Archive for art

Expectations of Genius

Posted in Ramblings, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by KarenElizabeth

I stumbled across this story today in my ramblings around the Internet.

It bothers me how the media buys in to the stereotype of the “dumb blonde” and the idea that beautiful women cannot possibly be intelligent, too — I’ve talked about this before.  It’s hard to be judged as “stupid” before you’ve even opened your mouth, just because of how you look.  It’s hard to fight an uphill battle every day against the preconceived notion that if you’re pretty, you’ve had everything handed to you on a silver platter and have never had to work or to fight for what you have in your life.  It’s hard to stay positive when people attack you based on those assumptions, or avoid you entirely and refuse to get to know you.

But what actually struck me more, in reading this story, was the commentary surrounding how this girl is “wasting her potential”.  How she’s wasting valuable time, thought, and energy on a beauty routine that involves self-tanner and fake nails.  How she’s wasting her mind by watching trash TV shows.  How she’s wasting her thoughts and her potential on dreams of a future in performance.  The general disdain for beauty and so-called “superficial” pursuits is prevalent throughout the article, and even more so in the comments being left by readers.

This kind of pressure is commonly faced by those of us with higher-than-average intellects, and it can be absolutely crushing.  When everyone’s telling you how much you could do and pushing you to “live up to your full potential”, it feels as though the expectations placed upon you are almost impossible to live up to — as though nothing you do can ever possibly be good enough.  Any “wasted” time becomes a source of guilt, and whenever you can’t be in two places at once or do everything perfectly on the first try, you feel as though you’re letting everyone down and not doing as well as you “should” be.  And when you need to ask for help, you feel bad, as though you’re somehow failing by needing someone else to lend a hand or show you the way.  And it can feel incredibly unfair when you feel those expectations being put upon you, but not on anybody else:  I still feel a huge sense of injustice when my parents brush off my siblings’ lack of scholastic ability, when they spent so much time berating me for every “A minus” grade that I “could have done better” on, or when a well-meaning friend or relative criticizes my choice to pursue an arts career when I “could be” a doctor or a lawyer or a scientist or whatever other career they happen to think is more suitable.

This is a pressure that I’ve faced throughout my life, and I’m sure the girl in this story is feeling a huge wave of it right now.  And it’s completely unfair.

First of all, there’s the simple fact that just having a high IQ does not mean you’re good at every single subject.  You may be able to grasp unfamiliar concepts more quickly, remember things more readily, or assimilate information in a quick & easy fashion, but that doesn’t mean you’re good at everything you do.  I still have my subjects that I struggle in, and so does every other “genius” I’ve ever met.  I’ve needed extra help, from time to time, and it’s often frustratingly hard to get — it’s amazing how often people will say things like, “but you’re smart, why can’t you understand this?”, or dismiss your efforts as though you’re not even trying because “you’d get it if you just put your mind to it”.  But just being generally smart does not mean you’ve got a natural aptitude for everything.

And along with aptitude, there’s interest.  Different things catch different people’s attention, and we shouldn’t feel limited to only certain areas of study because those are traditionally seen as more “intellectual”.  So what if a smart person wants to apply their brains to an artistic field, or if they’d rather do a job that involves using their hands?  A person shouldn’t need to feel intellectually challenged by their work every single day (unless that’s what they themselves actually want).  And if a person decides to go into a field that’s not “intellectual”, they shouldn’t feel guilty because they “could” be doing something else.  I may be intelligent, but I wouldn’t be happy working in a lab — spending my life trying to cure cancer or blaze new legal trails would leave me feeling unhappy and unfulfilled, and ultimately I’d never have the sort of passion for the work that drives true innovation.

And then, of course, there’s the fact that IQ is only one measure of intelligence.  As we come to understand more and more about the way the human brain works, we’re beginning to place more important on things like the “emotional quotient” and on different learning styles and “types” of intelligence.  A person who has a relatively average IQ, but is very passionate about their subject, is likely to spend more time and energy working on it — and if they’re coming at it from a different angle or “learning style”, they may see things in it that a traditionally-intelligent, “booksmart”-type would not see.

