Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘vision’

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

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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

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