Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘The Hart Technique’

Money. Symbol of Energy.

In Author: Jim Hart on November 12, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Jim Hart. www.harttechnique.com

In our present day economy, our US greenbacks are no longer based in precious metal. Rather, they are based in what we say they are. Such is the advantage of being a super power. Though…that is likely to change with time…

Money as Energy

Money is a Symbol of Energy.

Money is a Symbol of Energy.

Paper money. Is it not just an agreed upon symbol?

I like to think of money as being a symbol of energy.

People exert energy (working) to earn money (a symbol of energy).

When one has money, they can exchange the paper for other peoples’ services (or their energy). One can also trade this paper for goods (which required energy on other peoples’ part, to construct).

The more money we have, the more energy we can put into action. The less money, the less energy we can put into action. To gain money, our exertion of energy must be of value to others. Is that not what entrepreneurship is partly about—providing value—while assuming risk for financial gain?

I think a lot of artists think of money as something that they either have or do not. This lack of money, often controls whether or not they will work at all. I find that to be a shame and lacking in imagination.

Altering one’s perspective on money can enable one to think of ways to develop value for others. What services or goods can you provide, which will cause others to want to give you their symbols of energy?

What value can you offer? What value might you offer?

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique and The International Theatre Academy Norway. For more on Hart, see   www.harttechnique.com

Advertisements

Collective Brainstorming

In Author: Jim Hart on November 5, 2009 at 11:30 am

Just as the energy of moving water can propel a water wheel into motion, so can stimulus engage the imagination and our creative impulses. We need input, in order to output. We need gas in our mental engines, in order to move forward. Group brainstorming can provide such fuel.

Brainstorming. What a great word. For me, it conjures up a storm in the mind. Electricity. One of my favorite acts to engage in, in the creative process, is collective brainstorming. It is an act that can generate phenomenal inspiration and can generate ideas that would not have been possible, without this contribution of multiple minds.

In building my first school, TITAN Teaterskole (in Oslo, Norway), I created a course that was exclusively dedicated to the act of collective brainstorming. I called it Studio Lab.

Here are are some foundation rules that we found especially strong in stimulating constructive brainstorming:

o   Egos must be checked at the door. Each individual in the group needs to sacrifice their personal motivations and desires, in order to act in the service of the larger group/project/idea. We must let go of emotional connection to ideas we come up with or get excited about. In the words of legendary choreographer Martha Graham, “We must kill our children”. I believe she means that we must sometimes sacrifice those ideas that our personal treasures. It is very easy to become married to an idea. Sometimes, in order to create our larger work and to make it as strong as possible, we must kill or sacrifice ideas that we love the most.

o    There is no “right”. There is no “wrong”. There is only what we create. What we create today will be different from what we create tomorrow. Why put value on it so early in the process? One thing for sure…collaboration is a process of evolution. It is a process of change. Sometimes our creations are built upon seemingly non-connected ideas. Sometimes our best impulses are sitting on a foundation of others’ ideas. Ideas are born upon one another.

o    Don’t censor yourself. As long as we are judging and censoring our ideas, they will not see the light of day. Sometimes, we come up with an idea that we are reluctant to share. In such an environment, why would we be reluctant? Typically, it is because we fear the judgment of others. Here is one of my favorite Martha Graham Quotes:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive.

~Martha Graham to Agnes  de Mille

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway and The Hart Technique.  http://www.harttechnique.com

Overcoming Mediocrity

In Author: Jim Hart on November 4, 2009 at 1:08 am
Pic of sheep

Baaahhhh!

In Australia, it is called “Tall Poppy Syndrome” (the tallest poppies get cut). In Scandinavia, it is called Jante Loven (or Jante’s Law). Many countries weave a societal pressure into their cultural fabric, teaching youth to not stand out, to fit in, and to tow the community party line. The goal of such behavior is to promote a sense of “equality”, cultural identity and a feeling that everyone is equal.

However, what these phenomenon’s spell out to me, is a social goal of mediocrity. Shoot for the middle. If you are in the middle, you might feel that that you are gaining a sense of security.

Such social pressures are not only present down under and in the far north. It is found in Read the rest of this entry »

Find Happiness Through Risk.

