Everyone’s a Critic, eh?

I can’t stop thinking about it…

The other day, some of our kids and grandkids came for a visit. Among them was our youngest grandchild, the cause of my curiosity.

Next month, she will be just 2½. She’s quite a character. She tries to be fiercely independent and walks with great confidence. Resolute in her opinions, last year she was going through that typical toddler stage at which she replied to every and any request with a determined “No!!!” When our son/her dad tried to urge her to say yes, she looked at him squarely in the eye, and insisted, “NO ‘yes’ daddy!”

She loves to draw, colour, and paint…

Zoey at art

She loves to draw,  colour and paint

So, back to what happened the other day…

While everyone was interacting, I was busy laying out the food I’d prepared earlier in the day for a buffet. I noticed this little girl walk into the space between our dining room table and kitchen island, stop in her tracks, and stare at the painting resting on an easel in the corner of the dining room.

Candles with Flowers

“Still Life with Flowers” Mixed media by Nellie Jacobs

Fascinated to see such a young child study the painting so carefully, I stopped what I was doing  to watch her. Just as I began wondering what thoughts were going through her head she turned to me, and declared,

“I don’t like it.”

I almost fell over.

“What?” I asked, not sure I heard her words correctly. “What did you say?”

“I don’t like it,” she repeated.

Now I was really fascinated, so I asked her, “Why don’t you like it?”

Her answer, “Because.”

No explanation. So, now, like a fool, I began pleading my case to this two year old. I told her I was the one who painted it and that I’d also painted the artwork behind her.

Flowers on Windowsill

“Vases with Flowers” Mixed media by Nellie Jacobs

She turned to look, and immediately turned back to the first one. I mumbled on, pointing out again that I was the painter, that the subject was only flowers – and ended with the grand, “Who asked your opinion anyhow?”

I’d argued in vain. Unmoved, she barely glanced at me as she went off to continue playing with her cousins…

Later in the evening after everyone had left, I repeated the exchange with my husband Paul. He asked why I was feeling so sensitive.

On the contrary, I told him, I was fascinated.  What about the painting prompted this two year old to stop, look and give an unasked for opinion? Why would she say she didn’t like it? What did she find disagreeable? I wished aloud that she could have had the ability to articulate the reason for her reaction. My musings led to the bigger picture, the question of criticism overall: understanding where it comes from, the person’s agenda, expertise, background, knowledge, our reaction to it, our own tendencies to be critical, etc.

I had conversations about it with others. “Out of the mouths of babes” and “She’s pure of heart” and “She knows what she likes” were some of their responses. Those discussions became deeper, leading to provocative debate over the definition of criticism, why people criticize,  and whether there can be any value to critics generally.

 

Zoey the art critic

Hard at work, colouring

Your thoughts?

_____

See below for comments to this post…

 

 

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Creativity: Setting Parameters

Creativity and creative solutions can often come from setting very specific or restrictive parameters. Believe it.

Here’s an example…

While searching through my art portfolio, I found an art pad which included preliminary drawings for a painting challenge our class had been assigned. The object was to choose a subject while emphasizing in it something indicating or starting with the letters from A to L.

I decided to create a painting entitled Birds, From A to L, while adding another restriction: limiting the color/colour palette.

After extensive research and consideration, I carefully planned a draft on the sketch pad, dividing the proposed painting into sections:

 

Birds study 1

Draft plan layout w sample colours/etchings

A: Air > Thinking  about how to depict the idea of air, I decided to show in the upper left corner a bird souring along with air balloons rising.

 

A: Air Study on left photo; Finished section on right

B: Beak > I chose to draw the profile of an eagle’s beak.

Birds study 15

C: Claw > The claw, or talon, had to indicate power and strength. Again, I chose the eagle as the example.

Birds study 16

D: Ducks > I wanted to show them taking off and flying.

E: Eggs > As I tend to do, I wanted something different and mysterious  in the painting, I chose to include wry humour with a dozen eggs in a box, some of them broken. I didn’t have that many eggs, so kept moving them. It took a day of sketching to get them and the broken ones right, in my opinion.

F: Feather > Years ago, my husband brought back home a large, gorgeous eagle’s feather he found while visiting Canadian country singer icon Ian Tyson’s Alberta ranch. That feather, still on display at our Muskoka cottage, became the anchor of the painting.

 

G: Geese/Grass > Have you seen geese landing on fields and beaches to take a rest and replenish during their long flight? Their V formations are a sight to behold.

