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Thoughts on creativity: Artists talk about..

On being a creative child...

I liked to make watercolor cards for people when I was a kid but I didn't realize I was creative until I was an adult. As a kid it was just fun. Reading books enhanced my imagination. Art was another fun thing to do. -- Cathy Card, Watercolor, pencil, computer art,, www.
I can't remember a time when I didn't draw. My father paints and draws, so I guess I naturally fell into it because of him. We used to draw a lot together, and he would show me paintings by famous artists in books. When I was a kid, I liked to make my own coloring and picture books, paint with watercolors, make paper dolls, doll clothes, comic books, and newsletters. Anything involving tape, crayons, and paper would result in some kind of "art."-- Rachel Cabaniss, painter (acrylics/ collage/ mixed media portraits on wood)
I was a very dreamy sort of kid who seemed to have trouble fitting in. I was a very early reader and I just couldn't get enough... oh, the stories! I ended up with a mostly nontraditional education, most likely because they couldn't really find the right 'box' to put me in. Although I was kind of sheltered, it was good for me... lots of self-learning, and projects, and space to doodle and write stories and be creative. In spite of all of that, I wasn't "meant to be" an artist. I was to be a scientist, like my aunt. It wasn't until I was in college and a guidance counselor asked me why I was trying to make my life hard instead of doing the things that I excelled at. What a concept!! Art had always seemed kind of easy and like play, not something that you do to make money or as a career. I remember one rainy afternoon my sister & I made a whole zoo (giraffes, monkeys, elephants, even a zoo gate and walkway!) out of playdoh on the kitchen table (we actually ran out of room!). My family is very creative and growing up immersed in art (one grandmother was a writer, the other fiber arts, my sister, painting, my mom, assorted stuff), I just thought everyone was like that. It wasn't until I got older than I realized that my family was kind of unique in that way. -- Robin Fay, painter, photographer, graphic designer,
I've been drawing pictures and writing stories since I was a child. In fact, before I could write, I dictated lengthy stories to my dad who dutifully recorded them. I also started sewing at a young age. My family is an artistic one, and creativity was just another characteristic in my life, as natural as breathing, and I never even thought about it all I knew is that I'd rather be drawing or writing than do anything else....I enjoyed both writing stories and telling them with melodramatic embellishments to the neighborhood kids (this will sound dorky, but I have clear memories of being specifically asked by my friends to tell them stories, and then we'd go into their parents large, walk-in closets and I'd scare the hell out of them with ghost stories and such). I was also always, always drawing pictures. -- Mary Jessica Hammes, Paper & Ink (comics); Fiber (quilting, knitting, wing); Performance (trapeze and aerial fabrics); Words (fiction),
HIGH SCHOOL [on when he knew he was creative].No art, skateboarding, exploring the woods and fields around my house. -- Frank Hamrick, Photographer,
When I was in the fourth grade and won third place in a state poetry writing contest. The subject was litterbugs. Here's my poem. Litterbugs are everywhere, cities, streets and at fairs. They always have to make a mess and make us pick up all the rest. So let's all fight and do our best and get rid of these old pests....The Litterbugs! Twelve years later, as a second lieutenant in the Air Force I won a prize for a black and white photograph I took of the waterwheel at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Truthfully, I'm not sure if I am creative or not. Not a lot of art at all. (on whether he created art as a child). In kindergarten I got an "F" in music. My mom raised the roof with the nun asking if I were trying or if I were disruptive. The nun told her I was trying and never disruptive. My mom said, "Sister, so you are failing him for not having a God given gift." My grade was changed to a "B." My art was thus thwarted.-- Bob Hart,, creator of 9-11 Garden, currently working in 3d
Haven't ever felt creative. [on when he knew he was creative] [I] rode my bike, swang on swings, played with dogs. Didn't create art. -- Will Langford, clay (wheel made, stoneware functional pottery)
....I do remember is that I was much more attentive to classes that permitted creative exploration, namely my (visual) art and music classes. As a child, I created art in constructive and destructive ways. I would draw pictures on appropriate media (paper, cardboard, &c.) in class, but I also got in trouble for drawing on things (desks, walls, lockers). However, as a child, and particularly in my teens, I was encouraged to participate in sports. Athletic teams were encouraged, and music was OK; visual arts, however, were not encouraged in the same way. I tried to seek out my own creative pursuits in my later teens; this continued throughout college, art school, and grad school, where I sought out work that was created outside of gallery-oriented or academic environments.-- Mandy Mastrovita, graphic design, writing, mixed media,
