As a writer, I’m familiar with a creative writing practice that lacks muscle. Sure, I write for a living but when it comes to creating fiction I go through phases when the story, characters, and the words refuse to cooperate. Living a creative life is not for sissies. It takes stamina, strength, and a yearning to create.
When Jane Dunnewold asked if HAND/EYE would be interested in reviewing Creative Strength Training, I said, "Absolutely!" I was interested to learn how artists (other than writers) overcome the temptation of procrastination, but also letting go of perfection, slowing down, taking stock of what’s in the arsenal to create.
Consisting of 10 chapters, Creative Strength Training offers prompts, exercises as well as personal anecdotes from a collection of artists who have faced life’s obstacles during their own creative process.
The book’s first chapter centers on defining creative stamina. Jane recommends journaling as a cross-training exercise. She notes that “writing down ideas tethers them to the Earth plane.” These jottings might include listes, notes for every stage of a project, or simply stream of consciousness ramblings. In addition to journaling, she recommends drawing, sketching, doodling places you've lived and visited to tap forgotten ideas. Examples of this work ethic is shown through samples by numerous artists like Clarian Ferrono’s memories of texture and color of clothing from the past. Fashionista is an example of a quilt that she pieced together from clothes that her mother, daughter and she wore.
One of the most important chapters is to learn to make and to slow down. Jane writes, “Practice slowing down. Savor the materials in your hands. Offer undivided attention and time to them. Wait for the blossoming.” Carol O’Bagy’s Yo-Yo Mo-Mo meets the challenge of creating art with what’s on hand fo her doll sculpture made with a found Barbie and silk yo-yos glued and stitched onto the body.
Reading through the artist’s personal stories makes you itch to find your corner and start creating from scratch or sort through the various materials in your tool kit. Barbara Bushey’s quilt of cornstalks poking through the snow was inspired by the hundreds of photographs she took. Instead of taking more, she resisted the urge and got to work.
Like writers, artists suffer the indignity of negative self-talk. Fiber artist Judy Cook sketched four brightly colored chickens who represented the Committee of negative self-talk, cackling snide remarks in this case to undermine creating art.
Stencil artist Carol Weibe’s hand-painted journal takes creativity to the nth degree; painting and dappling the quited pages and even adding free-form crochet to the edges.
These personal stories from the artists along with the prompts and cross-training exercises will push you to create, but what’s better is that you’ll want to go back to your studio or desk energerized and refreshed to finish old projects and begin new ones.
Creative Strength Training: Promps, Exercise and Personal Stories for Encouraging Artistic Genius is available at www.amazon.com.