Friday, October 9, 2009

The Creative Habit - Week 2 - Your Creative DNA

The chapter this week is on your creative DNA. Twyla says:

"I believe that we all have strands of creative code hard-wired into our imaginations. These strands are as solidly imprinted in us as the genetic code that determines our height and eye color, except they govern our creative impulses. They determine the forms we work in, the stories we tell, and how we tell them. I can't prove this. But perhaps you also suspect it when you try to understand why you're a photographer, not a writer, or why you always insert a happy ending into your story, or why all your canvases gather the most interesting material at the edges, not the center."

“If you understand the strands of your creative DNA you begin to see how they mutate into common threads in your work. You begin to see the “story” that you’re trying to tell; why you do the things you do (both positive and self-destructive); where you are strong and where you are weak (which prevents a lot of false starts) and how you see the world and function in it.”

She talks about different aspects that determine an artist’s creative identity. One of the aspects mentioned was focal length and how each of us finds comfort in the way we see the world either from a great distance, at arm’s length or close up. But once you see it you will start to notice how it defines the artists that you admire.

I grabbed a pen and my notebook and began writing down the artists I admire and why. I wanted to see what common threads would emerge. I didn’t spend a lot of time on this. I only wrote down the people that immediately came to my mind. Here’s my list:

Claude Monet
Vincent Van Gogh
Claude DeBussy
Maurice Ravel

Now of course there are many, many more artists that I admire than just the four I have listed. But these four are the biggest creative influences. Just about every room in my house has a Monet or Van Gogh print hanging on the wall. And the music that is playing throughout my house is mostly Claude DeBussy, Maurice Ravel, Charles Griffes and Frederick Delius. It’s also the music I listen to at work.

I love Impressionist paintings and have ever since I can remember. And I was very pleased and surprised to find out that the composers I love so much are considered Impressionist composers, how about that! I didn’t know there was such a thing as Impressionist music but there is and all my favorite composers are included in it. Ok, so there is one common thread for sure – Impressionism.

What I understand about Impressionist painters is that they didn’t seek to show a picture perfect image of their subject but instead to give an overall “impression, so I get their focal length. Impressionism in music seeks to create a mood or atmosphere.

I started thinking about why I love their work so much and another common thread arose – feeling. When I think about what I love about the work of these artists it all comes down to how their paintings and music make me feel. I can see a picture in my mind when I listen to their music. I love the happy, contented feelings the paintings and the music bring me. I have loved these artists and composers for as long as I can remember, even before I knew what Impressionism was. I just remember looking at the paintings and being affected by how the picture made me feel.

When I think about what motivates me to create it has to do with feeling. I love creating atmosphere. For example, I looked back through some of my household decorating notebooks and what I noticed was that the first thing I did was determine how I wanted my home to feel. What atmosphere did I want each room to have? How did I want people to feel while they were in my home? How did I want to feel in my home? I even thought about how I wanted my home to smell and the kind of food that would be cooking? What kind of activities would be going on in my house? I envisioned poetry gatherings, movie nights, book club meetings, intimate dinner parties, cook outs, etc. Before I took action on anything I got clear about the feeling I wanted to evoke. Then once I knew the feeling I could go about finding items to decorate with that would support the atmosphere I wanted to create.

I’m starting to create mental atmospheres as well. Thinking about the kind of mental atmosphere I want to have in my mind and also how I want people to feel when they are with me. I want them to feel loved, appreciated, empowered, motivated, happy, etc. Once I know the feeling I want to extend then it’s easier to act from that place.

There are more common threads emerging but I’m not going to list them all because this blog post will be too long! But I will say this book is giving me so much clarity and inspiration about my creative habit. It’s really helping me focus on what my creative process is. I feel like I just got a creative battery charge.

At the end of the chapter on Your Creative DNA Twyla lists a questionnaire that will help you determine your creative autobiography. Please click this link to take you to the questionnaire which is posted on my other blog.

Twyla said that “even if one answer tells you something new about yourself, you’re one step closer to understanding your creative DNA.” I encourage you all to take the questionnaire. Be sure to answer it quickly, instinctively and honestly.

“We want our artist’s to take the mundane materials of our lives, run it through their imaginations, and surprise us.” – Twyla Tharp

P.S. Interesting thing happened at work today. I was writing about how much I love the paintings of Claude Monet and all of a sudden there was a knock on my office door. Two of my co-workers came in looking to possibly change office pictures, each office has one picture. I was indifferent to the picture that was hanging in my office and told the guy he could have it if he wanted it. Then he mentioned that the picture that was in his office was too girly for him but he thought I might be interested. You guessed it; it is a Claude Monet print. I love the Law of Attraction!

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