When I was in 2nd grade (I knew that I was creative). A teacher had us turn over our math test when we were finished. I got bored and drew a picture of a Hula girl on it. The math teacher was so impressed she took it around to all the teachers at the break to show it to them. I just kind of always could see things visually, in my minds eye and draw them, but she pointed out the talent of that. I always was drawing sketches of everything; tried to design clothes on paper. I made up games, made scripts for radio commentary, cut out pages from jcpenny catalogs to design paper doll houses. I loved art class so much that I saved all of my elective classes for my senior year in high school so I basically lived in art class that year. -- Jennifer L. Matias, painter(Acrylic, oil, interior design)
In elementary school, I got in trouble all of the time. I was always doodling. I would have a math paper, and a waterspot would get on it or something, and I would just go wild with it because it looked like something. I would draw on the math paper and my teacher was not at all happy about it. I remember having projects where... one project was sort of a collage project and I got the idea that real hair would be great on this little figure that I had done. So, this girl had pigtails and she said sure you can have some of my hair. SO, I cut some of her pigtails off, the end of it, which her mother was furious about. The teacher took me to the principal and all that. Hair was everywhere! So I kind of knew, even though I wasn't always encouraged by my classroom teachers. It was just so much a part of me. It never had a start. I just always saw things not in a logical sequential way... -- Mary Padegelek.
Hmm. I guess it was emphasized when I was growing up. Admittedly, I still feel like it's a bit of a stretch calling myself creative. No visual art; I was really into creative writing.-- K.R., collage/mixed media/assemblage
I can remember writing and illustrating my own little "books" as early as age six or seven. These were usually about a family of anthropomorphic schnauzers -- namely, my own pet dog and the litter that she came from. I didn't realize that I really wanted to Do Something with my artistic impulses until I had an eighth-grade English teacher who pretty much badgered me into admitting that I was a Writer with a capital W.... I also used to draw and color lavish costumes on teddy bears that my mom traced for me. -- Jasmine Odessa Rizer, writer, pen & ink,
I felt like I was creative all of the time. I colored and drew and played in the sand and I did lots of things. I also think I was very independent. So, I must have been in some kind of place in my mind, that was another world. What I can say about my childhood and creativity is that my family was not creative at all. I had a great aunt, who painted flowers on tiles and that's where I got my art ability, is what everybody told me.... So, it was pretty amazing... So I'm in this world where I lived.. lived in another dimension or something...but a teacher in gradeschool...told my mother that I had artistic ability. SO, I bless that person, because after that my parents paid a little bit of attention to it. They did send me to the local museum on saturdays and I took art classes. And I can remember being so happy in that place. -- Rene Shoemaker, Fabric Arts,
I do not remember when I was not creative. My grandmother Mamie was a librarian. She worked at the Lauren Rogers Museum Library in Laurel Miss. How I adored visiting her at work. Mind you, we didn't get to Mississippi very often when I was a child, maybe once or twice a year. Mamie, yes that is what her grandchildren, children, family and friends called her, she was Mary Frances to anyone else. Lived in a grand old house that her father built on Sixth Avenue. The Museum Library was a block down and a block over from her home. No sooner had my father pulled into her pebble drive way than we sisters would be off and running, no racing, to the Museum to see Mamie and the collections.A daunting suit of armour guarded the entrance to the Museum from the library. I have to admit I was scared of it. Too much Scooby Doo I guess. Any way first there was this incredible old dusty basket collection in glass cases. I always was delighted to see the worlds smallest basket in a tiny glass bottle with a cork stopper. Then next came the art galleries. The galleries. The exhibit was different, of course, on each visit but you could almost count on the Sargent to be displayed at the far end of a long gallery. Just now I do not recall who is in that painting, only that is huge and I was always impressed to see her. She is a fine lady standing there in her gown and pearls. I do recall that I couldn't look at unless I was standing way back from it. The other paintings I would have loved to crawled into, not the images but the brush strokes. I would get as close to them as I could studying each stroke of color and how they came together to represent a face or a mountain or a piece of fruit. It takes my breath just now to think of it. -- Sarah Margaret Stubbs, painter (oils),
I remember hating art class in school. We did lots of drawing and I wasn't very good at it. (My older brother loved to draw, so we decided he was the artist in the family.) My mother taught me to sew early on and I made lots of my own clothes. But that wasn't considered creative; that was practical (back when it was cheaper to sew than buy ready-made). -- Marty Tanner Hughes, Fabric arts, quilter.

