Basquiat, Haring and Banksy did it via their Graffiti art. Madonna did it via her music. Writers, architects, actors, designers, dancers, chefs, and more, do it. They express themselves through their creations; announcing their presence to the world. Their genius lies in making the expression seem facile, when it certainly is not.
It isn’t such an easy feat for mere mortals. But with the help of teachers, parents, friends, mentors we can all learn (with varying degrees of success) to achieve a better/clearer result of expression.
In my case the problem child requiring a firm guiding hand was the written word.
You see, my thought process is an explosion onto a page, as was explained to me by a teacher in high school. I remember essays and short stories coming back with comments in the margins about the many interesting, at times unique, ideas I had brought forth, only to leave them by the wayside, or undeveloped, as I enthusiastically digressed on to the next great find. I couldn’t seem to organize it all in order to choose one idea, develop it and stick with it till the end.
Thankfully, through patient mentors such as the aforementioned teacher, I was able to learn how to pick through all the information, decide and then focus on developing, as thoroughly as possible, a specific idea (remember introduction, body and conclusion speeches).
There are other individuals who can, instead, from the farthest reaches and most general statements, work their way inwards, in ever more detail, towards the nucleus of a problem or topic. Others still can tackle a subject from the side, coming at it from a fresh and totally unexpected angle.
We are not all the same.
One year a group of us (creative writing students) attended, as per our teacher’s suggestion, a three day art seminar prior to impending exams.
To further glean how to write cleaner, crisper, meaningful text.
Through further training of our thought process.
The assignment: Produce an oeuvre (sculpture, still life, installation…) by the final day of said seminar, using only three-five items. No title permitted. In this way we could really assess if the messaging was clear to all participants simply through the visual display.
We were flummoxed at first, but then our survival instinct kicked in.
So, for the next three days we learned how to synthesize, summarize, zoom in, amalgamate, consolidate, pinpoint, organize, clarify, and then some. When curating a piece you needed to decide if the level of difficulty was going to dictate you or you it. When selecting the items, for the piece, we were told to study those articles with the eyes of a stranger as opposed to our own (not as easy as it sounds, but probably the most useful lesson of all). And so it went…
Let me say, that those were the best three days ever! I really recommend, recommend, recommend this exercise, for anyone interested in honing their thought process. You needn’t be a student or a specific age or a specific anything to get something from this surprisingly fun, challenging and educational exercise that develops our skills of observation/interpretation of both the specific and the broad.
Were I attending the seminar today I would probably create a still life of cut up pieces of newspaper and then a sewing machine with the newspaper being resewn/reassembled. Or I might assemble many tiny figures of humans standing by watching a globe as it burns.
What would you come up with to express how you feel about something today?