In Author: Jim Hart on October 27, 2009 at 1:57 am

All entrepreneurs, by definition, must engage with risk.

What is your risk tolerance?image of dice

Let me ask you a few questions.

Are you doing what you love for a living? If you aren’t already, would you like to?

What would you be willing to do to have the happiness that can come from doing what you love for a living?

Almost all businesses require money to begin. Thus begins our relationship with risk.

How much would you be willing to pay to potentially achieve your dream? How important are dreams to you?

Would you spend $1,000? How about $10,000?

Can you place a value on your career happiness and your feeling of work fulfillment?

How about $50,000? If you could make that investment, which would engage you in a process that may lead you to career fulfillment, would it not be worth $50,000? Is it worth more?

Many of us are forced into “survival jobs”, to do work that is not creatively fulfilling and is work we would not do in the first place, if we had another viable income.

If you were in such a place, what would it be worth to you to be able to leave that world behind and make a living from your creativity?

Would you be willing to risk your lifestyle?

If you like to eat out, would you be willing to sacrifice that part of your life? Would you be willing to eat in for almost all of your meals?

Would you be willing to eat less expensive food, if it might lead to your dreams?

Would you be willing to simplify almost all aspects of your life, to decrease your risk in pursuing your dream? Simple adjustments can have profound effects.

Almost all people feel a drive and need to work, to create, and do something productive. A lot of people feel very empowered and…dare I say…*happy* when they are doing the work they love. Then work is less work and more a joy.

If you had to sacrifice your lifestyle and finances for three years or longer, in order to achieve potential long term financial and career success, would you be willing to do that?

Here is the real crux…What if you invest all of that time, money and energy and do not succeed as you desire? What if you don’t fulfill your dream? That is a risk, too.

But what if you do?

Risking and sacrificing are, in some ways, like quitting smoking. For those who have smoked, you will know what I am talking about.

Those addicted to smoking, when they quit, will likely experience the following:

•    Your mind will play tricks on you, convincing you of why you REALLY NEED to smoke, why it is actually good for you.

•    You will profusely sweat and loose significant sleep

•    Your mind will fixate on cigarettes for nearly every thought of your day. One thought after another…hour after hour.

•    But, what one often finds too, is a feeling of empowerment.

These experiences are trying, exhausting and difficult to navigate.

For many ex smokers, 2 weeks was the magical point of gaining strength. If one can make it to the 2-week mark, without succumbing to withdrawal and all the temptation and mind games, they have a good chance of quitting successfully.

Engaged effort over a span of time, can give us a great sense momentum, of accomplishment and of purpose. Over time, we begin to see the fruit of our labors…or at least that the tree is in bloom and may fruit.

At this state, we gain perspective. We realize we would not have made it to even this point, had we not made the investments that were necessary. We are then that much closer to achieving our goal. The beginning risks, at this point, start to seem smaller and smaller, less and less significant.

Effort decreases entrepreneurial risk.

You can’t win the game, unless you play.

For greater happiness and creative fulfillment, what are you willing to risk?

Beginning a new endeavor, one, inevitably, has to sacrifice, has to risk. But, with time and continued effort, the enormity of the task, seems a little smaller.

For more information on Jim Hart and The Hart Technique, see http://www.harttechnique.com

Inspirado, My Sweet Muse

In Author: Jim Hart on October 24, 2009 at 3:17 am

A number of years ago, while at Yale, I had the good fortune to meet renowned playwright, Arthur Miller (author of The Crucible, Death of a Salesman and All My Sons). This was, for me, a truly magical encounter, as he is one of my favorite writers. I asked him if he, in his creative process, met inspiration at the door OR if he consciously sought it out. He responded that it is different with every occasion, but that sometimes one must look for it.

inspired eyeVision Seeking. What a romantic coupling of words. For me, it brings to my mind the mythic vision quest, where a hero strikes out with the express intent to have adventure, to experience new stimuli and to find inspiration.

Not all of us are blessed with a regular muse. Sometimes, we must make a conscious, concerted effort to hunt down the often elusive Inspirado.