On creativity...

My creativity allows me to be spontaneous and humorous. It keeps my outlook positive and allows me to interact with others in a comforable way.That's hard! I tend to like to work in different mediums; clay, silver point (uses silver or gold wire to draw on clay coated paper), and whatever else comes up besides my core mediums. I think variety is good for me. I think I am expressive and my artwork tends to be more traditional than modern -- Cathy Card, Watercolor, pencil, computer art,, www.
Yes, I am definitely curious about life. I believe that if you lose your curiousity, you pretty much lose your soul. That's where creativity comes from, in my opinion. Always hanging onto your curiousity about the world, and being open to new things. Imagine yourself as a child, or a visitor from an alien planet...look at the world as if you've never seen it before. Basically, I believe that if you are a creative person (and most people are in some form or fashion), you have a need to sort through all the junk in your mind and create something beautiful/cool/scary/sad, be it a song, painting, short story, etc. Creating is work, very useful work that benefits you and fosters a spirit of community. Creativity is one of the things that ties us to ourselves and to others. It keeps us connected, and, if used in a positive way, gives a deeper meaning to on -- Rachel Cabaniss, painter (acrylics/ collage/ mixed media portraits on wood)
Wow. Being creative.... Well, sometimes it's a mixed blessing. I had one day job where everyone was very conservative. I noticed that everyone was wearing sandals so I thought I could. Well,I got in trouble, for being 'too creative'!!! I've also heard people say about me, 'well, you know artists...' It is all in the perception... I find the 'art scene' and business part very hard to deal with. For a long time, I wanted to be an anonymous artist (actually I have a sign in my art studio that says exactly that...) in that I wanted to be judged on the quality of my work and not my personality, name, social/art connections (or lack of any of those), etc. So, while being creative is good, the US societal 'assigned' roles and stereotypes/views of artists can be hard. Creativity gives me strength in that I am very independent and I can think about things in a different way, which sometimes gives me an edge with problemsolving. On a personal level, I treasure the moments when I really feel creative and in touch with the world. Walking outside and noticing the light shining in a particular way, the warmth of the sun on my face... it's amazing and feels like magic. -- Robin Fay, painter, photographer, graphic designer, online journaler
Creativity on a personal level is mostly a selfish, hedonistic pursuit meant to fortify my own life and make it more enjoyable to live. Sometimes, I will learn something about myself, but thatís more of a side product rather than goal. In the larger social context, being creative produces art that connects with otherpeople emotionally and intellectually, which is a lot more important than Iíve perhaps made it sound. My artwork is highly personal, but not necessarily serious. In fact, I think that even when I deal with serious themes, it is more often than not with a very light-hearted, humorous application. -- Mary Jessica Hammes, Paper & Ink (comics); Fiber (quilting, knitting, wing); Performance (trapeze and aerial fabrics); Words (fiction),
It means to be a communicator. -- Frank Hamrick, Photographer,
A willingness to "do" and not worry too much what other folks think about it.-- Bob Hart,, creator of 9-11 Garden, currently working in 3d
I don't know [on what it means to be creative]. I mimic visual and tactile experiences from other work, my own and others'. Of course it comes out differently because of firing circumstances. I'm not an artist, I'm a craftsperson and make things for people to use.-- Will Langford, clay (wheel made, stoneware functional pottery)
I don't know if I am as curious about life as I am interested in exploring what I find pleasurable or interesting about it. I enjoy reading books by people who have lived deeply and independently. I enjoy looking at work that expresses universalities as well as independent perspectives. I enjoy watching documentaries that encompass individual histories within the scope of larger historical movements. I enjoy the cuisine and artifacts of other cultures and subcultures, and I enjoy traveling, provided that I can do so within my comfort level. Personally, I have found creativity to be a mixed blessing, mostly because I have had to spend so much more time within institutions that reward conformity far more than creativity or the expression of individuality. This is not to say that I wish that I weren't creative. I just wish that our culture rewarded creativity (and individuality) more than it does. In a larger social context, I think that it is important to encourage individuality and creativity within our educational institutions--especially amongst teenagers. It seems that while creativity is encouraged in early education, it is progressively discouraged as students grow older--after a certain grade level, creativity is seen as "playtime," and is anti-intellectualized--at least I have found this to be the case with visual art. This isn't to say that there aren't supportive subcultures where artists can find support, they just tend to be ghettoized and under-funded if they don't directly serve mainstream corporate culture. So, pursuing creative goals becomes more difficult as we grow older, and seeking validation is a greater challenge. -- Mandy Mastrovita, graphic design, writing, mixed media,
Being able to see things with an artist eye. Having a talent for something creative that you can not learn in a book. Just raw talent, I just love it when some one says "you are so talented I wish I could do that"... I like to make everything as beautiful as its greatest potential. That includes houses, murals, people, communities, etc. -- Jennifer L. Matias, painter(Acrylic, oil, interior design)
Personally, [creativity] means I've got an edge whenever the need to write essays (for school applications and so forth) crops up. It means I've got a lot of inner resources to draw on when I'm bored. I'm not sure about the larger social context, except to say that I don't really think it's okay for me to be nasty to people and blame it on an "artistic temperament." Actually, none of thecreative people I know seem to think that. I don't know how the myth of the artistic temperament got started. -- Jasmine Odessa Rizer, writer, pen & ink,
I'm not sure what creative means. I guess I would say it implies a certain lack of complacency, and some critical thinking skills. In a larger social context, those things are definitely tools for potential social action. -- K.R., collage/mixed media/assemblage
TO be creative is to not be held captive by societal mores. You have to be able to think outside the box, to dream, to imagine "what if?" Many times I have heard an observer of art comment, "Oh, I could have done that." I ask them, "Yes, but would you have had the idea to do that?" Could you have thought of it, dreamed it? -- Sarah Margaret Stubbs, painter (oils),
I think everyone is creative in one way or another. In the quilting world, there's a debate over whether you're creating art or a craft. But both categories require creativity. Even activities we don't necessarily consider "making art" can be creative outlets. -- Marty Tanner Hughes, Fabric arts, quilter.

