Knowing is Doing – How to Get A Good Idea

Knowing is Doing – How to Get A Good Idea

Because we are conscious beings we tend to think we chose what we do that we deem important, such as, I am out of half and half so I will put my body in my car and drive to Trader Joes. Yay me! But if my heart isn’t pumping blood the whole time, I will crash and never have another delicious cup of creamy coffee. I get credit for telling myself to haul ass to the grocery store but not for the more foundational decision to pump blood to the big ego organ in my skull.

Let me make a metaphorical comparison between the idea above and making art. We might think the genesis of art is in our heads. It might appear that way, especially if a beautiful idea comes out of nowhere. But the foundational part of art is experiential. It’s the doing it all the time and all the learning that comes from the constant doing. You can’t execute great ideas that come out of nowhere if you have no actual skills or pragmatic knowledge. These two things are not two things, they are not separate. It’s not like, learn than do. It’s like doing is the whole thing. Doing is the thing that allows ideas to pop into your head.

Here’s a sort of reverse example but with a twist. My brother, whom I adore and could easily spend five hours talking nonstop about everything interesting thing under the sun, doesn’t cook much. Briefly a few years ago he decided to cook more and to just make it all up out of his own head. So he calls me and said: I just invented sauce! He then proceeds to tell me how he made sauce from raw vegetables including carrots by putting them in a blender. Ok brother. That’s not sauce. That’s a smoothie. Most people prefer to drink your type of sauce directly out of a glass in the morning rather than slosh it on pasta in the evening. But you do you.

I applaud the impulse to play and experiment. If he is satisfied eating a textured carrot puddle on his penne, that’s awesome. He is one of the most creative and imaginative people I know. His form of doing is to act boldly and wildly and see what happens. It might not lead to a new food revolution, but it’s great to hang out with him because his just do it attitude makes adventure happen. His good ideas are more about the experience of the process, rather than the end result. He is a connoisseur of experimenting. He is committed to trying things, not to achieve a goal but to satisfy his curiosity. He can do this because he does it all the time. He doesn’t censor his creative urges and so they bloom and grow.

The point is, ideas are not one big thing, they are an accumulation of thousands of small things. If you are drawing, it’s every decision you make and every reason you make it; too close to the edge of the paper, not close enough, the colors work well together, the colors don’t. You are evaluating everything in real time and codifying it for future use. You have to do it an incredible amount to learn enough to have original ideas. There isn’t even such a thing an original idea, it’s more like you learn what you personally approve of or have an affinity for and what you don’t. You gravitate towards that and very slowly a style builds up. That style is the beginning of a good idea.

Sidewalk Face 275

Collaborating with Nature

Collaborating with Nature

I’ve been making leaf faces for several years. Initially it was a lark. Everything starts as a lark, a lark being a carefree episode, something of no importance that is surprisingly enjoyable. The thought crossed my mind to make a face in a leaf and I acted on it. I get a kick out of visiting the leaf and watching it change over time. It takes a while for the cuts I make to scar over. Other alterations occur as well, things I can’t anticipate,like shifts in color and spider webs. Living things are always in flux. I dig that my initial creative contribution is just the starting point. The “art” would not be complete until nature had a pass.

I do it pretty regularly and now have quite a collection of leaves. At some point in the process I press them flat between paper in a big book and put some heavy weight on it. There really is no finish point as they are fragile and evolving towards dust, no matter what I do to slow that process. When I get around to selling prints, which I hope to be doing soon, I am going to include a leaf face with every purchase.

Laurel Sumac

I was hiking in Runyon Canyon, noticed these beautiful reddish stripped dried leaves, picked some, soaked them in water, scratched in faces and pressed em. Fun!

Magnolia Petals

These are delightful to play with as you can make a face just by pressing them with objects. They bruise up almost instantaneously. Very satisfying. I wish there were more magnolia petals laying around. I am not going to pluck them off the trees. But they don’t dry out well. The whole petal turns brown and you can barely see the face.

Orchid Leaves

I have several orchid plants, my kid and husband like to buy them for me for Mother’s Day or my birthday. So lovely! The flowers last for at least a month. They are wonderful gifts. I am not an ace green thumb but I do keep everything watered and I’ve had several orchids bloom more than once. The second bloom feels like a miracle, like a victory of the forces of good against evil. How I love it! But I’ve never managed three blooms and eventually most of them die. Who knows why, the leaves just start to yellow and one day you see a leaf no longer attached, lying beside the sad plant. Oh dear!

This happened recently. The orchid had no more blooms to give. Its leaves are very plump with water, much thicker than most plant leaves. They take more than 24 hours for the bruised part to start darkening. But they do change eventually and it’s enjoyable to watch.

I think these are sort of the opposite of painting in oil. They don’t preserve well, deteriorating almost instantly, they’re impossible to control and too delicate to hang on a wall. But they are appealing enough to entice theft! Just as art museums have cat burglars, I have had leaf faces plucked from ivy bushes before I took my final photos. Now I try to keep them hidden. They may be ephemeral, but they have power, an ode to the transmuting mysteries of life force.