For many artists, inspiration is a seductive, but fleeting lover. We bask in this lover’s affection and reap the reward of their presence. But, this lover is rarely around long enough and leaves you longing for another encounter.

Inspiration can come in many forms and ways. Sometimes, I feel that I am holding a very fine silk thread and am gently following it, hand over hand, hoping it does not break. At other times, I feel that I have been hit by lightning and vision unrolls before my like a long Persian rug.

Waiting for inspiration to arrive is a waste of time and creative energy. Why? Because waiting for inspiration is another form of giving away one’s power and most entrepreneurs and independent artists crave autonomy. It is marvelous to have inspiration. But, when it is not present, we must find other ways of moving forward.

Here are some tools I have found useful in luring Inspirado. I hope some of these may help you.

  1. Give yourself time. Dedicate time to actively look. Books, for me, often inspire. My wife and I have a large collection of books that focus on various painters´ works. Also, my wife, having been a professional dancer, has many books on choreographers, companies and dancers. I pour through these pages, seeking stimulation. Inevitably, it comes.

  2. Gardening. In myth, it is a symbol of the soul. For me, gardening is a constantly evolving, living canvas. Structuring a garden is always a temporary act. Nature takes it back so fast. Being in nature and engaging in creation, stimulates me greatly.

  3. Brainstorm. I love this word. A storm of the mind. Chat with a good brainstorming friend (someone with intelligence and their ego under some control). One idea can give birth to another (and often does). In this process, listen a lot, see the ideas in your mind and follow whatever impulse arises (without first judging it). You think it? Go with it. It does not matter whether you think it is a worthy impulse or not. Throw it out, as it may stimulate another person you are working with and may be a better idea than you initially thought. No self-censorship.

  4. Change your routine. We are all creatures of habit. Many of us have a structure to our lives that causes us to not see things around us. We take the typical for granted. Such eyesight can lead to a lack of “seeing”. Meditation can help. Bump up against stimuli you might not otherwise encounter. Walk around the block and go a way you do not normally go. Be open to conversations with others you do not typically communicate with. Go to the magazine rack and pick up a magazine that has nothing to do with your typical interests. Look for text that pops off of pages for you.

  5. Engage in dialog about what interests you with people of like interest. Such talk can serve to stimulate, inspire collaborations and cultivate energy.

  6. Be rested. An exhausted mind and body, often, do not yield inspiring results.

  7. Begin to make something. Create. Develop a sense of momentum. Doing so will help you to begin moving forward. Think of your own energy like that of rolling a stone down a hill. While the stone is fixed in space, it can be difficult to move it. But once it begins to roll, it develops more and more speed as it rolls down the hill.

  8. Find a sense of balance within your life. I have found that if I am not attending to all of my basic needs as a person, that inspiration is less likely to find me. Lack of attention to my needs, for me, creates a feeling of gap or lacking. I will then feel unsettled and unhealthy habits might begin. Such a feeling can slow my momentum and lead towards inertia. Sometimes, we are not able to fully attend to all of our needs. In such a case, try to find a “sense of balance”. Schedule time to commit some small energy towards the filling of your need gaps. In doing so, a greater sense of “wholeness” can arise and, consequently, happiness and better use of ones´ energy and mind.

  9. Go down a rabbit hole. My favorite rabbit hole is YouTube. I like to watch videos of something that fascinates me and then keep following the links.

  10. Play. Engaging in a playful state of mind will, invariably, get our imaginations firing. When I say, “play”, I truly mean just that. Engage in a ridiculous scenario or activity and play with as you did when you were a child. Don’t judge. Engage. Commit to your sense of play with wholly, with abandon and joy.

  11. Play with your imagination. Ask, “What if”? What if you had a million dollars? What if you were elected President. What would your first day of office look like? The more you use your imagination, the stronger it, as a muscle, becomes. The more you use it, the more you are able to use it. The imagination is one of the partners of the dance.
  12. Cultivate your emotional intelligence. Inspiration comes from the imagination (and emotions). When one is inspired, they are emotionally engaged. Emotional intelligence is one of the artists´ keystone tools. If you do not already have a good degree of sensitivity to your emotions, what you are regularly feeling, start. They are often not as scary as we believed they might be. Ride the wave of what you feel. Pay some attention to it. Name it. “I am feeling…excited or giddy”, for example. Name it to understand it. If you feel you are already too engaged with your emotions, try to channel them into activities or creations. Make something and let your emotion be the gasoline in the tank. Let your expression come out of that.