On where the ideas come from: inspiration & insight

I can brainstorm ideas, but my best ideas come when my subconcious is at work, and the idea "suddenly pops up". But really my brain was working on it the whole time. -- Cathy Card, Watercolor, pencil, computer art,, www.
I am inspired by the past, particularly the 1920's-1950's. Folk art also inspires me, and I've gotten many ideas from old advertisements and old album covers.-- Rachel Cabaniss, painter (acrylics/ collage/ mixed media portraits on wood)
My inspirations are drawn from everyday life. Whether a lyric from a song, a conversation with a friend, or a good book, a creative catalyst can materialize anywhere. The purpose of all of my work: audio. literary, and visual, is to spark a dialogue. I try to give the viewing public not only what is in my head, but what is in my soul. And a voice to a people that might otherwise have none...My artistic interests center around social issues. -- Drek Davis, multiple media artist(mixed media, digital, writing)
Much of my work is autobiographical; Iíve kept a diary since third grade, and that comes naturally to me. -- Mary Jessica Hammes, Paper & Ink (comics); Fiber (quilting, knitting, wing); Performance (trapeze and aerial fabrics); Words (fiction),
Reacting to what I saw happening around me. -- Frank Hamrick, Photographer,
My ideas come from everything I see. My style comes from other art that I see.-- Bob Hart,, creator of 9-11 Garden, currently working in 3d
Looking at other pots. -- Will Langford, clay (wheel made, stoneware functional pottery)
I am usually influenced by other artists; particularly artists who have managed to preserved their independence, creative integrity, and identity. I am interested in the work of artists who developed their skills by working in professional trades that require applied craftsmanship and skills (comic book artists, illustrators, craftsmen), self-taught artists, folk artists, and the work of children. I appreciate work that is honest, spontaneous, and unpretentious, and strive to create work that is representative of those qualities. -- Mandy Mastrovita, graphic design, writing, mixed media,
I try to see the mystery within the ordinary... I realize that may sound kind of hokey, but I don't mean it that way. To be open to experience and see (not LOOK but actually SEE) the world in all of its parts -- the lines, the colors, the flow, the form. It's not so much about the ocean as it is the curve of a particular wave, the dance of light, the colors... I try to take a few minutes each day to center myself so that I have a real moment of listening and seeing the world. It is an amazing place. I am so entranced with the concept of kinetic movement... that something can be moving while still or that every little part of a larger thing can be in motion simulatenously, that I want to capture some of that in my artwork. --Robin Fay, painter, photographer, graphic designer,
People, life, my imagination... -- Jennifer L. Matias, painter(Acrylic, oil, interior design)
I've always been a haptic artist. I get ideas and ideas are what inspire me. The things that inspire me the most are the things which are most important to me... and the things which I think are important to people just living this life.I get alot off inspiration from my own faith, my experiences, that is something I naturally express. -- Mary Padegelak, Mosaic and Collage, < a href="">
Sudden inspiration is pretty common. I also think about themes I want to express and how I should express them. I often look at other people's art and try to glean techniques and ideas from them without totally ripping them off.-- K.R., collage/mixed media/assemblage
EVERYWHERE. Most of what I read or hear lodges in my brain, and a large percentage of it gets spewed back out in my writing. My own life, news stories, haunting songs, historical tidbits about interesting people or events....Sometimes I want to find out everything I can about what makes people tick,and other things that are none of my business. A lot of my stories and narrative comics trace my efforts to figure out the world around me, and why they are the way they are. Other times, I just want to curl up inside my own brain and be left alone. That might be when some of my better work actually gets done,because I can sift through my own personal memories and pull out the funniest stuff. -- Jasmine Odessa Rizer, writer, pen & ink,
I intuitively abstract the things we see in the real world into their elemental shapes and forms. Those shapes and forms are often then used to draw the design; that which the viewer sees. These simple shapes give me great pleasure - the shapes, the forms, the colors - and those elements are then presented to create interest in the viewer. Whether the outcome of the artistic expression is realistic or abstract, there is an attention given to the quality, and to the beauty of the colors involved, and to the lines that create the displayed design. -- Rene Shoemaker
My ideas, my inspiration, come from life. oooo, that sounded trite, sorry. But where else would they come from? I get inspired on walks down a street, in the vintage clothing store, in my back yard, at a gallery and while I answer your questions. Maybe you should ask, "when are you not inspired?" Inspiration does not strike when I'm watching TV, or when I'm at my day job. Maybe I should just stop doing both those things. -- Sarah Margaret Stubbs, painter (oils),
I look at quilt books and magazines and go to quilt shows and exhibits whenever I can. I'm attracted to geometric designs wherever I encounter them. I see "quilts" in the landscape, in floor tiles, you name it. -- Marty Tanner Hughes, Fabric arts, quilter.

A view from within... creative vision & curiosity

Maybe it would be more accurate to say I am interested in life and I love nature. My garden reflects my love of nature and is a is a 3 dimensional work of art, and I try to reflect that in my website Cathy Card, Watercolor, pencil, computer art,, www.
Having come through some kind of bad stuff relatively unscathed, I think my creativity saved me in many ways. It allowed me space and means to deal with the junk and move past it. I truly feeled blessed and I don't mean that in any particularly religious way, but in a fundamental way. I can't imagine my life any other way. How boring would it be not to see all of the colors & texture of the little squirrel as he eats the nuts? -- Robin Fay
I am very curious about life. I think I try to make sense of it by focusing on my own personal experiences, and that shows especially in my autobiographical comics. --Mary Jessica Hammes, Paper & Ink (comics); Fiber (quilting, knitting, wing); Performance (trapeze and aerial fabrics); Words (fiction),
Yes, it's really all we have [answering the question: Are you curious?] A lot of people say my work is narrative and documentary (life) -- Frank Hamrick, Photographer,
I don't give it a lot of thought. I do think we are here only once and we don't get another chance, so we should try to do everything we want to do while we can.-- Bob Hart,, creator of 9-11 Garden, currently working in 3d
Yes, I'm curious about some aspects: nature of life?--what happens after you die, is there order to the universe, etc. -- Will Langford, clay (wheel made, stoneware functional pottery)
I am very curious about life but more curious about after life what it is? does it exist? If it does would it be all gold and butterflies or each person's different art work will be there as an after life atmosphere. -- Jennifer L. Matias, Acrylic, oil, design
I guess I'm curious about life. Isn't everyone? I'm not sure how this is reflected in my artwork, though. -- K.R., collage/mixed media/assemblage
I can almost only describe this in terms of people to whose greatness aspire. For instance, if I could be half as side-splittingly funny as James Thurber, I would consider myself extravagantly blessed. I guess that ideally, I would like my artwork to be funny, unpretentious, sharp and irreverent but not malicious. --Jasmine Odessa Rizer, writer, pen & ink,
I'm fascinated by life. Why we do and don't do things. How things and people affect each other. In my work I try to express that moment, that thought, that feeling, that is telling. I try to recreate the essence as I see and feel it. To communicate it to the viewer.-- Sarah Margaret Stubbs, painter (oils),
Every day is a puzzle. -- Marty Tanner Hughes, Fabric arts, quilter.