There’s a high level of “burnout” among high-IQ individuals, and a lot of that is directly related to these pressures that we face.  We’re expected to be highly self-reliant and to need less teaching.  Our peers often rely on us to help them out when they are struggling with a topic (“hey, you’re smart, can you explain this?”), but who do the “smart kids” turn to when we’re in need of a little help?  If we choose to spend a few hours relaxing and playing a video game or watching TV, we face the criticism that we “should be” learning something instead, never mind that down-time and letting your brain shut off for a while is important for all people (“why aren’t you off curing cancer right now instead of watching that reality TV show?”).  And often our less-intellectual friends come to rely on us for things that aren’t even really our responsibility:  we’re the ones who are expected to remember every little detail, even if we’re not directly in charge (“well you should have known better”).  Sometimes the more you deliver, the more it seems people expect of you, until everything in life becomes a thankless struggle to keep up with the expectations that are being placed on you.

Emotive Language and the Limitations of English Phrases

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2013 by KarenElizabeth

I am a person who loves words.  A “logophile“, if you will, (or “lexophile”, if you are like me and prefer Latin instead of Greek roots for your terminology).  I am also a monolingual person, having never successfully learned a second language (although I’ve dabbled in both French and German, both were learned solely because of school requirements and promptly forgotten afterwards).  As a writer, a poet, and a lover of communication in all its forms, I enjoy finding the exact words and phrases that express what’s in my mind.

It is, therefore, a genuinely distressing experience when I find myself in situations where words, quite simply, fail me.

"Words Fail Me" by DeviantART artist ~simplyrain

The English language has a lot of words (it’s been argued that English has the “most” words of any language, but such claims are hard to verify), due largely to the fact that English includes many assimilated words “borrowed” from other languages.  It is spoken all over the world — it is the third most common “first language” (after Mandarin and Spanish), and is the most popular “second language” for people to learn.  Much of globalized business and politics is conducted in English, so it’s a language rich in legalese and very specific terminologies.

Where English tends to be lacking, though, is in emotive and expressive words.  We can describe in great detail an object, a person, a place, an event:  something concrete and tangible.  We understand the nuanced difference between something that is “big”, “huge”, “enormous”, or “gargantuan”.  But when it comes to describing our feelings, we’re really not that great at it.  We stumble over our words.  We say things that we don’t really mean, and we misunderstand one another.

Take “love”, for example.  We love our families.  We love our romantic partners.  We love our children.  We love our pets.  We love a great piece of art, or a hockey team, or a delicious meal.  And there are a lot of different things that we mean when we say the words “I lovI love lampe”.  There are people who refuse to say “the L word” for fear of diluting its “deeper” meaning, while there are others who use it almost constantly to describe most any positive feeling.  And there are all sorts of qualifying words that we add to “love”, in an attempt to further define it:  “platonic love”, “fraternal love”, “romantic love”, “true love”, “puppy love”.  Sex is often referred to as “making love”.  And we, as a society, tend to see love as some sort of unexplainable, mystical force:  you can “fall into” or “fall out of” love, or be struck by “love at first sight”, as if it’s all being done by some outside force or by “fate”.  We are confused by love, and afraid of it, and yet we seek it as some sort of ultimate fulfillment in life.  “All You Need is Love”, and “Love Conquers All”.

We are also terrible, in English, at describing sorrowful emotions.  I recently went through a loss — my bearded dragon, Ziggy Stardust, unexpectedly passed away.  And while I spent a few days randomly bursting into tears at work, and being unable to even look at his empty, lonely terrarium, and feeling otherwise terrible in my grief (not least because his death was unexpected and the cause undetermined, so despite my proper husbandry practices I can’t help but worry that I may have missed a sign or done something wrong), I had a lot of trouble putting those awful feelings into words.  The best that I could come up with was “I’m sad”, and that of course does nothing to really describe the way I felt.

