Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What is your Creative Code?

Seeing that I've been having a bit of resistance fun with the master, Mr. Resistance, I kicked it up a notch. How? Oh no, not by painting, mind you. By going back to reading my kick-me-in-the-butt creativity books. Well, yes, I finished Artist's Way and it helped immensely. Now it's Twyla Tharp and her book The Creative Habit.

I left it off for a while, having beat Mr. Resistance at his game. Notice I said for a while? Well, art, as life, is a roller coaster with ups and downs. So it is that I'm on the downward slope right now. Painting in fits and starts, as is my habit when it begins. Some days are freer than others and I can get to paint, but only if I'm prepared. Other days who feels like doing anything?

So it's back to the book for me right now. Need a little fire lit under me. Maybe it's the weather?

Chapter 3 is entitled Your Creative DNA. Tharp suggests we all have a "creative code", a kind of creative hard wiring, our own distinct creative personality. Some how we have to tap into that and find what works for us creatively. Are we working hard to be a photographer, but we are really a dancer deep down? It's like that.

"Rare is the painter who is equally adept at miniatures and epic series, or the writer who is at home in both historical sagas and finely observed short stores" writes Tharp. How we artists need to work is inside each of us. Some painters need to see paintings from a distance, others need to see the brush strokes a nose away. Tharp calls this focal length. Each of us "focus best at some specific spot along the spectrum."

Some artists see the big picture. Others like specificity. Tharp explains this by the ancient Greek words Zoe and Bios, both of which mean life, but not the same state of life. She says zoe "is like seeing Earth from space", bios "distinguishes one life from another."

I guess it's a matter of expansive vision or minute detail. How do we see ourselves, our art?

Getting a "handle on that creative identity" is key. Finding out who we really are in terms of our view is how we can channel our artistic drive. Why do we do things the way we do? What story are we telling? What is our weak or strong points? The answers to these questions help us to know who we are, and who we are not.

Tharp points to a lecture she gave where she invited various art students to assemble on the dais. A music student, a painting student, a writer, a dancer. She asked the art student to describe his impressions of the colors the other students expressed by their improvisation skit. He talked about feelings, himself, stories, no colors. Finally she heard him say one color. Suddenly, she stopped the student to tell him she was unconvinced he wanted to paint. He was in "DNA denial", he needed to be a writer!

Well, it's interesting isn't it? We might be really good at painting, but we're really wired to dance, or some other thing.

Sometimes I think I'm not a painter, I should really be a chef or a baker. Then I like to assemble jewelry with beads and other things, and think maybe I am a sculptor. I really like the colors of the beads, arranging them in a pleasing manner, and think I'm still a painter who just needs these other things as a distraction. It's Artist Attention Deficit Disorder. That's what my resistance is all about.


  1. hmmm...very nice post.

    The time we spend on finding what others are...why not spend half of that time on ourself and be a better person...

  2. Dora, reading your post has made me realise I'm not a thinker on the creative process, I'm a doer! :) xx

  3. Thinking--well, I don't have time to think who others are, I'm really interested in my own creative life so I can continue to create art. And I'm an okay person, with flaws and dimples like most people. I just can't get myself to paint on s regular basis. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Pat--too many things fall in my path on a daily basis to make me a better doer. So I think about ways to be one!


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