About the medium

The mediums don't have any drawbacks, I can clean up easily with watercolor and not be overcome with fumes. The challenges are also part of what interests me, the challenge of control. The computer is great because you can do things over without having to start from scratch. For work it is also a time saver. -- Cathy Card, Watercolor, pencil, computer art,, www.
I love many genres of music, but old country music is my favorite because of the way it incorporates so many elements of life, from the sacred to the profane. That's why I was inspired to make art revolving around that theme. I wanted to create a type of art that makes you feel as if you were looking at an old sign or poster, or even some type of shrine. I really enjoy using a variety of materials, such as small beads, bottlecaps, old fabrics, or anything else I can find. -- Rachel Cabaniss, painter (acrylics/ collage/ mixed media portraits on wood)
I enjoy all of the medium, unfortunately, that I've worked in. The sad part is that I don't get to as much as I would like to. Going back to the whole tracing Michael Jackson thing [an activity from his childhood], with a no. 2 pencil. The no. 2 pencil was my one and only friend for the longest time. I learned to make a bunch of different shades and tones and gradiations with a typical run of the mill kind of pencil... That was my main tool even through AP and independent study art.I only painted because I was forced to paint. I only made sculpture and 3 D assemblages in highschool because I was forced to...Even to this day, painting is more of an ulitatarian kind of thing but out of the love of graphite, it just kind moved to pastel, a variety of chalk and from there I started doing collage and then it was how can I work graphite and pastel and paint into the collage thing. Once I started grad school, assemblage became the manifestation of all of those things, to get to the tone, the different shades, the texture, without having to have a huge array of materials spread around me all of the time. So, I started working with the wood and then a variety of materials crept in, in true found materials, whether it be pots and teakettles, tires, those kinds of things. It's been a natural progression but personally, I am hoping to integrate more of what I used to do with what I do now, because drawing was my first love. -- Drèk Davis, multiple media artist(mixed media, digital, writing)
Ah, the medium. I like the tactile feel, the flow, the physical aspect of the juicy juicy ... color, color, color. Painting can be kind of like dancing with the canvas in a way. I chose acrylics because I can pour whatever things (sand, paper, glitter, stones, leaves, bits of metal I pick up off of the ground... really, whatever...) into it to help me achieve a more dynamic quality, which all goes back to the "hidden in plain site and captured energy" thinking...I think I even approach photography with that same bent. Photography is about defining an instance of art, which is a little different from painting. -- Robin Fay, painter, photographer, graphic designer,
I work in so many different mediums. I enjoy comics because it combines my two great loves, writing and drawing. I love the tactile nature of fiber art, and its practicality (especially with making wearable items). As for performance art, Iíve always been a bit of a ham! --Mary Jessica Hammes, Paper & Ink (comics); Fiber (quilting, knitting, wing); Performance (trapeze and aerial fabrics); Words (fiction),
Photography speaks to me so I use it to speak to other people. --Frank Hamrick, Photographer,
I am a very impatient painter. I can't spend days or weeks on one piece of art. I need to see immediate results. That is probably why I like painting with acrylic and house paint. It drys fast so I can keep moving.-- Bob Hart,, creator of 9-11 Garden, currently working in 3d
I like making something from nothing. -- Will Langford, clay (wheel made, stoneware functional pottery)
I work in many different media, primarily because I find that media exclusivity is creatively limiting (personally). I write, paint, draw, make prints, and sew. Sometimes I feel like working on something that incorporates each of these skills. -- Mandy Mastrovita, graphic design, writing, mixed media,
acrylic dries fast ... I am an impatient artist... Oil blends better but has a nicer finish. -- Jennifer L. Matias, painter(Acrylic, oil, interior design)
I chose collage because I am very fond of recontextualizing things; it's something I do a lot in other areas of my life. Also, I have pretty lousy hand-eye coordination, so I can't draw. Any art style where I don't have to draw anything by hand is a plus. --K.R.
Oils. I'm a bit of a snob I guess. I think I chose oils because that was the choice of many of the great masters. I continue to paint in oils because only they can offer me the depth I crave. It is hard for me to put into words how as you lay each stroke down over another how it transforms, how the light reflects on and in the painting. I do not mean the image, I mean the light on the pigment, the way it refracts. -- Sarah Margaret Stubbs, painter (oils),
I've always liked to play with fabric. When I was in my twenties, I took a quilting class and found my medium. I like the feel of fabric, and the colors and patterns are inspiring. The physical processes of cutting and sewing fabric are very satisfying, and the end result can be useful as well as beautiful. -- Marty Tanner Hughes, Fabric arts, quilter.