  13. Meditate. Willfully still your mind. Letting the constant clutter of our thoughts subside for a while, gives space to our imaginations. Present consciousness can enable us to see our world through a clearer lens.

Then…follow the silk thread, impulse after impulse. Keep following. Keep doing.

To learn more about author Jim Hart or The Hart Technique, see   http://www.harttechnique.com

Keep it Simple, Stupid.

In Author: Jim Hart on October 19, 2009 at 10:51 pm

The first time I created an original work of theatre,  a production I wrote and directed at the Yale Cabaret called The 9th Annual World Weight Wrestling Blood Exxxtravaganza—a social commentary told through “professional wrestling”, I was given sage advice from renowned stage combat choreographer Rick Sordelet. “Keep it simple, stupid”, he often told me.

Most great works of art are simple. Sometimes, we as artists, attempt to say too much at once. Consequently, we muddle our work. Simplicity allows for depth. Here are a few examples that come to my mind:

The Beatles Yesterday
Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh
The Story of a Mother by H.C. Andersen
Any of the Brothers Grimm tales
The work of Ansel Adams
The Far Side comics by Gary Larson
Norman Rockwell’s paintings

I could go on and on, medium after medium.

Each of these works, it is interesting to note, has or will likely stand the test of time.

Keeping our created form simple allows for us focus on depth of expression. Advice for the day? Keep it simple, stupid.

Creating from Unconscious Thought

In Author: Jim Hart on September 10, 2009 at 7:32 am

Entrepreneurial Arts Training must have equal parts artistic and entrepreneurial techniques. We must invest deeply in each or one will suffer.

The iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

The Iceberg Theory w/ Hart's Diagram.

I want to discuss a phenomenon, which is one of the keys to artistic freedom and greatness. Though I give examples from theatre, it is a phenomenon that can be experienced in dance, in painting, writing or any other art form.

  • The Japanese call it Mushin.
  • Joseph Campbell refers to our brains being a secondary organ.
  • The Balinese Topeng dancer transcends present consciousness, becoming a conduit for the Gods.
  • Actors refer to this as “going up”.

This all points towards this phenomenon.

This state of mind, what the Japanese call “Mushin”, is where the gems of the creative process occur. What happens in this state is that our conscious mind ceases to attempt to control the creative process and “something else” takes over. We commit to risk. We free-fall, trusting that we will be safe, that there is a net, trusting that the words will come, that our bodies will kick in and that all of the rehearsing we have done, what the French call répétition (repeat) will enable us to let go and release.

We must learn our varied techniques to the degree that they become second nature. We must develop these skills to the point that we do not have to think about the mechanics of our technique. Ex. A master woodcarver does not think about how they are holding the chisel and hammer. They do so naturally, as a result of much practice. It is ingrained within them and no longer needs to be at the conscious level. If one is thinking about their technique, they will not be free and ultimately, their performance or creation will have a stifled quality and not be as dynamic as it can be.

Each of us understands what an impulse is and what it feels like. I like to refer to impulses as being the lighting-quick voice in our heads that says, “Do this. Do this”. In the words of my college theatre professor at SMU, Dale Moffitt, typically, there is a second voice that arises, which he calls, “The watcher at the gates of the mind”. This voice tells us, “Don’t do that. You aren’t doing that right. Everyone is judging you. You aren’t good enough”, etc. It is our job to push this voice down and listen to the constant stream of creative impulses—and here is the trick—to do so without first judging them or being fearful of them.

Often, when creating, we are “mind-full” of external and internal matters, which restricts our ability to create in a fluid, dynamic fashion. To arrive at this state of creating from a place of unconscious thought, we must focus deeply, in an outward fashion and allow ourselves to turn our “minds” off. Using theatre as an example, we cease to be mindful of the audience, of our lines, what action we are sending, the agent or casting director in the audience, etc. Instead, we focus so completely, that all of that fades out of consciousness and we begin to create from “another place”.

