Building Blocks for Creativity

No, really.
Look at them. A whole basket full of fun. Thank you, local church op shop for this fantastic $4 find. (And you should have seen their excitement that someone was taking this stuff off their hands! Almost too excited…)
So here they are.

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(WTF do I do now? Where did those glorious artistic visions go? Where’s that meteor shower of ideas that burst through my mind when I was considering buying this pile of rejected wood!?)
Well, I guess I could – oh, hey Arbie.

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Trust you to come out of the proverbial woodwork to check out the literal woodwork. Don’t you go making any webs tho…
Now, where there’s an Arbie, there’s bound to be a Nut close by…

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Yep. There he is.
Alright, jump in. Let’s have a look at these outside.

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Having fun?

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Well it looks like Arbie’s got dibs on the treasure chest.
Ok what else have we got?

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Squares, rectangles, cylinders, curvy bits. All with nicely finished edges. Dunno what they were for in their past life. Roads for toy cars? Basic building blocks? (At least I had different coloured ones as a kid.) Maybe just off cuts? (Though the neat edges suggest otherwise.)

Hmmm…

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WTF is this?

That’s clearly a ring-in. Might just toss it aside coz I don’t think I’ll be using it.

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Now, how many of each of these do we – oh.

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Thanks, Nut.
I guess you’ve found the piece you want then. Jolly good.

[45mins later.] Do dogs never tire of this game?!

Right, well, I’d say I’ve got a pretty good stash for some alternative rustic wood signs. Yes, I know I’m still finishing the others I started months ago – stop judging me! The stars weren’t aligned, ok?
They mustn’t be quite aligned yet either coz otherwise this morning’s coat of varnish wouldn’t have stuck to the newspaper causing an emergency sand-and-patch up job!
Phew.

Anyway, here’s my first experiment with ink and acrylic (see below). Ink, my recently discovered BFF, decided to bleed on this particular surface, I noticed with horror. (Sorry ink, no longer BFF.) So I turned to my old faithful mate, acrylic paint.
It was getting rather late, so under the influence of chocolate I eventually got it to a look I was happy with. (Couldn’t leave it in its current mess, midnight or no midnight.) This was despite the Blue having gone to shit in its tube as well. I shook it and though, ‘allo, that’s not right…’ Paint should never sound like a Milo milkshake being made.
But, improviser that I am, I made it mix, so this little strey character got her blue tunic after all. (Thus far I’ve only sketched these little characters I call ‘streys’, so this was a double experiment of painting surface and ‘colouring in’ with paint!)

One more swoop with the black ink gets us to… A happy place 🙂

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So the verdict? I think there’s much fun to be had with this lot. And moving out of your comfort zone is good for the creative soul too.
Often the most rewarding projects are the ones where you’re forced to rescue or innovate or think quick because the materials don’t behave according to your neat, ideal plan. I’d call that a real ‘building block’ to creativity. What can you do when things go wrong or play unexpected games with you?

And a funny thing happens when you resign yourself to a project being ‘stuffed’. Suddenly you free yourself to experiment, coz ‘it’s messed up anyway’, so you take more risks. You extend your skills. You grow. You learn. And hopefully you become a better artist because of it.
In other words, never give up. 😉

Happy creating!

For more Nut & Arbie fun, check out their blog here: http://www.nutandarbie.wordpress.com

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One for the Dabblers

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Don’t you love it when an article in a magazine validates or at least identifies one of your quirks? You know, a trait or a behaviour that you thought nobody else had, that your family and friends give you a hard time about because they’re clearly not one of the chosen ones who get to enjoy such an element in their lives? Even better when the article paints this quirk in a positive light (what? you mean I may not be the spawn of hobgoblins after all? Please, do go on…) It’s like finding a soulmate on a page, a new friend amongst a bunch of words.

I experienced this feeling recently as I flicked through a copy of Psychologies from a few months back (hooray for Christmas where you finally have time to catch up on reading while you hide from relatives and recover from your food/drink/chocolate/fruit coma – choose as applicable). There was an article talking about people who are serial starters – they start all kinds of projects and either don’t finish them or finish very few.

‘Hey, that’s like me!’ I squealed to Nut, who didn’t bat an eyelid (probably coz he doesn’t have any). Yet his expression said it all. Yes, Kel, you started making *my* blog, remember? You started putting ideas together, started taking pics, started editing pics, but where’s my blog?

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Well, I… Hey it’s coming, alright? Haven’t you got a spider to harass?

Whoops. That came out a bit defensive. But sometimes we do that when we’re challenged, don’t we? Particularly when it regards something that’s more or less a natural inclination for us. Something that’s misunderstood. Something that, for whatever reason, society/family/peers/Grumpy Cat deem undesirable. Or inefficient. Time-wasting. Deviant. Frivolous. Harking back to some underlying, old school belief about how life ‘should’ be lived.
‘You’re not doing your life right, you’d better shape up and get things together in the prescribed way or you’ll regret it.’
Hang on – whose life is it?!

