Contemporary painter, Kerry James Marshall (born October 17, 1955) paints the dignity and beauty of black culture and the pursuit of the American dream.
There is something mystical about art that draws us to it as both artists and patrons. Find out how art plucks the strings of our souls and connects us with all of the universe. Get inspired to be your most creative self today!
So many well meaning people will try to kill your dreams. Don't let self-doubt and critics keep you from fulfilling your life's purpose. The Impressionists persevered despite their critics and created some of the most beautiful paintings in the world. Here's how you do it!
Never let someone else define your imagination no matter how well meaning they are! We all have experienced someone trying to tell us how we should live or what we should believe in. There are lots of reasons for this. Maybe they think they know better than you, or maybe they don't want you to make the same mistakes they did. On the other hand, maybe their dreams have not come true and therefor they cannot believe in yours. People who are negative and do not support your imagination are not necessarily smarter; perhaps they are simply followers and want you to be one as well. The problem is, that no matter how well meaning, these critics do not have the right to live your life, and if you are not careful, they can kill your dreams. Lead the way and remove negative people from your life!
The Buddha once said, "There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills." That's pretty strong language from the Buddha. When you are trying pursue a dream or work with your imagination, you must do so with confidence and support. There is a difference between people giving you advice in support of your dream and people attempting to deny your dream. You must guard against the latter.
Artists have always had to face critics. The Impressionist painters that we so love today and celebrate in our museums, were once ridiculed by the public. The French government was actively opposed to their new type of painting, and they were denied entry into the important Salon exhibitions that were necessary for an artist to make a living. Yet, they banded together, taking courage from one another and pursued their dreams anyway. Imagine if they had listened to their critics and given up. Monet would have been a grocer like his father and the world would never have known the beauty of his water lilies. Can you imagine a world without Degas' ballerinas or Renoir's portraits?
Remember, you are what you imagine yourself to be, and everything we have now was once only imagined. No one can dream your dream for you. It is yours alone and you have the right to pursue it. Turn your critics off, including your inner critic, which can be the worst kind. I firmly believe that we are all on this planet with our own gifts and our own purpose. Sometimes you just have to believe in yourself and go for it! Be like the impressionists and paint the world with your own colors.
I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes
I tell you yesterday is a wind gone down,
a sun dropped in the west.
I tell you there is nothing in the world
only an ocean of tomorrows,
a sky of tomorrows.
From Carl sandburg’s poem “Prairie.”
I entered graduate school at the University of Delaware in the fall of 1996. I had packed up, left Arizona, and headed to graduate school for an MFA degree in painting and I was stoked. The UD has an amazing campus and the art department is located right in the heart of the old section of the school. Stately red brick buildings stand in the middle of a grassy and tree lined park, and the graduate students have beautiful studios overlooking the whole area. One cannot find a more inspiring or romantic place to make paintings.
The beginning days were amazing. At the time, there were three full time painting instructors and only eight painting MFA candidates. The instructors were friendly and highly skilled painters, who I immediately felt a connection with. I can remember moving into my studio on the second floor and enthusiastically laying out my brushes and canvas, finding furniture, and getting ready to paint. I was thankful for it all. I had worked hard to get there, and I knew that being able to paint for two years under the guidance of professionals, was a gift not to be squandered. I quickly got to work.
For about two weeks, the graduate students worked feverishly on our paintings. We mixed our colors and gessoed canvas. We scraped color on with palette knives and blended hard edges into soft edges. Then, we stood back and stared at our work for long moments before pouncing back into action. The smell of linseed oil and turpentine permeated the building and our walls were soon filled with drawings and paintings. It was a frenzy of excitement and everything that I thought graduate school would be; right up until we had our first critique.
We began the critique by gathering in one of the classroom studios and putting our work up on the walls. The instructors were there and we began to discuss. It quickly became apparent that the students were trying hard to prove how much they knew about art as well as to show off their art-speak words. The art-speak was laid on thick, and it made my head swim. What's more, I could tell that I was behind. Most of the artists the students referred to were completely unknown to me. I had no idea who Julian Schnabel was at the time, not to mention whether I was pro Schnabel or anti-Schnabel. I didn't know whether I was trying to be campy or postmodern, or whatever.
More striking was the way the students tried to one-up each other. They demanded that you answer for your work and know every reason why you had chosen to paint something. If you painted a tree, it had to stand for something. This is called, being responsible for your images. The idea being that in an image saturated world, the image makers need to assume responsibility for creating profound images that move the culture forward, rather than just creating more visual noise. This is an idea, by the way, that I totally agree with. The difficulty comes in the implementation.
