Even though I have a list of blog topics, this one came to me today while driving, and I’ve found that this type of inspiration is often the best. And, really, haven’t we noticed that even though we might plan to use particular colors or a certain model or unusual ingredients, the muse will waft a unique thought or image before us, and if we’re listening, and choose to follow along, it comes out as one of our better pieces? Or maybe that’s just my experience.
A fellow teacher was in a transition classroom last week (where the Special Ed. students are ages 18-22, but are receiving job skills and community experience) and the kids were celebrating Halloween. They had made a vegetable stew in a pumpkin. I began to think of holidays and what those of us in the U.S. traditionally use to decorate our homes and stores to celebrate the accepted meaning of the holiday. And just like using a pumpkin for the vessel in which the stew was cooked, why not use these holiday objects in ways that elicit or expand our creativity?
New Year’s Eve might bring a painter to use black silk, like that of a top hat, instead of a traditional white canvas. How would the colors change in the threads of the silk versus the traditional stretched material? What about using the circles of: the top and bottom of a champaign bottle, champaign glass, the cork, the partial circle of a glittery tiara that reads ‘2011’, and both ends of a noise maker, dipped in paint or water color, and then pressed onto canvas, material, wood? Write a poem about the bubbles in the glass of a celebratory toast, resolutions (made or broken), or a short story about the perfect murder in Time’s Square at midnight. Compose a song about dreams and hopes for the new year. Photograph the kiss, the confetti, the wacky glasses, and the crowd at a party, and then rearrange them into a collage. Plan to create a new recipe for each of the holidays in 2011, deciding to use a food piece as the cooking recepticle.
Keeping to the G-rated side of Valentine’s Day, explore love, and its opposite. Use candy hearts and chocolate to decorate cards or posters or compose a poem with the colorful, sweet confections. Would it have the same meaning if it was written backwards? Because the object of love is different for everyone, sculpt or carve your idea of this powerful emotion. Is it a puppy, a child, world peace, or truth that you love? Create it out of a huge chunk of chocolate, and then give it away. Isn’t that when love is the best? And if you’re feelings towards this day are less than joyous, then turn political and focus on Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays. What would this country be like if they had not been around, or if they decided that their ideas were not worth supporting? A song or story could clearly express your ideas, as would various pictures throughout times in the world’s history that would be considered unsavory by some and hideous by others. Perhaps that would give you inspiration to paint or write or compose how the difference in one founding political figure could have changed the course of history, for the U.S. and the world.
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is ‘a little bit Irish’ on St. Patrick’s Day. But go with the green and the pot of gold and the little man who loves to play tricks and keep his wealth for himself. Have you ever used a potato as a medium to carve? I have. What about using it as a stamp? I’ve that done that, too, and created some unique stationary. Learn to dance an Irish jig, put your own twist on Shepard’s Pie, or chronicle the events of an Irish immigrant landing on Ellis Island.
The last time I colored eggs for Easter, I boiled vegetables in water to withdraw their color, and I used that for the dye. If I got the colors too dark, then yes, the egg tasted like cabbage (the red kind) or onion (I used both yellow and red). Why not use these ‘natural’ dyes for painting? Or, I wonder if they would tie-dye a shirt? Write a poem discussing the truth of which came first, the chicken or the egg, a conversation between two chocolate bunnies, or make a shortbread house (instead of a gingerbread house) and use Easter candy for decorations. Not into bunnies and chicks? Try slightly melting some of the Peeps in the microwave slightly, then stretch them into shapes. Stick them on poster board or canvas. Feeling gruesome? Add some red food coloring. It may explain why ‘toothpick’ fangs have sprouted from the Peeps bunny and tiny rivulets of red are coming from the chicks’ necks. Just a thought (Halloween was only yesterday!).
Make your way through the calendar. Tackle a holiday, a national and commercial one, or a personal or religious or political one. Nearly every day is a ‘national’ day of something. Investigate on the Internet, then make a trip to the store. You don’t have to have a plan. Pick up a few things, bring them home to your kitchen or your studio or outside in the backyard. What moves you? What does the holiday represent? How can you use the ‘ingredients’ laid out before you in a way to express what the muse is asking for? If you’re unsure of what will be created, and really, I hope you don’t plan every aspect of every project with the ego-mind leading the way, then play with something that isn’t your usual medium. I’ve suggested this before as a way to break out of a rut or to investigate a new path. Perhaps this is a way to not judge your results so harshly. If you normally write, perhaps take some frosting and a bunch of candy, a little chocolate syrup, and see what comes about. If it doesn’t look ‘pretty’, it will probably taste good!
I think that oftentimes, as artists, we put pressure on ourselves to create magnificently every time. In actuality, we do, but the ego doesn’t always see it that way. If our muse is untried or not trusted and this is all new to you, then play. I believe that is all creativity, and life, is, anyway. Try closing your eyes and reaching out to your pile of materials. What do you make contact with first? What could you do with it? No one is looking over your shoulder (and if they are, kindly tell them to go away because you are creating something fun and perhaps you’ll share it with them later). Let yourself relax. Get your fingers gooey, stain your apron. Have a disposable camera or a pad of paper nearby so that you can document your creation as you let yourself be filled with the joy that comes from abandoning the strict confines we often put on ourselves to fit in or to make money in a ‘traditional’ manner. Let go of any attempt to control the outcome. Just breathe, feel the materials in your hands, let them saturate your senses, and let your muse direct your art.
Our next national holiday is Veteran’s Day. So many ways to think about why the U.S. celebrates those who have fought for their country. I might write a poem, or a short story. I like to take different perspectives, so maybe one of someone buried in Arlington, or a bullet as it travels from a gun, or a flag as it waves over a building, or a battle field. Then for Thanksgiving, what I’ve heard referred to as ‘Native American and Pilgrim Appreciation Day’, I might pick up a chunk of organic tofu (I’m a vegetarian) and see about molding it into the shape of a tiny turkey. Perhaps if I’m really good, I can carve out the center and stuff it with some bread crumbs (never stopped to analyze the irony of that: crumbs inside a bird). But until I get creative with the next holiday, you can see what I’ve already done by visiting my web site www.myjoyenterprises.com I’m also on Facebook, and I do Tweet occasionally. If you have a suggestion for a holiday-related project, leave a comment below. P.S. One last idea: take a small branch from a Christmas tree, dip it in paint, and use it as a brush. Will you create only landscape scenes? Does it lend itself to something with straight lines, like a house? What about people? Try it out, and let me know.