Friday, March 17, 2017

Selvage design for Cheryl (Creativity Rant)

The bold border on these stamps was a logical way to add a design element. I think Cheryl is a more traditional style calligrapher so I enclosed a  note with some more traditional penmanship. While I like to address envelopes with nibs and ink, I was having a string of bad luck - so decided to go with my trusty PITT brush markers.

A Morning Rant

OK, someone left this comment on an old post:
What kills me is that I see other peoples' work on envelopes and think, "why couldn't I come up with that?" And i certainly don't want to copy anyone. I feel like the creative gene skipped a generation.

The comments come to my email and I have to OK them before they post and sometimes, the commenter does not have a name - so I do not know who said this. Comments that appear on old posts probably don't get read very often as I doubt any of the regular readers go back to look for comments. This particular comment is one that I keep hearing or reading over and over. I feel as though I need to make a point of reminding readers that those of us who SEEM to come up with good ideas are almost always recycling ideas that we have seen. 

There are endless books and articles about how the creative process starts with your eyeballs. Everything you see has a chance of being stored. Later, when you start to make something, those things that you have seen start coming out. You may re-run something consciously -or- ideas might filter through without you even knowing. So please don't DON'T don't say anything like "I feel like the creative gene skipped a generation." I just watched the PBS program on Carole King and there was a ton of talk about how much musicians are influenced by the things they hear. After a few years of work that is influenced by earlier music, they start to find their own style. That is just the most recent example I've seen - but it's the basis of pretty much every story about someone who grew their love of something into a creative career.

People who think they have to create something completely original from the very beginning are setting up an impenetrable brick wall. You have to start with copying ideas and merging ideas to figure out where your natural talents are centered.

Yes - there is the occasional genius who is just born with all kinds of original material. But that is the exception. Most of us have to copy the stuff we love and explore everything that catches our eye - and eventually we find some ideas popping up that are original. 

I hope I have some readers who will chime in and agree with me. If someone (or everyone) wants to voice the opposite view - go ahead and do that. Maybe I am completely off my rocker.  

As always, I recommend the book Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.
And of course, when you are copying ideas, you do not take credit for them.
And you do not turn around and sell things that are exact copies.
If you want to tap into your creativity that you think you don't have - a good way to start is by copying the things that you love the most. So - go forth and copy.

There is always one-more-thing to add to this rant. Everyone has seen a picture of an artist with a canvas in a museum and they are making a reduced size replica of a masterpiece. It is a completely valid and respected method for learning. So if they are doing it at the Louvre, it's just fine for us to do it on envelopes. So there.


  1. I like what Chuck Close said. " Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work." Also Corita Kent's rule 6: "Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make." And don't forget Miss Cathy's rule, "Have some fun!"

  2. this is jean commenting on a borrowed computer
    i can't get into my accounts to post the comments that have been left
    sorry about that
    if i do not figure it out, i will just post a comment post when i get home in a couple weeks.
    and -no- i am not on a vacation. i am enduring a 3 year old who says things like, "Nanna, that paper doesn't go in that garbage. You should know better than that."

    1. well - i guess i am signed on....
      who knew

  3. I agree with you 100%. It would be so overwhelming to think that I had to have only original ideas, that I wouldn't do anything. I know that I have been influenced by the teachers that have taught classes ~ (my Timehop on my phone reminded me that 5 years ago, I spent the weekend taking a workshop taught by . . . . Jean Wilson!) ~ YouTube videos ~ Pintrest ~ etc. You may start out copying something and then you make little variations and before you know it, you're making something that is similar, but more of your own design.

  4. There's nothing new under the sun. Those cave artists were the first graphic designers and they probably got their ideas from nature. And so it goes.

    Our drawing instructor took field trips to the art museum, armed with pencils and a sketch pad.

    We tend to copy nature more than anything, seeing as how it's pretty much what we try to imitate--perfection. I look at the "calligraphy" on our grape vines and am so impressed I try to repeat what I see with pencil and pen. If I saw a van Gough woman walking around I'd freak out though. Dali would make me believe I'd fallen into The Twilight Zone.

    Very good advice you've given. Now drop the rant mike. Your job is done.

  5. Dang! I came to get your e-mail address because I want to ask you something. :)

  6. In response to your Rant on creativity.... I agree with you and in fact don't believe that there are folks who just have some magic gene that makes them come up with completely new ideas.... I think we are all influence by things we see and hear and that saying NOTHING IS NEW UNDER THE SUN... I think that is totally true....I just think that some of these so called original ideas are just us not remembering who or how we came up with it... I DO ALSO BELIEVE totally that if you know what pushed you in a certain direction YOU SHOULD GIVE THAT PERSON THE CREDIT FOR BEING YOUR MUSE...

  7. I believe there is nothing NEW UNDER THE SUN ....we just aren't aware maybe of where we influenced or by who ...BUT I ALSO BELEIVE THAT IF YOU KNOW YOU SHOULD GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE...

  8. Here's the other thing - no matter how much you may (incorrectly) think you don't have talent, the recipient will be impressed when they receive something fun or different or colorful in the mail that is not a bill or an advertisement - you will make their day!