NEXT: THE ART OF SHOPPING
Copyright 2010: Joan Hart, Museum One, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented including photocopying, recording and information storage and retrieval without permission from the publisher.