At the same time, it’s hard to properly express empathy for another person when they are experiencing grief or other negative emotions.  SayingI'm sorry “I’m sorry” is the socially accepted response, but it certainly doesn’t seem like the proper thing … “I’m sorry” is generally an expression of regret for a mistake or a fault, or a request for forgiveness, and isn’t truly descriptive of the empathetic feeling of sorrow you have when a friend or loved one is experiencing grief.  And yet, to go into a long explanation of your own feelings and emotions at a time when someone else is already feeling sorrow:  well, that just seems selfish and self-absorbed, doesn’t it?  So we resort to the socially-appropriate thing and say “I’m sorry for your loss”, and hope that it gets the right feeling across.

I’m not really sure what the solution is to our lack of emotive words.  There are people who are trying to bring the various Greek terms for “love” into common parlance — agape for the “pure” or “ideal” love between romantic partners, eros for “passionate” sexual love, philia for the platonic love felt for friends, storge for the filial affection felt within families, and xenia for the ritual “love” between a host and their guest (something that’s not as relevant today, but was a foundational element of the Greek culture).  But getting people to accept new terminology is not exactly an easy thing, and it’s likely to cause just as much confusion as it solves.  In addition, there’s the fact that many Westerners (and especially North Americans) are very uncomfortable with talking about emotions.  Displays of extreme emotion, whether happy or sad, are often seen as inappropriate or ridiculous, and discussing one’s “feelings” is a thing that’s often sneered at.  We prefer to keep emotions bottled-up and private, and so communicating them is not a high priority for many people.

I just wish I had the words to always say just what I feel.

My Personal Artistic Manifesto – Updated June 2012

Posted in Ramblings, Theatricality with tags , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2012 by KarenElizabeth

When I first started univeristy, I was introduced to the concept of the “artistic manifesto”.  It was something that struck me as immediately useful, whether for a company of artists or for a single person: a document to which you could return, time after time, to review the reasons why you started out on a particular path, and to examine whether those goals are still valid, whether you’ve remained true to them, and whether some of your practices need to change.

I sat down to writing almost immediately, and after several drafts I had a starting place.  An artistic manifesto that I was proud to put my name to — something to build the beginnings of my career from.

Every so often since then, I’ve sat down and re-read the document I wrote.  I’ve updated it a few times — even re-wrote it entirely, at one point — but certain things have carried through.  Even as the world changes, and my life changes, and my knowledge grows, I like having something that I can go back to.  Something that says, “this is what I want from my life”, so that when I’m facing a choice, or an obstacle, or just feeling unmotivated, I can read my own words and feel inspired.

I spent part of my day, today, updating and re-writing portions of my manifesto.  Not because it had become less valid, but because it’s been about two years since I’d last done so, and some things in my life have changed since I last took a serious look at this.  And when I was finished, I thought:  I want to share this.  So here it is, in its entirety.  My personal artistic manifesto, in its current iteration.

—-

1.

I believe in art.

I believe that art is not merely a pastime, or a hobby.  Art is a necessity for human life, as important as food, and safety, and shelter.  A life devoid of art is not worth living — indeed, cannot even be called “life”.  To live without art is merely to exist, in a sort of existential limbo, awaiting illumination and enlightenment.

I believe that art is the purest of human endeavors, beginning as it does with the most basic of human qualities, the thing that separates intelligent beings from mere animals:  the need to communicate.  When early man painted on cave walls, told stories around the fire, and learned to create music, the purpose was to communicate.  To share, with other intelligent beings, a bit of their knowledge and experience.  And this was not mere entertainment, a simple way to pass the time:  important knowledge was passed on, bonds forged between individuals, and the advancement of the human species was fostered by this great variety of communication.

I believe that art has more power than science, or religion, or politics, because none of these things would prosper without art to support them.  No idea, however grand, can be realized without communication.  If it is not shared, and spread, and accepted into a culture, an idea dies.  Kings and empires have been brought down by the stroke of a pen; revolutions sparked by the notes of a song.  It is our responsibility, as artists, to use and shape this power wisely.

2.

There is no art that is not political.  Art is an expression of the culture from which it comes, whether in support of or against the status quo.  To dismiss art as merely entertainment is to ignore its true nature and power, and the artist does this at their peril.  It is when we engage the power of our chosen medium that we can truly shape the message we convey, and create the most powerful end product.