H: House/Home > I wanted to incorporate many aspects of birds, such as their variety, appearance, environment (wild and tame),  etc. Hence, the bird house…

I: Infants > Baby birds nestled together seemed to be an endearing way to depict this letter, and demonstrated the life cycle (from egg to soaring birds to eggs for consumption) …

 

J: Jungle > I enjoy the beauty and personality of parrots, and wanted to indicate possibly mated birds, too.

K: Kingfisher > I looked through magazines to find the prototype for this one.

Birds study 17

L: Loons > We have loons on Lake Muskoka. Their distinct cries across the water are so hauntingly beautiful. A visitor pointed out that the loons are prehistoric and that the eagle is more recent development, so the painting is full circle. I don’t know if the information is true. I like to think it is.

Below is the completed painting, purchased as a gift for a bird lover who has a Masters degree that included studying bird species. It hangs in a place of honor, lighted up for family and guests to admire.

Birds from A to L

Birds, From A to L-22″ x 30″ Watermedia by Nellie Jacobs. Smaller copies available for sale…

  • Creativity is
    • personal,
    • individualistic,
    • can be enjoyed by, and shared with others.
  • Restrictions imposed can lead to something you would never have considered.
  • Choices you make as a result won’t necessarily be replicated by anyone else.
  • There is no right or wrong.

What are your thoughts and experiences in regards to the points made in this posting? Share in the comments section below….

Creativity: Shifting “Should” Mindset to “Could”

[Click here to see the YouTube video]

I had just completed the painting and wanted to share the process. So yesterday I posted photos and this text on Facebook:

Parts of the completed reworked painting …Please help me give it a title…

 I have included throughout this article photos of various sections of this unnamed art piece. The complete painting is posted at the end…

floral fantasy1Elaine Rose immediately suggested ‘Floral Fantasy’, which I like.

floral fantasy2Then I got a heartwarming, validating comment from acquaintance and Facebook friend Andreea Negrea:

This is just beautiful Nellie ! I’ve come back to this post 3-4 times today just to take another look, there is something in this painting that’s hidden… I don’t know how to explain it. There are so many elements in it that give me a different emotion every time I come back to look at it. For some reason I want to call it “The longing”, that’s what came to me every time. I love it. You are very talented.

I find painting to be a unique way of expressing oneself and I wish I had that talent. It must be an amazing way to release emotion and energy.

floral fantasy3Andreea’s comment inspired this blog post …Read on…

floral fantasy4I am just getting back into creating art after a very long break, in spite of  the fact that – as with any creator – when I’m fully into it, the process of art creation takes me to a high, a place that’s beyond this world, to feeling that is  almost indescribable, at least on a public site as this.

I want to share with you information about the painting’s years’ long development and the creative truths verified along the way …

floral fantasy5Years ago, I framed what I thought was a completed painting as a triptych, and hung it on a wall. Here is the original:

floral fantasy originalOver time, however, whenever I looked at it – except for certain elements – I came to hate it.

I felt it was too busy, too dull, too much of an experiment in too many areas that didn’t really work as a whole. Two years ago, I took it down and turned it to face a wall.

Every time I walked by, I’d glance at the back of the frame, and wonder what to do with it.

Two weeks ago,  I  spontaneously began dismantling the frame layer by layer.

First off were the screws holding the support wire, then the glued wrapping paper protecting the back, followed by the heavy cardboard backing held in place by dozens of staples, and finally, the white matte. It took almost an hour of careful removal to free the painting.

I placed it on a table, ready for something, but what? I’d stop, stare at it and wonder, “What should I do to improve it? What if I mess it up?” And then,  after a few days, asked myself, “Who am I answering to …and, really, who cares?” I decided to let go of the “should” and instead embrace the “could”. What could be done to make this painting more exciting, cohesive and, even, mysterious?

Out came pastel crayons, liquid acrylics, and magic markers. The colour red became my friend. Each day, I eliminated the busy-ness, added a bit of colour here, a brush stroke there. And then, yesterday I was done!

floral fantasy7Not only did I enjoy the process, not only did I love the changes, but the fact that someone else expressed her emotional reactions to it was really an unexpected icing on the cake.

I wrote a note of appreciation, “Thanks again, Andreea. Your response is very meaningful to me.

floral fantasy8To which she replied,

Thank YOU for sharing something so beautiful, something made by your hands and driven by emotions and soul. This was truly a breath of fresh air in this social media world that’s full of disturbing and draining drama … Keep doing all you do, it’s inspirational!