As I sat through more and more critiques, I gradually shut down. It was just too much pressure to create an image that was totally unique and that I understood on a deep level and could discuss. Images are not books after all, they are images. They call to us in unexpected ways and draw us to them. One cannot necessarily dissect a painting in a way that is really truthful. Sometimes the painting has to be enough. I got to the point where I sat in my studio thinking of all the criticism my work would soon receive and how I would defend it. My art-speak improved greatly and I learned to spin a pretty story, but I felt my work was no longer my own. I was just trying to make something that was approved and defensible.
Here I should stop and assure you, my reader, that the professors at the University of Delaware were much more forgiving than my fellow graduate students and really just wanted to encourage painting. In hindsight, I wish I had more conversations with them and less with my fellow students.
Unfortunately, I put myself under so much pressure that I ended up in the school's infirmary. I had developed irritable bowel syndrome and became extremely week with it. In hindsight it seems foolish to have put myself under that much pressure just for an MFA, but there you have it. I lay in bed for four days until I finally managed to get my energy back and resume my studies. It was only then that I was able to put it all into some perspective.
For my final project and thesis show, I painted over two hundred paintings on small seven inch panels. I began to lay the panels out five or six at a time on a table in my studio. Then, I allowed myself to just paint. Whatever I wanted, whatever came to mind, I just painted. My only condition, was that it be entirely abstract. After I had about twenty paintings or so, I would group them into a grid shape with about an inch between each panel. In this way, the paintings were simultaneously one large painting and several smaller ones. They were striking.
But what had changed? While in the infirmary I had come to a realization. This realization carries with me today and continues to shape my work and painting philosophy. You see, I realized that creativity does not come solely from the mind, but also from the body. The mind only gives you a place to start; maybe a color, or a shape, a basic image, etc. However, it is the action of the body that really moves creativity forward. You must simply begin and allow yourself the space and freedom to create. Only then will your creativity really explode.
Imagine trying to write a book with everything that happens all planned out beforehand. I would hazard a guess that the book would be terrible, bland, flat. An author begins with an outline and an idea, but then just writes and sees what the characters will do. In other words, you have to type on the keys to write a book. The same must be done in painting. The artist begins, and as soon as one stroke is placed on the canvas, it informs the artist of what the next stroke must be. The eye must always be thinking, but sometimes the brain needs to be shut off to allow the creative project to move forward. You can't worry about justifying your creativity or your creativity will be shut off, just as mine was.
For my MFA show, I gave myself the freedom to just create. I didn't stop to explain it to anyone, I just worked. It was very freeing and lead to a great series of paintings. Creativity can't always be explained. It isn't meant to be logical. It is by its very nature, illogical, emotional, and unpredictable. If you are a creative individual, guard against too much logic. Let your eye or your ear be your guide far more than your brain. Allow yourself the space to just create and see where it all leads. Later, much later, you can try to sort it out and see what it signifies to you. And if you are an MFA student now, just make art. Lots of it. As much as you can. Don't worry about style or what is popular. Don't try to keep up with the zeitgeist, it is already passing you. Just make tons of art and to hell with your critical fellow students. They don't know. Make art. Make art. Make art.
Here is a little boost for you today. You were born with potential! But don't take my word for it, read what Rumi, who is regarded as one of the great spiritual intellects of the 13th century, has to say. I love his beautiful writing.
You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideals and dreams.
You were born with greatness.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.
You have wings.
Learn to use them and fly.
Rumi, (30 September 1207 – 17 December 1273) was a 13th-century Persian Muslim poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic.
Elizabeth Murray (1940-2007) was an amazing artist, whose cartoon styled abstractions changed the face of Modernism while challenging the male dominated art world regime. In the 1970's and 80's, she developed her own cartoon language of images and was often referred to as a neoexpressionist. As for me, I always loved her daring, bright colors along with the way she broke from the traditional rectangular shape of paintings. She cut up and assembled zany and wild abstract pieces that popped out from the wall. They recall such things as the street art of the 80's, Looney Toons, and abstract expressionism. I can remember being in art school and mimicking her style, we all did. She was such an inspiration. Pretty cool stuff!
Author: Bruce Black
Welcome to Life Reimagined! I am a professional artist and long time art teacher, Over twenty-two years teaching and still going! I have painted all my life and love to inspire others to reach their creative potential. I hope this blog brings you inspiration!