Typically, an actor who has “gone up”, only realizes that they have entered this state of consciousness, once they fall out of it. Typically too, one is not entirely aware of the minute choices they made within the moment of this state, as they are no longer observing and controlling, but have released and become a conduit.

It has been my personal experience that when a performer enters this state, the audience cannot help but be sucked in. People, after the show, will often talk about “that moment”, as being amazing. It is during this state, that one expresses “truth”–or so much as can be expressed in the creation of illusion.

The great irony is that if one tries to get to this state of consciousness, they are guaranteed to not get there. Why? Because they are controlling the process. This place is achieved when we free-fall, when we get out of the way of ourselves. We get there by trusting that all of our technique is there, that we are going to be safe, by accepting the inherent risks (which typically translate to mean potential embarrassment). The greatest way to get there is to invest completely in play. We must play as children do.

Surely each of us has engaged in some creation, where we are so engrossed in the process that we lose track of time and find that hours have flown. This is the land of Mushin.

Play is the reason we do what we do, as artists, yes? We can convince ourselves, and others, about all of the higher ideals and purposes we have, being the real reasons we create (social change, to enable others to have catharsis, etc), but the real reason, at its base level, is because it is fun. It gives us bliss. That is why we artists do what we do.

We have fun playing King Lear and tearing at the heavens. We have fun playing Hamlet and experiencing a range of emotion in a few hours that few people experience in a year.

Play, bliss, joy is the way. Controlling, intellectualizing, playing technique, being too mindful is the problem.

Let yourself free-fall. Believe me—there is a net. Once you experience Mushin, if you have not already, you might, as I have, make this state of consciousness, freedom of expression and release the goal and the measure to which you strive in all creative processes.

Jim Hart is the founder of The Hart Technique, TITAN Teaterskole and  ACPA (Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts). ACPA will open doors in August of 2010. To reach Hart,  email    jim@harttechnique.com

www.harttechnique.com

Is Your Identity Defined by What You Do Professionally?

In Author: Jim Hart on September 4, 2009 at 6:30 am

A lot of people define their sense of self, based on what they do for a living. Artists are notorious for this. They think of themselves as, “I am an actor” “I am a dancer” “I am a writer”, etc.

Tricky thing about such a line of thinking is that if you are not working, what are you then?

Most Americans will have 6 careers in their life.

Many Americans have up to 6 careers in their lifetime.

Defining one’s identity via what one does can lead to identity crises over time.

Certainly, most of us ask what it is we want to do, numerous times in our lives. I have heard that many Americans will have up to 6 careers in their lifetime. This further illustrates that we are all in a constant state of change.

Of course, each of us “is” more than just what we do. Still, many artists feel so passionately about the work they create, that they identify themselves strongly with their art. In such cases,  I encourage the individuals to not just identify themselves by the type of medium they practice, but, as Artists–creative artists, at that. One may be a creative artist who acts or paints or does photography or…all of the above.

I believe that artists are artists are artists. Every artist creates from the same place
–we simply have different tools to express ourselves. Some of us use our bodies, some film equipment, some computers, etc.

Mastering technique in one form or discipline will enable one to pick up other mediums of artistry. When we hop mediums, we need only learn the new tools or “rules” of the medium.

Another tricky thing about identifying oneself as, say, “an actor”, is that it can cause the artist to mentally rule out other possibilities and potential–like writing or directing, teaching or producing.

Nearly everyone in the field of theatre, began in an acting class. Acting classes are the window into the medium. Many leave acting to pursue directing, design, producing, writing, technical theatre, stage management, etc. Once again, change is represented. One who begins in an acting class and discovers a passion for directing or design is not a “failed actor”. They are creative artists who direct or design.

Most artists today cannot afford to think in such a limited fashion. There are not enough professional opportunities to do so. The markets are over saturated. We need to be teaching our artists to have “a wider directional perspective”. Rather than thinking about what opportunities exist in a narrow sort of thinking, (ex. Do these few things, via these few paths to find work in your medium), we need to teach them to broaden their perspectives and ask the question, “What can I do with my skill sets”? What opportunities exist? Where are there needs to be filled? What gives me joy? What are ALL of my interests? How do I synthesize my many interests, into a single endeavor?

