Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Adventures in the Creative Life

Now that it's January, I am seeing a lot of new yoga members at my gym. I have been doing yoga for about 7 years now and I notice the same pattern every year. There is an enormous influx of new members between end of November to mid March and very little attendance around July-October. Both old yogis and new members are as equally guilty. In January, a new intensity fills the air, there is a lot of talk of resolutions and goals. Everyone is very devoted, disciplined, and rigorous to their practice, so much so that they forget that it is supposed to be fun.

Here at the Monkey and Seal cave, we talk a lot about goals and resolutions. Being an artist, it is already difficult to find our "path." Our very mutable industry makes decisions and directions already very tough to begin with. So we think it is very important to have some rough outline or "road map" in where we want to go in our creative endeavors.

Because if you don't know where you want to go, you will either not move from your starting place, end up in a place you were not expecting, or who knows, maybe you make it to your destination, but it was without intention. Goals are road maps: they give us clear indication of where we have been, what our potential directions are, possible featured places we would definitely like to experience, if there is an endgoal, and how long would that distance be. Maps are also useful for when we get off track, we can always adjust, backtrack, or veer off in a new direction. We, at least, always know where we are at.

But the trick is, though we should take our goals and maps "seriously," we should never forget
that art is fun. We must never become too linear with our creativity or too much of a goal/career-orientated artist. Though we may have our trusty map, we should embed it into our psyche that there are multiple roads to get us to where we want to go, and we can always start and stop at anytime. Creativity and adventure is non-linear. The key to being a successful and creatively-fulfilling artist is to find the right balance between goals and adventure. Between direction and diversion. Between Career and Personal. Between Practice and Play. Between Seriousness and Whims. Because often times, it is Whims that create our highly original, unique, and personal pieces that will get the attention of the world.

When we were little, we drew things. They were fun and very different. Perhaps our well-meaning people noticed them, "these have potential - if we're serious enough to pursue it." How many times have artists been told to "get serious." So we become serious. Instead of drawing and painting, we begin to PRACTICE everyday. We have GOALS. We may end up in workshops and intensives and on the fast track towards a hot-shot art studio or design firm. Art becomes something we MASTER : we become constantly glued to looking at the map and we forget to enjoy the sights. We can do yoga poses out of habit and on command, but we have forgotten how it felt to first breathe, to just draw and paint on a whim.

I recently became acquainted with a high-profile, brilliant artist. He is very serious about his art. He has won many awards. He gets up at the crack of dawn, marches to his computer to paint, and sleeps at odd hours of breaking daylight. He attends all the independent master classes for artists and all the various workshops and conferences throughout the world. He is constantly sought after for book deals and collaborations. He has projects outlined and target goals posted in his studio and a miniature version of it in a .pdf file follows him around in his laptop. When I met him at a cafe, he has taken out all the "breaks" out of coffee break. He is talking a-mile-a minute, full of energy, but his face looked haggard. He talked about all the different various projects with other high profile artists that he is juggling and has lined up . The sternness in his voice when talking about art and creativity along with the foreign words coming out of his mouth regarding"mergers, maximizing profits, and climbing the ladder," all sounded strange to me. I notice a beautiful loose painted sketch in the first page of his book, and asked him about it. This piece of spontaneous art seemed very different than the person before me. He casually mentioned that it was done during lunchtime on his first day at one of his first jobs at the high-end film studio, many years ago. I couldn't help but asked, "When was the last time he painted with real paints as in the picture?" And he answered in surprise, "Oh," like the sketch suddenly crept up to him without knowing, "I don't remember." At this point, I unconsciously blurted out, "Are you having fun at all?" He stared at me as if I had just put worms in his coffee.

Although goals are necessary to give us a sense of purpose and direction, creativity is not meant to be "calculated." We are not meant to chug up the mountain, but to take a stroll through life. Though we'd like to backpack through the mountain and see what the view up there looks like, too, we'll take our time and take detours and pictures along the way. We'll start projects on whims, but we'll need the goals and road maps to help us finish them.

So when we talk about goals and resolutions at the Monkey and Seal cave, we present them more as personal challenges and changes that we would like to see in ourselves, better habits that would make creating art and sustaining our creativity more fun, guidelines that are meant to point us towards a direction, but we also know, that at any time, we can take a different road. And at anytime, we can stop at a rest area and open our picnic basket. At any point in our creative adventures, though it can still be tough and "serious," we can always choose to laugh through any storm.