You know that feeling when you spot a book and just know it holds something precious inside for you? You might not even buy it at the time, but the thought comes back to you. The feeling hit me in the shop of the Victoria and Albert Museum several months ago. The book, with bright green cover and bold text, was Everyone is Creative by Michael Atavar. A few weeks later I could no longer ignore the call of the book and ordered a copy to be delivered to my home. I began reading immediately, pencil in hand, underlining the odd sentence, making notes in the back, nodding in recognition or agreement. It spoke to me, but not in the profound way I had an inkling it might. So I put it down. Left it for a while.
A few weeks on, I took the book sailing with me and dipped in once or twice before sleep. Then one night, sitting up in the cabin of the yacht, tears came. If I remember rightly, it was between pages 174 and 176. I felt understood, as I never had before for the art I made and for the pictures I took. If this man did a workshop, I wanted to go.
A few weeks later, and within days of having been asked by my mentor if I had ever been to an excellently facilitated workshop, the opportunity to take a 4-session evening class with the author at Tate Modern appeared in my inbox. Having had difficulty booking online, I called the Tate, debit card in hand and was informed that there were just two places left on the course. “I’ll take one.” I replied.
The evening of the first session came; November 3. Atavar opened with simple questions, swiftly followed by one to one work. With a stranger. Honesty; intimacy; observation. Not necessarily in that order. Saying what we saw in front of us in the moment, each for an uncomfortable two minutes. Two humans, face to face; trying to figure each other out, before the real conversation began. And when our time observing and sharing what we noticed was up; when we could talk freely, we admitted to putting up barriers. We shared how it felt just to say what came up and how there were things that felt OK and some that did not… but we ended up sharing those that did not in the end anyway. Two minutes speaking up had brought us close enough.
We were presented with tricks and mechanisms. This was the one… the workshop excellently facilitated both in big room and gallery… the one I had talked about with my mentor, but not experienced… until then. Connection amongst participants, the chance to share and the opportunity to open a little window onto the creative thoughts and ideas of others that usually remain internal; secret; hidden… to me, worth its weight in gold.
It was as much about words as images this first evening of Creative Process. It was about starting… no excuses, no time to waste, just starting with what you have available to you right now. Zooming in; zooming out. “Make things real in order to release them.” he said and those words stood out. I don’t have a problem making things real in my art, but getting words out of my head through my mouth can prove challenging. I now have a way to explore that. Being in the moment and speaking it out as I did with my stranger partner. Openers: I see… I feel… I notice…
What stood out in the days that followed was how I felt the urge to share the internal process of my own creativity. I take photographs on a regular basis, put them out into the world, but leave them open to interpretation more often than not. The urge came to share my creative triggers and not only the images this time, but their meaning… what they mean to me in the moment when I photograph them. In becoming aware of this urge, I also began to notice how simple things can be creative triggers for others.
When I walk to my local station, the image at the top of this post is the first thing I notice. At the end of the painted words, I see ART. Others may not and it was indeed years before I noticed this myself. Now, I can’t switch it off… the way you see a face in the swirls of an old fashioned carpet or one day spot that the wallpaper pattern doesn’t quite match up. It is the way my days out and about begin. They start with ART. Some days I chalk over the ART part. Others, I just smile and feel happy to have noticed.
Words. They are often my creative triggers. Words on the street or a word in my head. I chalk out words on the pavement… incomplete sentences that I hope others will finish off in silence or perhaps (though less likely) in a conversation. The same day that I took the photo above, I noticed how one simple word had become a creative trigger a tiny graffiti word: mouse.
What was the image in the writer’s head when they read the word Danger and wrote the word mouse? Was it a visual image or just the word? And how does that little addition alter the way people read or see the sign… if they even notice?
I want to create my own triggers, either words or images. Yesterday, walking swiftly, down, down, down, instead of taking the lift at Russell Square station, the word in my head was fall as I tried my best not to. Fall; falling; I imagined a ball, racing and bouncing down the stairs and then the opener I fell… came into my head and I thought of so many different things those two words could trigger… thoughts of love or pain or both. All part of the creative process.
Care to share what came up for you when you saw these images or read this post? I would love to know. Please leave a comment in the box below.
With love, Julia x