On the process

Some times I am more creative than others. I am at my most creative when I feed my brain: read a good book, go to a nice park or the beach, in other words give myself experiences.-- Cathy Card, Watercolor, pencil, computer art,, www.
My best artwork tends to happen when I am in the midst of several different pieces, when I've kind of isolated myself for a little while and just gotten lost in it. To be successful at creating, I need to have the time and the energy, and not push myself. If I give myself plenty of time to relax from life, I am able to work on art. I definitely have blocks in creativity. What I generally do is either give myself a break (like a couple weeks or so) where I don't work on anything. More often than not, though, I'll focus on something else for a little while to refresh my mind, like sewing, cooking, reading, or just doodling some comics. -- Rachel Cabaniss, painter (acrylics/ collage/ mixed media portraits on wood)
Artists by nature...are supposedly nonconformists kind of individuals. We inevitably wind up trapping ourselves in these boxes, whether we realize it or not. And I think to a certain extent, that alot of artists do realize that they sequester themselves creatively and it is a safety net in order for them to do work that will turn out in a certain fashion, without having to invite any new challenges. I think to a certain degree, that is okay, if you are trying to measure a certain amount of growth, but in the end you have to find a way to shake off all of those constraints. I think that often manifests in creative blocks.. as well as a sense of apathy and sometimes depression, with alot of artists because they can't get things to happen as they keep telling themselves that it should, when sometimes they should just let go and let whatever be be as opposed to trying to hold fast to these rigid rules of how they should create things and what the work should look like once it's created. -- Drèk Davis, multiple media artist(mixed media, digital, writing)
I have to find something that is personal to me but also connects with viewers. I just always have an outlets, sometimes the outlet changes, garden, writing, books, etc. --Frank Hamrick, Photographer,
"Your best artwork" is an interesting statement. (on what makes the best work happen) I'm not sure my artwork is all that good, but I have a good time creating it. What I need is uninterrupted nearby.....and usually some music. I was never a big fan of Meatloaf but I recently started listening to his work. He has a great voice and I like cranking up his "Bat out of Hell" album when I paint. I've never had a block nor do I do any warmup exercises.-- Bob Hart,, creator of 9-11 Garden, currently working in 3d
For me, I have to have a sense of safety, space, both physical & emotional, an inspiration, the proper supplies (nothing like running out of an essential color in the middle of a painting!), coupled with the NEED to make art.Painting is something which can be kind of frenzied for me. I paint very quickly and I am kind of consumed by it until I am finished. I do sometimes need a bridge to get into the creative side of my brain. Being left handed, I wonder if there might be an advantage there, but music is also helpful. Once I start, it becomes timeless and I am in the art. Nothing else exists and I am always amazed when I am done. I'll listen to the same CD over and over again. It's me, the music, and the flow. When it's good, it's amazing. When it's bad, I feel kind of well, haunted. When it's not working it's sometimes because I've hit a creative challenge and need to either think different, or learn/re-learn a technique, or perhaps consult someone else. Other times, the reason it's not working is that I've lost interest in or I've lost my insight into what I found interesting about the subject. I used to stress over blocks in creativity, more, but I am working on letting that go. I think of blocks as being a necessary part of the creativity energy. If you use up all of your physical energy running a 10k race, then you'd need a few days to recoup, yes? So, I just go do something else. Creatively restful. It definitely can't be forced... Maybe that is the muse that artists refer to... --Robin Fay, painter, photographer, graphic designer,
For drawing and writing, I need quiet and good light Ė and then I enter a trance, complete the work, emerge from said trance, and stare at what Iíve done, wondering how it happened. For performing, I need a large, enthusiastic crowd. I have blocks all the time. I confess Iíve never been one for warmup exercises or any other kind of ďexercisesĒ in terms of writing or drawing. Sometimes I have to put the work down and return to it refreshed at a later time. Sometimes I can plow through by just writing anything until the words are good again. For performing trapeze, I just practice one trick or sequence of tricks over and over again until the next step makes itself apparent. --Mary Jessica Hammes, Paper & Ink (comics); Fiber (quilting, knitting, wing); Performance (trapeze and aerial fabrics); Words (fiction),
Good chemistry knowledge, at least a field knowledge of how the clay and glaze materials act. Operating as a business necessitates deadlines, which means I have to have an acceptable product at a given time. So experimentation must be limited; there has to always be some amount of reliability. In any firing, there are pots with simple reliable glazes/shapes, and a few pots with new glazes and shapes with relatively unknown predictability. -- Will Langford, clay (wheel made, stoneware functional pottery)
My most recent success is a piece that I managed to create and submit to a show (just the other day) without over-analyzing it OR worrying about it after I sent it along. It's important for me to realize that, because right now, I'm in a phase of detoxing from working in the gallery system (immediately after having received my MFA), and trying to minimize the overly-critical lens with which I have viewed my work, and the work of others. Although I certainly learned a lot about technique, I don't know if getting my MFA was the best thing for me to do creatively, because I've since had to un-learn so many things that, I felt, made my work really formulaic, and my description of it pretentious. (To that I should add that it was through no fault of my instructors or colleagues, most of whom were great people and good artists, but the culture-at-large demands so much documentation, promotion, and hustling that it is very easy to become alienated from the process of making the work itself). So, really, I'm re-learning my process of creating work, and trying my best to not fall into the critical traps that constipate my thought process, or produce things that feel like they aren't integrated into my own voice. I certainly do have blocks in creativity. These usually come when I become preoccupied with who will be looking at my work, and how someone in particular might judge it. I find that when I'm frustrated, if I'm trying to come up with a solution for what I'm working on, or if I'm seeking inspiration, the best thing to do is just relax and NOT DO ANYTHING related to my work--it's better to just do something that I find pleasurable or mind-clearing. Then, when I return to my work, I am more refreshed and creative than if I just spent my time struggling for a solution. But of course, if I'm under a tight deadline, and don't have the luxury to do that, I just plow ahead and try not to beat myself up about what I've chosen to do.. -- Mandy Mastrovita, graphic design, writing, mixed media,
By just losing myself in what I am doing. No distractions, usually late at night. I can get carried away. I will paint until I pass out in my bed with paint all over me then wake up the next day with something that looks better than I remembered. I have extreme blocks of creativity. I don't do well with deadlines. Sometimes I get so creative I would paint my cat if it stood still long enoungh. Then other times I could go months and think maybe later, next week. I also have to be inspired sometimes by other artists or the time of the year. Holidays make me feel more creative because of all the materials available to you.-- Jennifer L. Matias, painter(Acrylic, oil, interior design)
I can work under almost any circumstances except for a migraine headache. Seriously, some of my funniest things have been written when I was so depressed in real life that I could barely function. I actually think I have a lot more talent than I do actual CREATIVITY, in the sense that if someone else puts a prompt in front of me, I feel more comfortable than if I've got to come up with my own idea. This is much more true of my cartoons and illustrations than of my writing. I have a bad tendency to take creative blocks way too much to heart, and think, "ALL MY TALENT IS DRIED UP." Ideally, though, what I do is ignore the giant creative block sitting in the middle of the metaphorical room, and read or knit or paint a piece of furniture or do SOMETHING that provides me with an artistic outlet without my having to come up with a terribly original idea. -- Jasmine Odessa Rizer, writer, pen & ink,
To have a successful experience, I need to have a lot of space to spread things out. I've found that things turn out best when I have a flexible idea in my head of what I want the final project to look like; things don't usually turn out the way I think they will. I get blocks very frequently. I usually just take a break.-- K.R., collage/mixed media/assemblage
Art happens. You might be more familiar with what an athlete might call "the zone." It is the place were I go when I loose my connection with me and become the work. It might happen in a studio, in a diner, on the street curb. DO I have blocks? I'm the master of blocks! But really, are we ever really "past" them. OR does our work just take new forms? Just because we are not painting doesn't necessitate we are not creating..boy that rationalization just kinda fell flat...let me know if any one can tell you how to unblock. All I know is keep banging your head against that brick wall block until you break through. Not a pretty or easy thing to do. -- Sarah Margaret Stubbs, painter (oils),
Time to create seems to be my greatest need. I have plans for more quilts than I'll ever be able to make. My most successful quilts are the ones that have a deadline; then I have an excuse to give myself the time to create (and to take the time away from chores and other activities). If I come across a problem as I'm working, I usually take a break or move on to a different project. Meanwhile, my brain is working on the problem and I'll usually find a solution when I least expect one. One of the good things about not having enough time to make quilts is that just letting a problem sit while I do my day job sometimes gives me the distance I need to solve a problem. -- Marty Tanner Hughes, Fabric arts, quilter.