Such a line of thinking and practice will lead to more artists with unique voices. New aesthetics will emerge. Greater innovation will occur and these students and graduates will dramatically increase their potential to make a living via their creativity.

Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The International Theatre Academy Norway, and The Hart Technique.  www.harttechnique.com

American Arts Education Needs Change. (Audio Recording)

In Author: Jim Hart on August 31, 2009 at 12:36 am

Jim Hart, founder of The Hart Technique, proposes a new standard for arts education. This podcast was originally recorded July 14, 2009. James Hart (Jim), founder of The Hart Technique

American arts education is largely ALL arts technique and no REAL business technique. Our artists are trained to create works of art, but not to market and profit  from their creations. This standard in the American arts educational offerings leads to wide-spread under and unemployment. It is a system that dis empowers our artists and pushes them to rely on others for nearly all of their creative and professional opportunities. We need change.

Jim Hart

Listen to this AUDIO PODCAST 

Jim Hart is currently founding Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, a full-time study in entrepreneurial arts training. ACPA will open doors in August of 2010 and will have a foundational philosophy in The Hart Technique. For more information, see www.harttechnique.com

Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 30, 2009 at 10:45 pm

I built a school in Oslo, Norway called The International Theatre Academy Norway, which begins its 6th year of operation this year. The school is entrepreneurial arts training for Theatre Artists.

One of the unique components of the school, and which I will incorporate into the new curriculum at Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA), which opens in Austin in August of 2010, is that students build original projects, which they implement in the community, outside of the school environment. We push the students into the market and the develop a professional network, while still in school.Where You Stumble, There Your Treasure Is.

I would give students the assignment that they must create a one-person show. The stipulation? They could use NONE of the school’s resources and had to produce the work in a professional or semi-professional space, outside of the school and in the community. They would then have to:

•    Write it
•    Direct it
•    Produce it
•    Act in it
•    Budget
•    Fundraise
•    Allocate funds
•    Generate all resources necessary
•    Negotiate and sign contracts for space, technical needs, etc.
•    Market their show
•    Generate press via radio, papers or TV
•    And finally put butts in seats (who paid to view their show) and profit.

In brief, they had to be largely self-sufficient and had to stand on their own legs, creatively and professionally. They had to be the engines for their own creativity. You can imagine this assignment was both exhilarating and terrifying.

I would tell the students, “The point is not to be as brilliant as Ibsen, though that would be great if you are, though it is improbable that you will be. Genius comes with time. The point of this exercise is to complete it”.

Some excelled in their process. They not only went through it, but generated large audiences, a good deal of press and made a profit.

Others fell squarely on their faces.  They felt the bitterness of defeat and humiliation. In conventional thinking, they “failed”.

But did they?

The failure of these students was equal as a learning experience as those who succeeded. In fact, in some cases, I think those who failed, learned more than those who “succeeded”.  Experience is comprised not only from our success, but our character-building failures.

For most of us, our fear of failure and judgment is what most impedes our action.

We must accept that we cannot always win and that failure is inevitable.

If we don’t try with all of our effort, wits and energy, we will never know what our potential might be. If we allow ourselves to fail before we complete our effort—to fail at, “I am not as brilliant as Ibsen” or “I am going to look stupid” or “I can’t do this…because I have never done it before”, then we are destined for a different kind of failure. This kind of failure is a failure of spirit. It is a failure of imagination. It is a failure of not heeding the call to adventure. In this type of failure, the world will never know what potential we posses, for we have not allowed ourselves to discover and express it. This type of failure is worst kind of all, as it is a failure towards our selves, rather than a failure of accomplishment.

Failure towards our selves can eat at our confidence, spirit, and sense of self. It is a weakening failure.

Failure of accomplishment—of having tried our hardest and of coming up short, can serve as a foundation for learning. This type of failure is a positive failure and is a stepping-stone, upon which to stand, as we build our next endeavor.

The hero’s journey is not one of following paths; it is one of making paths. Sometimes the hero stumbles. If they give up on their adventure at hardship and go home, the direction from which they came, they are no heroes, in fact. To quote from myth and Joseph Campbell, “Where you stumble, there your treasure is”.