There is no art that is not collaborative.  Every artist is shaped by the people and the culture and the world that surrounds them, so that even if they create in absolute isolation, they are still bringing the world in with them.  And when the art is shared with an audience, then there is collaboration as well:  the audience’s thoughts and feelings and reactions will shape the art in different ways, so that one piece may touch every single person in a slightly different place.  Thus, art is never static, never “finished”:  it is always living, changing, existing in the present tense for all who encounter it.

There is no art which is “good” or “bad”, for these absolutes cannot apply to the basic need to communicate.  There are, however, different levels of skill with which a piece may be executed, and some art is therefore more effective.  Then, too, there is art that effectively serves its purpose, but lacks any relevance:  this art does not speak to an audience, or does not share anything worth saying.  It is the artist’s responsibility to use the power of their art to its fullest — to always execute a piece to the best of their ability, and to make sure that their message is a thing worth saying.

3.

I believe that artists should always aim to communicate something meaningful.  Without passion, art rings hollow, and quickly becomes irrelevant.  What is meaningful to each particular artist may be different, but what is most important is that passion be the thing at the beginning.

Art is a great motivator for change, and should always be used for promoting action.  Art which supports the status quo is ineffective, as it only promotes inaction.  It is the responsibility of the artist to create that which communicates a need for something to be done.  A participant in art — whether they are the creator or an audience member — should be left changed by their encounter with art, and motivated to go out and do something about it.

4.

I believe that theatre is one of the most effective forms of artistic expression.  Theatre is highly collaborative, to a degree not seen in many other mediums, requiring many different people with a great variety of skill sets to realize a production.  The involvement of the audience is live and immediate, with their presence and feedback providing the opportunity for the same production to be different on every single night.  This immersion and involvement of the viewer places them into a state where they are ready to be impacted and changed by the message being communicated through the art.

5.

It is my aim to create art which is effective and relevant, and to shun that which supports the status quo and inaction.  I will create art that effects the changes I wish to see within the world.

Theatre is my chosen medium, although I am not exclusively a theatrical artist.  I will work to promote the creation of theatre and to advance the craft of the stage.

I believe that art is more effective when it is created with the audience in mind.  Thus I will focus my creative energies on art that is specifically relevant to the people who surround me and who will be my audience.

Art is meant to be shared with others.  I will share my knowledge of my craft and work to create opportunities for other artists, as well as for myself.

I will keep learning, and seeking to learn.  I will never consider myself “finished”, because a piece of art is never finished as long as there are people to interact with it.

I will not give up, no matter what obstacles stand in my way, because to live without art is not living.

I will change the world.

They’ve TAINTed the Turtles!!! Artistic License vs. Fandom

Posted in Ramblings, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2012 by KarenElizabeth

Not much time for posting right now, what with The Melville Boys going into the theatre next week (people in Toronto, buy your tickets now!), but had to weigh in on the whole “teenage alien ninja turtles” fan-rage thing that’s going on right now with a few of my thoughts on the subject.

To begin with, these (see above) are the turtles I grew up with.  “Secret of the Ooze” was one of my favourite childhood movies, and it covers the whole origin story pretty thoroughly.  Industrial accident, dangerous mutagenic properties, kung-fu rat, sexy news girl, and a little bit of the old early-90s style environmentalism that touched so many children’s shows and movies of my youth.  So you can bet that when I heard that Michael Bay was planning to turn the turtles into alien invaders (so, the initials are TAINT now?  Like how you’ve TAINTed my childhood joy with your re-writes?) I was first skeptical (they can’t be doing that!), and then furious (oh dear gods they’re actually doing that?)