Are artists important to society and why?

Society needs new ideas and growth. and artists can contribute to that. -- Cathy Card, Watercolor, pencil, computer art,, www.
Yes, but not in a self-important way. In my opinion. I believe in doing what you love, sharing it if you want to, and encouraging others to do the same. -- Rachel Cabaniss, painter (acrylics/ collage/ mixed media portraits on wood)
Artists are definitely important. I think they help us in so many ways from art therapy to challenging us to think to just beautifying the world. Are artists valued for that contribution? Sometimes, but not usually. --Robin Fay, painter, photographer, graphic designer,
Artists are responsible not only for images both iconic and highly personal, but for fine meals, good films, interesting television, life-changing books, the clothes on our bodies, and more than that. Art connects to the soul and revives the spirit and all that jazz. Even people who purport to not give a whit about art could not survive one day without it. --Mary Jessica Hammes, Paper & Ink (comics); Fiber (quilting, knitting, wing); Performance (trapeze and aerial fabrics); Words (fiction),
Yes, They show the truth in interesting ways. --Frank Hamrick, Photographer,
They are, even though most artists are not going to make a living with their art. I read somewhere that we are our happiest when we are creating. I believe that is true. So, if artists are happy while they are creating, just being happy makes for a better society. (On the other hand, I know there are a lot of depressed and unhappy artists out there and that is probably because you cannot be happy if you are living in poverty.)-- Bob Hart,, creator of 9-11 Garden, currently working in 3d
I have no idea [meant to be read as honestly...] -- Will Langford, clay (wheel made, stoneware functional pottery)
Artists are most certainly important to society, although I would also argue that most people prefer not to hear the ideas of artists who challenge the status quo, and choose not to paint pretty pictures. There is a great difference between the design, "picturesque" art, art connoisseurship that is more easily commodifiable, and art that is representative of social or political expression. Not that there isn't a distinct place for each of these things, I just think that it is important to acknowledge that there is a difference, and that each kind of art is valid as the other, even if some of it is not to our taste. Virtually all aspects of our current existence--every man-made gadget, mode of entertainment, creature comfort, and linguistic entity exists because of the creativity of our predecessors. Ironically, though, throughout history, independent creative vision has been interpreted as a social threat by powerful institutions--even if that vision ultimately benefitted our technological or humanitarian progress--from the Catholic Church's condemnation of Galileo, to the "Degenerate" art exhibit of 1937 in Munich, to the politicization and withdrawal of NEA funding enacted by American congressional conservatives during the 1990s. So yes, artists are important to our society, as is the unfettered representation of their independent vision. -- Mandy Mastrovita, graphic design, writing, mixed media,
We show the world how we see life and people. Noncreative people could not think of the hues in a woman's skin or how every sun set is different. They just are not capable of seeing art in life. As artists we point out the obvious art and make our own art to express ourselves. We show them there are many shades of life besides primary colors and of course, we are always fun to be around. -- Jennifer L. Matias, painter(Acrylic, oil, interior design)
I'm going to be a little political here, because I don't think I can answer this question without talking about FDR. I am dangerously infatuated with Franklin Delano Roosevelt because he did something that no president before or after him did with quite the same matter-of-factness : he made artists feel that they were important to their country and their society in the same way that farmers and lawyers and cabdrivers and doctors were. His apparent attitude towards the artist's role in society has been a huge influence on mine. I don't think the poet is better than the postman but I think that ideally, the poet is a working man and a useful member of society, because life would be incredibly dreary and boring without a mural to look at or a sad song to cry over, or even a really funny story to read in Braille. --Jasmine Odessa Rizer, writer, pen & ink,
Sure! Art is important because it offers people emotional outlets (yes, escapism is an outlet) and it can be used to create political change. --KR
I make art, so I live in this world of art. What I have to remember is that there are people in the world, who don't have creative... creativity... and they want art in their lives. So what I have to remember is that I'm offering them something that they can't have otherwise. So for me, it's always, if I need a piece of art I make it, if I lose a piece, I make another one. So it just kind of flows out of me. Anyhow, so as someone who is trying to make a business out of it, it is hard for me to get over to this place; that I'm coming to the table with something that has value. -- Rene Shoemaker, Fabric Arts,
Oh ... definitively important in the larger social context. Creativity, artist explore the unasked question. It explores the emotion the angst of its generation, its time in history. It is telling in a way that no words can describe, though try they may. Why do you think people get so emotional about art, why at times it can be so controversial? Because it is speaking to the viewers in their own voices. Let me explain, When you are looking at a DaVInci, do you hear DaVinci himself in your head describing the work to you. Do you feel the emotions he felt as he created the work? You hear yourself, your reactions and emotions are a product of you and your experiences. And yes if you are looking at a very well executed work you may experience what the creator intended. -- Sarah Margaret Stubbs, painter (oils),
Artists help us see things we may not see on our own. They remind us there's more to life than meeting basic physical needs. -- Marty Tanner Hughes, Fabric arts, quilter.