We must learn from our failures. We must use our failures and we must expect failure, to some degree.

The exercise I gave my students, of being more self-sufficient, of being the engines of their own creativity, had a far-reaching effect for most. The effect was the realization, the illumination of, “I did that. I can do that”. This is a hugely empowering realization, for when they realize that they can, they do.

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway (TITAN Teaterskole), The Hart Technique and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA).  Jim Hart (James) can be contacted at jim@harttechnique.com  or http://www.harttechnique.com

Ten Steps to Finding your Artistic Voice.

In Author: Jim Hart on August 26, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Ten Steps to Finding your Voice.

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”. — Carl Jung.

This is such a wonderful quote and is one of the keys towards finding ones voice as an artist.

Many artists fall into the trap of either imitating their favorite artists (attempting to serve as a cheap imitation of greatness) or by sticking too fast to their technique training they received in school. Remember that programs (meaning institutions educational offerings) do what they are called. They “program” students. It is very easy for artists to take the technique their teachers offer and become dogmatic about it, as though they have “found the answer”. Artists need to be careful that they do not fall into the trap of being “cookie cutter”.

When I was active as an actor in New York, following graduation from Yale School of Drama, I could easily tell which actors graduated from Yale, which from Juilliard and which from NYU. This is because the actors were products of their learning…of their programming and often behaved in relatively typical fashions. To the trained eye, it was easy to see.

Prior to going to graduate school, I was told by a friend and respected actor to be careful. He said, “Do not let them iron out what makes you unique”. I did not understand what he meant at the time, but view that advice now as sage.

Finding ones voice means finding ones own technique and aesthetic. An artist’s job is to experience technique as one would a buffet. Try everything. If it tastes good, swallow it. If it is not right for you, spit it out. What is ultimately your technique should be what works for you, personally. If you are like most artists of innovation, this technique will be a patchwork of many influences–not just one approach of one or two institutions.

Technique is just a means to and end. Technique is simply a series of tools that generate a result. Certainly, technique liberates art and the more talent one has, the more technique one needs. But, technique is meant to be learned and then forgotten. The function of technique is to give an artist a starting point and then a sense of freedom. It can also serve as a fallback measure when all efforts seem to be failing in the creative process.

I have no regrets about my educational choices and would likely repeat them, if the opportunity arose in another lifetime. But, it has taken me years to get away from my “programming” and to find my unique voice.

Encouraging artists to find their voice and making such practice a key element of training needs to become standard offering in arts education. Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts will do this.

How does one find their unique voice? Well, one won’t find it in most educational environments. It requires experimentation, personal meditation and assessment and can only be discovered by the artist themselves.

Here are some tips I have found useful in discovering my own voice, which I would like to share.

  1. What do YOU love? As Jung said, “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves”. Don’t approach answering this question, based on what you think you SHOULD love. What do you, personally, love? Joseph Campbell, the famed mythologist, would call this your “bliss” and he would encourage you to “Follow your bliss”. What do you most like to think about? What gives you joy? What ideas do you like to play with? What thoughts cause you to lose track of time?

  2. Be who you wish to seem. What type of artist do you want to be? What audience will you serve? What will your medium be? Will you be politically oriented? Will you dedicate your energy to the classics? Will you serve as a bold visionary?

  3. Make Choices. The blank canvas and the sheer number of choices available overwhelm many artists. Just make choices. You can always change them later. Make a choice and then make another and then another, etc.

  4. Know your history. Unless you know what has been done in the past, you are likely ignorantly imitating forms of past and present. If you know what has been done, you know if you are doing something new.

  5. Surrender a need to be “right” and “good”. Ibsen was not “Ibsen”, prior to years and years of personal development. Greatness comes with time. Give yourself time. Remember:  There is no right and there is no wrong. There is only what you create. What you create today will likely be different from what you create tomorrow. So, forgive yourself if you appear to be an ugly duckling at first. Most first efforts are not products of genius.

