Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Sense of Play

In my art practice, sometimes I find myself psychologically foraging through a jungle and whacking a machete at dense underbrush -- so serious and determined that I completely overlook the open plain right next to it that I could be strolling across instead. In short, when making art feels like hard work instead of play, it's usually because I'm choosing to make it that way.

With a mixed-blessing predisposition to being responsible and organized and "Getting Things Done", so I can check items off my much-valued to-do lists, it has occurred to me I've recently developed a severe case of "serious" artist. When was the last time I just PLAYED for the sake of play, without any goal posts or end zones in sight?

Enter my ALMOST four-year-old honorary granddaughter, Sadie. I met her, her mom and little sister Abby yesterday at a local garden center that had set up a Halloween family event. Sadie and I spun around together on one ride, slid down the giant slide on a burlap bag and put glue and glitter all over a tiny pumpkin, then stuck purple and pink and blue feathers on it. We sat inside a small, decorated pergola and ate tiny cupcakes, hidden from the crowd. We met a giant parrot who sat on people's arms and seemed to enjoy all the attention. We petted kittens from the local pet shelter and Sadie told me why cats have litter boxes. In short, it was one of the best artist dates I've had in a LONG time!

It's no coincidence that a book came into my hands just a few days earlier to remind me that my own creativity is hands-down bigger and offers more entertaining rides than Disneyland --- and even better, there's never a wait in line! The book is Keri Smith's "How to Be an Explorer of the World."

Somewhat SARK-like in its use of hand printed text and whimsical illustrations, Keri's book takes a simple artistic premise -- collecting and documenting -- and develops it into a delightful series of numbered suggestions for personal explorations. Some are her ideas and some are freely borrowed from and attributed to others. Together they are gentle, smiling reminders to relish and find inspirational treasures in the everyday, small wonders that are all around us.

Here's an example of Keri's exercises. " Exploration #10: Choose an everyday object. This can be something you find on the street or something you have. Look at the top half of the object for 15 minutes. Record everything you see there in detail. Then do the same for the bottom half. The longer you look the more you will see. "

THE LONGER YOU LOOK THE MORE YOU WILL SEE. Isn't this just about the best one liner any artist could adopt?

1 comment:

  1. I tried the exercise of looking at the top half of something, taking note of everything I saw and then repeating for the bottom half. I chose a cup. Its true ...the longer you look the more you see. I've tried it on other things now: design in a shirt, a tree, wood panelling. It makes me realise that I have been looking without seeing. Thanks for this wonderful article and opening my eyes.