If you had once piece of advice for new artists or those who think that they are not creative, what would it be?

Try it. Creativity happens through action. Even if you don't think you will create a great work of art, it can be a learning, growing process: an expression of freedom. -- Cathy Card, Watercolor, pencil, computer art,, www.
Don't be afraid, or too hard on yourself. If you do what you enjoy, you'll persevere. Also, DON'T compare yourself to other artists--everybody's different. -- Rachel Cabaniss, painter (acrylics/ collage/ mixed media portraits on wood)
Listen to yourself. REALLY. As long as you put your heart and soul into it,it's going to be worthwhile. Don't compare yourself to anyone else, you may be still learning a particular technique, which they mastered along time ago. As you become proficient at that technique/medium, you will see your artwork grow. The technical part (supplies, application, composition, etc.) can be learned but the life energy can not. -- Robin Fay, painter, photographer, graphic designer,
Whatever your medium is, practice it every day, even if you are not satisfied with the results each time. For those who think you are not creative Ė you already are; you just have to allow yourself to experiment, which can be very scary at first. --Mary Jessica Hammes, Paper & Ink (comics); Fiber (quilting, knitting, wing); Performance (trapeze and aerial fabrics); Words (fiction),
Being a good artist is a mix of soul and craft --Frank Hamrick, Photographer,
Have a day job that you enjoy to support your art venture and create because it makes you happy. If creating is a struggle and makes you unhappy, don't do it. -- Bob Hart,, creator of 9-11 Garden, currently working in 3d
Get a computer career. ;) -- Will Langford, clay (wheel made, stoneware functional pottery)
I think that it's most important to take the criticism of others with a LARGE grain of salt. From the beginning, many of us are trained to either diminish the importance of our creativity, or to distrust it altogether...which is why so many people doubt their own creativity! Everyone has something to contribute creatively--everyone! To make matters worse, when we pursue the arts in higher education, we are often trained to criticize our work more than we are to follow the independent trajectory of our ideas. Although instruction in basic technique is important, as is critical thought, it is equally important for artists to trust their own instincts, and to develop their unique voice or vision. The essence of our creativity is based upon our individual life experiences and perspectives, and it is important to achieve clarity in this aspect of our work. There will always be a bad teacher or bad critic here or there who will judge your work unkindly--don't let these kinds of people discourage you, because almost always, harsh criticism comes from people who are frustrated about being creatively blocked themselves, and aren't conscious of how poorly they are behaving. Choose the right people to look at your work while you develop it. Seek gentle viewers, people you can trust, until you have developed the confidence to take on the criticism of people you are unsure of, and always aim at putting your work out to be seen! Creating art is a reward, not a punishment, and it should always feel that way when you have worked hard on something. -- Mandy Mastrovita, graphic design, writing, mixed media,
Everyone has a creative bone in their body they just have to find out where it is and what brings it out. Don't let someone tell you that you are not good because it's not the normal thing to do. Art is an interpretation and everyone's art is different. It could be something very small like making gift baskets, or scrapbooking, or pottery. There are musical artists, design artists. There are artist that can not paint or draw but can make fabulous food that looks like a painting. Basically almost any job that people can see and look at, shows an artistic spirit. Look at Martha Stewart - she has made a empire out of showing people how to be crafty. She is an artist to me.--Jennifer L. Matias, painter(Acrylic, oil, interior design)
Being a new artist, I'm not sure. I guess keep trying.-- K.R., collage/mixed media/assemblage
Well, to put just a little more wear and tear on an already well-worn cliche : Don't be discouraged. I really believe that everybody is good at something, and maybe you can't write a love story, but you can write this very funny vignette about your uncle. Creativity comes in more forms than sitting in a garret writing sonnets. Great cooks, people who can sit down with a pile of fabric scraps and come up with a dress, these people are creative to me, and I am in awe of some of them. You've got to poke around until you find your own personal creative outlet.--Jasmine Odessa Rizer, writer, pen & ink,
Practice, practice, practice.....everyone is creative in his or her own way and you will never know what you can do until you do it! -- Sarah Margaret Stubbs, painter (oils),
Find something you love to do. There's an amazing spark of creative energy ignited by a passionate interest. -- Marty Tanner Hughes, Fabric arts, quilter.