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    My Advice: Conquering creative doubt

    By Andrea McArthur

    CWC My Advice Creative Doubt
    Have you experienced the voice that creeps in – asking you: What if? What if it doesn’t work out, what if people don’t like what I’ve done, what if this is less than perfect? But what if you could be more courageous and positive, then you could accomplish your goals, be happier and even more creative. Today, we ask three CWC Members for their advice when it comes to conquering doubt in your creative work, projects and life.

    Kate James, Career and Life Coach, Total Balance


    Kate James

    Every creative person I’ve ever worked with has told me they experience days filled with self-doubt. Ironically, it’s often the people with exceptional talent who are afflicted most.

    When you’re going through a patch of creative doubt, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, it’s completely normal and it does pass. You just need to make sure it doesn’t become an excuse to sabotage your practice or give up on your dreams. Try these tips to help you over a creative hump.

    Make space in your life
    Sometimes this is easier said than done, particularly if you’re balancing parenting with work. If possible, clear your diary for a day and give yourself time to rest and to breathe. Revisit your ‘to do’ list to work out your real priorities and give yourself time to recharge. A little bit of rest will do wonders for your creativity.

    Move your body, get into nature
    Get away from your desk, your computer or your studio and out into nature. Take a walk, go for a swim or just lie on the grass and look up at the trees. Let your mind move away from your creative challenges and as best you can, be completely in the moment.

    Stop comparing yourself
    It’s not helpful to look through Instagram and compare your life with the lives of others. It may look like people are doing way more interesting things than you but remember, even those who look enormously happy and successful from the outside have days of self-doubt too.

    Keep at it
    Once you’ve given yourself some breathing space, get back to your craft as quickly as you can. Break your bigger goals into manageable little chunks so you can tick one thing off your list today. This will feel like an achievement in itself.

    Don’t let self-belief come second
    Self-belief is a by-product of behaviour, which means you don’t need to wait until you’re confident to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone – just keep doing and the confidence will eventually come.

    Elizabeth Geddes, Creative Director and Copywriter, Chops for Tea


    Liz Geddes

    There’s always an answer, and often it’s right there in the [project] brief.

    Perhaps your doubt comes from the feeling of wandering aimlessly with no direction because the brief is non-existent, woolly or too generic. A good brief gives you boundaries, a measuring stick and finish line all in one. When starting a project, at the very minimum get your brief in writing in an email from your client. Or, after a conversation, write the brief yourself, email it to the client and get them to acknowledge it. With a brief you can prove you have answered what the client has asked for. Plus, if you have no written contract with your client then the brief is justification for getting paid.

    As for how creative the solution is depends on the creativity, aesthetics and bravery of you, the client, and people higher up the client’s chain of command. Always make sure that the person giving the final approval has signed off on the brief (and the costs!) before you even start.

    I’m about the idea first, execution second. You can put lipstick on a pig but that’s not fooling anyone. So here’s the crux: and it’s something I heard Siimon Reynolds say on one of those Andrew Denton TV shows in the 80s. Siimon was a creative director (famously of Grey at only 21) and so dealt in advertising concepts. For a brief he would exhaust his well of ideas — say 100+ concepts. Then he’d dig some more. It’s about getting all the expected stuff out of your head first so it doesn’t rattle around, and allows the more obscure stuff to be mined.

    Another thing Siimon said was use a dictionary (or any book really). Open a page, randomly take a word and build an appropriate concept around it. I still do this to this day. My favourite projects are naming jobs. A combination of the Macquarie dictionary, Roget’s thesaurus, serendipity and diving head first down rabbit holes from the Google search results page always gets me the right answer, and the confidence I need to quash any doubts that I’m not on the right track.

    Kate Taylor, Business Owner and Creator, Taylor and Cloth


    Kate Taylor

    Just create!