That’s what this article was getting at, in a way. Honouring what feels right for you. Putting aside the guilt and instead adopting the assumption that, deep inside, you actually know what you’re doing (even though you may appear like a headless chicken bumping from one thing to the next!)
For those of us ‘serial starters’, we’re not lazy or quitters. Some of us are just wired to explore rather than settle. And who’s to say that it’s not the way to go, or that it’s going to be detrimental? Because often the dabblers among us can be made to feel inadequate, as if there’s something wrong with us for not having that ‘one thing’ we do in life. Yet, the world’s now changed in a way that actually favours the dabblers and jacks-of-all-trades.

So what if, in the bigger scheme of things, we’re actually ahead of the game? What if our occasionally criticised dabbling has given us a wide and varied skill set that makes us highly adaptable? Not to mention well-attuned to our interests and strengths? How is that a bad thing?

Another thing I loved about this article was its praise for curiosity. As any creative knows, permission to explore and experiment opens the way for those happy accidents and discoveries you never would have made if you only kept to what is known and accepted. A healthy dose of curiosity about life – your own life in particular – surely leads to a brighter, happier you.

In my experience, a brighter, happier me is the one that embarks on all kinds of new projects. Usually with the intention of finishing them, but not bound to doing so. (Pressure to finish things can sometimes stifle the joy of them.) I like starting different projects because I think they’ll be fun. I love learning new things. I love the energy of beginning. Sometimes I lose interest part way through. Sometimes I embrace it all the way. I can’t know till I get going. Coz how are you supposed to know what really resonates with you until you’re in the midst of it? (Riding the waves of ‘succeeding’ and ‘failing’ along the way too.) That’s what makes life interesting.

At the same time, the article suggests that sometimes the lessons we’re meant to learn arrive before we finish the task itself. Be it a book, a project or a course, if you get the feeling you got what you needed halfway through, rejoice! Now move onto the next lesson elsewhere; wherever your interest takes you, coz that’s where you’re going to be happiest. Imagine if we praised and valued our adventurous minds instead of scolding them!

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I reckon it’s time to let ourselves off the hook regarding things we haven’t finished. Maybe we’ve already learnt what we needed to learn and our energy is best channelled elsewhere, into new things. If that is what’s happening naturally, why fight it? Relax and be more process-orientated rather than outcome-orientated. Who knows, maybe the process is the outcome, and was always meant to be.

*The article I’ve referred to throughout this post is called ‘Starter’s Orders’ by Barbara Sher, in Psychologies magazine, October 2013 issue. I started looking online for a link if there is one, but my brief search got nothin’. By that point I was already moving on to photo editing and finishing a block of chocolate (see I do finish some things!!) 😉

Have Phone, Will Create

On that bloody phone again, are we? Addicted much? Should we book in for surgical removal yet?

Huh? Did somebody say something? Oh, hey, howz goin?

 

That happens a bit now, I’ve found. Such conversations instigated by any number of family members, or my own inner voice, at any given creative time. Coz creative time can now happen anytime and anywhere (yay!), thanks to the marvel that is smart phone + camera + (I’m now discovering) photo editing apps.

Uhh… they’ve been around for years, Kel, I hear you say, bit slow on the uptake there.

Sure it’s not a new concept, but it’s new to me. (Hell, I’ve still got Flappy the carrier pigeon roosting in retirement out back, since I finally caved in to peer pressure and got an iPhone last year.) But what can I say? I’m certainly not interested in racing anybody to high-tech land. I’m a different kind of geek, thank you very much. I’m happy with my leisurely pace and my stumbling upon things in my own sweet time.

So, stumbling upon photo editing, as I have recently, I’ve discovered a whole new world of fun. I was already pleased with the easy, portable nature of a built-in phone camera for capturing those whims and inspirations that strike at odd times.

Bush walking one afternoon...

Bush walking one afternoon…

Now I can take that moment in time, spend hours experimenting, and end up with that same moment in time, just slightly modified. Faaantastic.

After some tinkering

After some tinkering

Also what I love about this is the simplicity. When the muse comes to visit I don’t always have the hours and space to get out drop sheets and paints and brushes. Or knives, embellishments and card stock. To be able to just point, shoot & then tinker is perfect. And I figure I can tie it in with my other projects as well.

Faery Charm, anyone?

Faery Charm, anyone?

Beats pictures of food.

What I’m probably liking most is that there are all these accessible, user-friendly apps that mean streys like me can add an artsy edge to our photos without getting all fancy-pants with expensive equipment and a whole new vocabulary. (I’ve flipped through a bunch of photography mags; I have no idea what they’re talking about.) They can start to sound a bit elitist as well which my photos… are not.

Nut

Nut

This is Nut. He’s a stray too. Picked him up at the toy-animal pound (aka the local op shop) a little while back. He’s a bit of a character and likes having his picture taken, so he might feature in some more. When I catch him causing some photo-worthy trouble… (often enough).