Here’s the completed painting, needing a title… (I LOVE the red!)

Floral Fantasy_1

Untitiled Triptych – Multi-media 21½” high x 31½” wide

[Click here to see the YouTube video]

After posting on Facebook, my friend and fine artist Elaine Clarfield Gitalis, who taught a few of my art courses (see my next article for her A to L assignment), wrote, “…the red was a bold move!……you made great painting out of a good painting!”

My reply, not a word of a lie? ” Red just came to me like a bolt out of the sky. Who can explain those moments, Elaine? There are no words.

So, I suggest anyone looking for creative solutions:

  • Let go of restrictions caused by
    • traditional practices,
    • preconceived ideas,
    • self-criticism,
    • concern of what others expect or think, or
    • striving for imaginary perfection (who is the judge?).
  • Experiment with new elements and fresh ideas.
  • Access limitless creativity and problem solving change your thinking from “should” to “could.”

***

What are your thoughts and experiences in regards to the points made in this posting? Share in the comments section below….

Life Metaphors

#1 - MountaintopIn my introduction for the last Internet radio show of Season 2, (Episode 24-Cliff Sutton: Communicating Effectively)  I said I love using metaphors. Metaphors help clarify, exemplify or simplify complexities facing us.
 
For example, years ago, I became fascinated with rocks. Over time, until today, I’ve photographed and painted them.

 My very first large sheet of water colour painting, Life Series #2, was created in one of several series of classes I took that were led by Elaine Gitalis, an extraordinary instructor and fine artist. 

Life Series #2. Copyright Nellie Jacobs 2009

Life Series #2. Copyright Nellie Jacobs 2009

Since then, I’ve created many rock paintings in all kinds of styles and media:
Life Series # 5. Watercolour. Copyright 2009 Nellie Jacobs

Life Series # 5. Watercolour. Copyright 2009 Nellie Jacobs

   Life series #1, below, was my first experiment in shape, lighting and shading. It was also a study in negative and positive space:

Life Series # 1, Rocky Crag. Watercolour. Copyright 2009 Nellie Jacobs

Life Series # 1, Rocky Crag. Watercolour. Copyright 2009 Nellie Jacobs

When I began Magical MousePainting™ (computer painting with a mouse using the Microsoft Paint application), I couldn’t help but create illustrations of rocks and mountains:
 rocks
Same drawing, inverted colours:
rocks-invertcolours
 
Here’s a different perspective:
Picture Perfect. Copyright Nellie Jacobs 2009

Picture Perfect. Copyright Nellie Jacobs 2009

In the week-end nature and photography retreat I attended in April, rocks were again a focus of many of my pictures:

Copyright 2009 Nellie Jacobs

Copyright 2009 Nellie Jacobs

Lessons Learned

1. Rocks can represent the positive characteristics of people.

Copyright Nellie Jacobs 2009

Copyright 2009 Nellie Jacobs

Rocks symbolize steadiness, permanance, reliability and strength. All of these are fine features I look for in colleagues and friends.

2. Like rocks, people come in all different sizes, shapes and colors. The source of their creation and their history are varied, as well. 

Copyright 2009 Nellie Jacobs

Copyright 2009 Nellie Jacobs

3. Like rocks, people can be surface (interested mainly in events) or deep (interested in ideas).  

Into the depths. Copyright Nellie Jacobs, 2009

Into the depths. Copyright Nellie Jacobs, 2009

 I love the way these rocks below nestle into each other like friends sharing secrets, or maybe recipes:

Copyright Nellie Jacobs 2009

Copyright Nellie Jacobs 2009

What are some metaphors you like to use or that fascinate you?

Creatively Yours,

Nellie Jacobs

______________

Through her Igniting Imagination programs and services, creativity consultant Nellie Jacobs stimulates creative-thinking, providing tools to individuals, organizations and companies to help ‘mine’ hidden or latent human resources for the personal and professional betterment of all.

All Igniting Imagination with Nellie Jacobs talk radio episodes are numbered and archived for your listening pleasure, inspiration and convenience at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Igniting-Imagination.

Seasons 1 and 2 guest photos, profiles, topics and links to their episodes are posted on at www.ignitingimagination.com. Just follow the links.

Twitter:@nelliejacobs                                                                                                                   

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