    I find the best way to conquer creative doubt is to just create! I know that not everything I make will be good enough to blog about or sell, but that’s not what it’s about for me anyway. I love making things and using my creative brain. I enjoy actively trying to come up with ideas and then taking the time to nut them out. If the ideas work and I’m happy with the outcome, then great! If not, but I really want the idea to work, I’ll talk to my Mum. She’s an old school maker! She crochets like a demon and we both get seriously excited about craft. So if the idea is good but it’s not working out like I hoped, talking about it with her will always lead to an outcome, either we find a solution, create a better idea or we leave it! In which case I just put it away and try not to stress about it.

    All creative ideas are relevant and more often than not they lead to others. For me its about the ideas that come while you are busy working on something. It can start off as one thing and then you have an idea that takes you in completely different direction and you love that idea so much more than the first.

    To break it down my advice for conquering creative doubt is as follows:

    1. The best way to conquer creative doubt is to just create!
    2. Don’t worry about the outcome, focus on the creative journey and watch one idea turn into more.
    3. Surround yourself with creative people or find a creative person you can bounce ideas off.
    4. Its ok to get feedback (read: personal cheer squad) as long as deep down you are happy with what you have created.
    5. Make creating the goal rather than focusing on the outcome.
    6. Above all, don’t forget to have fun.

    - – -

    Thank you ladies for sharing your own experiences and tips for conquering creative self-doubt.

    Andrea McArthur (www.andyjane.com) has a passion for all things visual and works as an Art Director and Designer for the Brisbane Festival. Design is her true love and she goes weak at the knees over strategic branding. You’ll find her sharing on Instagram @andyjanemc.

    Tags: business, Creative, doubt, my advice, positive, regular
    Posted by: Andrea McArthur
    Categories: my advice, regular columns | Comments Off
    Posted on

    Women in Art: Marina Abramovic

    women-in-art-marina-abramovic_jasmine-mansbridge_creative-womens-circle

    By Jasmine Mansbridge

    One very well documented relationship between two artists is that of the Yugoslavian born Marina Abramovic and the German born Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen). Marina and Ulay’s relationship was both the subject of and the basis of most of the inspiration behind their art making. The couple shared a birthday, the 30th of November and upon meeting felt they had an immediate connection. They later said that destiny had brought them together. Theirs was a relationship which Ulay himself describes as having “a degree of symbiotic equality far from commonplace”.

    Marina Abramovic is a woman with a significant place in the history of modern art. She is often referred to as the “grandmother of performance art”. Her work titled “Rhythm O” (1974) helped earn her a reputation as a fearless performer. A year after this piece was made Marina met Ulay, and she has said of their meeting that, “he was a blessing and in a way he saved me, as those performances would have destroyed my body”. Prior to working with Ulay, Marina’s work had been largely self destructive, involving both pain and danger.

    So the two began performing together, using their bodies as a both a medium and a tool. Marina and Ulay examined the many aspects which make up a domestic relationship, exploring issues like gender, trust, intimacy, ego and artistic identity. They often dressed as twins and their aim was to completely absorb one another. They pushed many boundaries to try and to morph into one “being’ as much as possible. Marina has said that together they were like a “third identity”. They lived solely from a van for five years, in which they travelled across Europe, their Manifesto at that time being: no fixed living place, permanent movement.

    Marina and Ulay made approximately ninety art pieces together. To give you an idea of what these performances actually looked like, here are some of the actions that some of their pieces entailed:

    • with mouth upon mouth, they breathed in and out shared air until they both eventually lost consciousness.
    • running into and colliding repeatedly into each other, (whilst naked).
    • standing naked opposite each other in a doorway, the audience having to walk between them to enter the room.
    • sitting back to back for seventeen hours with their hair intwined.
    • holding a bow and arrow between them, increasing the tension over time, Marina was at the arrow end.

    The above gives you an brief idea of the lengths that Marina and Ulay went to test the limits of their oneness, through the medium of performance. (If you are interested, a search on YouTube reveals video clips of most of the above performance pieces.)