  6. Steal from greatness. Nobody creates on an island. We are each products of experience and external influence. There is nothing truly original and all ideas are a mixture of other people’s ideas, whether we consciously realize it or not. So, if you see your heroes doing something stunningly effective and you would like to play with that idea, choice or medium, do it. Who are your heroes? What about them inspires you? If you are into a particular artist, what about that artist makes your heart race? Be specific. Make note.

  7. Have courage. Most peoples social programming (what they have been taught is right and wrong, their social values and what they are told to do and think they “should” be doing) gets in the way of freedom of expression. We need to access our stream of creative impulses (as crazy, dark, weird or foreign as they may be) and to follow those without fear or judgment. Don’t judge your choices, as this is a form of self-censorship and does not lead to artistic freedom.

  8. Synthesize your interests. Do you have numerous interests and talents? Do you find you struggle to dedicate your energies in just one area, which causes you to neglect your other interests or passions? Find ways to synthesize those varied interests. In doing so, you will feel more whole as an artist and person.

  9. Play with your ideas, as a child plays with a new toy. Experiment. Jump off the cliff and see what your ideas generate. But, if you are truly experimenting, know what the experiment is and use a scientific-type structure. Otherwise, you are just “playing experiment”.

  10. Allow your freak flag to fly. New ideas are typically, at least at first, rejected by the general populace. The more innovative and different the idea, the more rejection the creator will likely receive…until it is proven successful. Then the idea will be embraced by all as common sense.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. —  Arthur Schopenhauer

Finding your unique expression, form, medium or aesthetic as an artist will lead towards greater originality, potential innovation, potential happiness and artistic satisfaction. More importantly, you just might contribute towards your culture and cultural forms in profound ways.

Summary: Cast off the cookie cutter programming and embrace the Freaky Flag.

Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The Hart Technique and The International Theatre Academy Norway.  www.harttechnique.com

To contact Hart, email him at jim@harttechnique.com

Empty your Cup

In Author: Jim Hart, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS on August 9, 2009 at 9:26 am

Empty your Cup.

This is one of my favorite zen stories. The story goes that Nan-in, a
zen master, was being interviewed by a philosophy professor.

Upon their meeting the professor began to tell the zen master all that
he know about zen. He talked and talked and talked. After some time,
Nan-in said, “Let’s have some tea”.

They sat for a traditional tea ceremony. The professor kept on about
all that he knew. Nan-in began pouring tea into the prof´s cup. It
became more and more full. The tea began cascading over the side of
the teacup and the Professor said, “Stop. Enough. It is full. It
cannot take anymore”.

Nan-in then said something like, “You are like this cup. You are
overfull. No more can fit. Empty your cup”.

This is the mind-frame we need to allow ourselves to cultivate.
Regardless of what we think we know, we must empty our cup. We need to
cast out our pre-conceptions and listen to information, as though it
were the first time we ever heard it. In listening with this open
mindedness, information we have known for years can resonate in new
ways and we can take on a new, deeper understanding of the material
being offered, as if it were the first time we heard it.

When I was a boy, I was extremely active in martial arts. It was my
passion for about a decade. I had five different instructors I
regularly trained with. I would hear, more or less, the same
information from each of my teachers and would marvel, at times, when
I would suddenly have a mental breakthrough, as to understanding what
each had been saying. I thought I understood, prior to this moment.
But in some cases, it was only after I had heard the information from
the fifth instructor, that I actually understood it with some level of
depth.

Emptying our cup allows for new breakthrough discovery and deeper
awareness and understanding.

We should each know that we do not really know much of anything, in
relation to what is possible to know. If we are truly open to knowing
more, and actively seek to know more, then we have the potential to be
in a state of constant self-learning. We then become our own teachers.
This state of mind is an optimal place to be as an artist (and human),
as we are then in a constant (and often rapid) state of growth.

An emptied cup perspective is one that allows for possibility. When we
think we know something, sometimes we close our minds off. We dismiss
this information as, “Yea, yea. Got it. What’s next”? That is a form
of closed-mind-ed-ness. Keep your mind open.

Empty your cup.

Jim Hart is the President of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts
(ACPA), a new conservatory, opening in Austin, TX in the autumn of
2010. For more information on Jim Hart, The Hart Technique or Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts (ACPA), see:   www.harttechnique.com