So this week’s creative spurt has been made possible by the Camera Awesome app, which has its own set of crazy terms for things you can do to photos, plus references to unicorns and other random things. RateCameraAwesome

Haha.

What other apps have people found good/useful/fun/worthwhile? If you can peel yourself away from them long enough to reply…

Soggy Old Sunday? Just Add A Bit Of Crazy

Well, one of the last things I expected to be doing last weekend was a train dance. Yeah, a train dance. Dancing whenever a train goes past… to the amusement of a hundred or more strangers.

Alright, maybe I’m abusing creative licence by applying the term ‘dance’ to the funny bobbing up and down motion we were doing. It was more… umm… think squats with goofy grins. Or Tweedle dum, Tweedle dee & Tweedle me. Coz there were three of us (I’m not crazy enough to pull off something like that on my own) – me and two guys I’d only met that morning.

Tweedle dee & Tweedle dum

Tweedle dee & Tweedle dum

Tweedle me

Tweedle me

          To set the scene: I run a market stall once a month selling my creative stuffs

Creative stuffs

Creative stuffs

 

It’s held on the second floor of a carpark next to a local railway station. In theory it’s the perfect setting: undercover, plenty of room, well ventilated… Until you get hit by a trilogy of shitty elements: it’s raining and you discover leaks above your spot, there’s a fat-arse SUV with its gut overhanging into your space on one side, and a food stall is relocated next to you on the other. Oh that last one wouldn’t be so bad, I hear you say. Yeah sure, if you like the smell of bacon & eggs & whatever the hell that thing is, all sizzling on a barbeque and wafting onto you and your stock. Would be perfect for some. But for those of us who would rather pluck out every nose hair than catch a whiff – let alone breathe it in all day – it’s a recipe for agony.

Kel's reaction to bacon

Kel’s reaction to bacon

So anyway, I set myself up (a longer process than usual, as I swore at each leak I discovered, and praised the cellophane wrap protecting my handmade cards), all the while feeling watched. Not a creepy kind of watched, thankfully. Just observed. By my new neighbours across the way: two guys selling auto-care products.

Hmm… young, single guys? I wondered briefly, interestedly (is that even a word? There’s no wiggly red line of shame appearing under it, so must be…). Coz you never know… they sounded like they could be.

But no. Wasn’t to be this time.

Sorry, Mum.

No son-in-law just yet.

What I did discover though, on getting to know these two over the course of the day, was a couple of middle age mates who bring a sense of fun and mischief wherever they go. Like a couple of court jesters on the loose. They came up with the train dance as a response to the slow, cold morning (so much for being weeks away from summer). And soon enough, in contrast to my previous ways, I found myself joining in.

You see, not that long ago I was one of those shy girls with more than a little social anxiety, who would sooner die than join in some public display of mild insanity. But hey, you change your life and then suddenly (it seems) start to find yourself doing interesting things in surprising situations. This was one of those situations.

“So what are the rules, then?” I grinned at them.

“Umm…  It’s gotta be when the trains pull in or out”

“Regardless of whether you have a customer”

“And we’ve all gotta do it”

Cool. Simples. Goodbye customers for the day!

I imagined people backing away slowly or giving our stalls a wide berth lest they catch the loony bug. But then I remembered how much I’ve appreciated the random acts of silliness I’ve seen over the years. The people who make a fool of themselves to bring a smile to others or, even better, amuse themselves first and then everyone else as a result. A bit of contagious crazy. I was up for that.

So there it began. Our rainy, shitty day soon became a fun event as we carried on & called out, laughing and pointing to each other when a train rolled past every 15-20mins. Tweedle dee would get caught while explaining his product to customers. Tweedle me got caught discussing fantasy books one time, and juggling money another.

Occasionally rules adjusted:

“Let’s synchronise!”

 “Nah let’s get it so there’s one up one down and one half way.”

“Speed up if the train’s pulling out & slow down if it’s pulling in.”

And while we received plenty of strange looks and occasional frowns from market shoppers, we also triggered plenty of smiles. A couple of other stallholders even joined in once or twice.

Chatting later on, we agreed spontaneity is the key. Some things are a success purely because they’re unplanned. You embrace a whim and get creative. You have fun, make friends, and bring a little crazy to life in a way that brightens everyone’s day. (And in my case, balance out that chocolate I’d downed earlier…)

By the afternoon, my potential ordeal of a day had turned into a great day. I managed not to scare all my customers away and made some sales. My stuff stayed dry. I survived the food smell waftage. Just.

Soon all that was left were the farewells to my new friends and the long pack up process for me (which I don’t mind; it’s kinda therapeutic).

Then just as they were pulling out to drive off, a train pulled in. I glanced across, still linked to the sound as I’d been throughout the day. Nah, I thought, that’s it, day’s done. I can’t do it alone.

But in the middle of everything, the car stopped.

They both got out.

And together we all did one final train dance – grinning from ear to ear.

Last train dance for the Tweedle 3

Last train dance for the Tweedle 3

 

Then our day was done.