    The intensity with which they conducted their relationship took it’s toll, however, and Marina and Ulay have said that they began to feel the “tightness of their ideologies begin to unravel”. Marina has said that it was almost like the better their performances became, the worse their personal relationship became – that in private, they started to lose their oneness. Their relationship broke down and was eventually no longer monogamous. Finally, after twelve years together, they decided to go their separate ways. They had lived and worked in what can only be described as the most deliberate of relationships. So as a way of celebrating, commemorating and honouring their relationship, they decided to do one last “performance” together. In 1988, they each began walking from opposite ends, the approximately 2,000 miles of the Great Wall of China. Marina starting from the sea and Ulay from the desert. They met in the middle and symbolically separated from that point. Ending an epic partnership. Ulay married a new partner not long after the walk’s conclusion, cutting off any future possibility of an easy reunion.

    Marina talks openly of her struggles after her relationship with Ulay ended. She has said she felt “fat and forty”, and empty after losing both her partner and her work, the two having been intertwined for so long. She said she needed to find her femininity and her place again. Ulay and her had had traditional roles within their relationship, him being responsible for the money, applying for grants etc, while she washed and cooked. Marina says that it took her some time to get her head around financial and business related matters when their relationship ended. She talks of the suffering of that time and how eventually it all had made her stronger.

    This now iconic photograph was taken on the opening night of a retrospective Marina held at MoMa in 2010, titled, “The Artist is present”.

    For three month,s Marina sat at at a table in MoMa, looking across at strangers as they took the time to sit opposite her. This photograph captures Marina’s deeply moving reaction to Ulay when he arrived unexpectedly at her performance. She breaks protocol and reaches out to him across the table between them. This image, taken years after their relationship ended, says much about the strength of the bond they once shared. Marina says of this, “The moment he sat – everyone got very sentimental about it, because they were projecting their own relationships on to us – but it was so incredibly difficult. It was the only time I broke the rules.”

    Although Marina has said that meeting Ulay “was a blessing”, and they achieved much during their time together, in her artist manifesto she states (more than once) that, “an artist should avoid falling in love with another artist”. Marina has based this statement on her own life experience, (she recently divorced an Italian artist). When asked about relationships in a recent interview with the Guardian , this was her answer:

    “No. Of course, I dream to have this perfect man, who does not want to change me. And I’m so not marriage material, it’s terrible. But my dream is to have those Sunday mornings, where you’re eating breakfast and reading newspapers with somebody. I’m so old fashioned in real life, and I’m so not old fashioned in art. But I believe in true love, so perhaps it will happen. Right now, no, I have no space. But life has been good to me. Lots of pain. But it’s OK.”

    Marina Abramovic is an all-round fascinating person and the more I have learnt about her, the more curious I have become. Her work has a timeless quality as it deals with many things – the unchanging aspects of human consciousness and the relationship between body and mind being recurring themes. After almost forty years she continues to make relevant, groundbreaking, thought-provoking works. I must say I feel encouraged by her long term dedication to her art. Some days, when I feel like I am not progressing in my own work at the pace I would like, an artist like Marina reminds me of the fact that I have plenty of years yet to make my best art.

    In 2014, there was a documentary made on Marina’s life and work so far. As I said when I started writing this post, the subject which is Marina Abramovic is a well documented one and there truly is a plethora of information out there if you want to know more about her.

    Australian readers might be interested to know that Kaldor Public Arts and MONA (David Walsh), are bringing Marina to our shores. She is performing in Sydney and at MONA in Tasmania in June/July this year. No doubt this will be a unique, possibly once in a lifetime opportunity to see the artist in action.

    I do hope you have found something to ponder on in this article. I think Marina and Ulay were very brave to use their relationship in such a way and I am not surprised that eventually they went their separate ways. For me my relationship is kind of like my ticket in and out of normality, almost like the hinge I hang off. I can’t imagine the intensity of being in a relationship that is both the subject of and the canvas of my creativity.

    I am, as always, very interested to hear your thoughts on all things art and relationships and what works and what doesn’t.

    ————-

    Jasmine Mansbridge is a painter and mum to five kids. She regularly blogs about the intersection of creative work and family life at www.jasminemansbridge.com, and you can also find her on Instagram @jasminemansbridge.

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: women in art | Comments Off