Now, I try to be open-minded when it comes to updating the classics.  There are some things that require changes in order to transfer to a different medium (ie, turning “The Hunger Games” into a movie required cutting scenes and characters from the book, just for the sake of time and clarity, and changing the narrative from first-person to third-person, for the sake of camera angles).  There are some things that become dated and need to be done away with in a re-working (ie, various versions of Star Trek have updated the technology in different ways to make it look more “real” to a more tech-savvy audience).  And there are times when you just want to change the style in some way to tell the story differently (ie, the new Batman movies have huge stylistic changes — arguably because what had been done before had, well, already been done).  But for any change to be accepted by an already-existing fanbase?  It has to be justifiable.  Yes, you’ll always get those rabid fans for whom Kirk is the only captain, and he can only be played by Shatner.  Closed-minded?  Maybe, but those people are the ones who’ve already found what they love about the series, and they don’t need anything new.  They’re happy to re-watch the same 79 episodes over and over again, ad nauseum, and more power to them for it.

Okay.  I get bored of him after a while, but then, Picard was always my captain.

But I digress.

 

For most fans, the new is not automatically anathema, and this is where many writers, directors, producers, etc. seem to get themselves confused.  Because while the media loves to present the conflict as a bunch of stuck-in-their-rut fanboys against a bunch of change-for-change’s-sake, canon-means-nothing creators …. well, we all know how the media likes to polarize a situation.  The reality is much more shaded and complex, with both sides having their definite merits (as well as their definite drawbacks).

Firstly, without changes and series’ being re-booted periodically, things would lose their relevance quickly (how many of us would still identify so strongly with a Batman born in the 1920s?  Or a WWII-era Captain America?)  Sometimes things need to be changed, as people’s sensibilities do:  for example, with the Cold War over, the remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” had to be significantly different from the original in order for a modern audience to find it believable (and to cut out a lot of the racism present in the original, which by 2004 was seen as unacceptable).

Secondly, reboots and re-imaginings of things give us a lot more material — a lot more stories — to enjoy.  Even if the original of something was really good and has remained enjoyable and relevant, somebody else can often take that source material and do something just as enjoyable with it (Batman’s a great example here:  I have trouble actually choosing a “favourite version” of The Batman because there are so many good ones out there).

click for the "full" version of this, which is pretty awesome

 

At the same time, though, changes need to be made with respect towards what has been done before.  If you’re taking a story beloved by millions, that has been worked on by many artists before you?  You can’t just up and change things however you may please, because even if you own the copyright, the story does not belong to you.

That’s one of the beautiful things about art, you see.  The process of creating a thing, of taking an idea and bringing it to life?  That’s only half of the artistic equation.  The other half is the audience.  How a piece is viewed and received has a deep effect on both the meaning and the message of that work.  This relationship between art and viewer is most obvious in my realm, theatre, where the audience is actively present in the room and their responses to what is happening on the stage will change the show in subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) ways.

Now, obviously there are times when an artist has to simply disregard an initially negative fan-reaction in order to create their personal vision.  In order to create something new and interesting, sometimes you do have to break canon.  But it’s not a decision to be made lightly.  Fans, even the less-than-rabid ones, do not lightly let go of their attachment to something which they have lived and loved — and this is not a bad thing.  Human empathy is one of the reasons we have been so successful as a species, and it is why art can be so powerful:  when we see something truly well-crafted, we don’t just watch it, we actively participate in it.  Artists who accuse fans of being “too entitled” are disregarding the very thing which can make their work a resounding success.

So, what does this mean for the turtles?  Unfortunately, Michael Bay’s track record (ugh, Transformers, don’t even get me started on that one) is not good with re-booting classic, beloved series’.  I doubt that he has the necessary respect for the source material that is required in order to make such a drastic change be a successful one, and he’s certainly done nothing in the days since this shitstorm hit the Internet to reassure.  Had he immediately come out with a great reason forwhy he was changing the canon?  My interest might have been piqued.  As it is, I don’t know if I’ll even bother to watch this in theatres — it might be one of those things that I only watch later, at home, out of morbid curiosity.

But then, perhaps it will surprise me, and I won’t mind the TAINTed turtles so much after all.  Not holding my breath or anything, though.

Poetic Allusions: A Call for Submissions!

Posted in Poetic Allusions with tags , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2011 by KarenElizabeth

My lovely little domesticated goth people:  I’m working on a new project!  Poetic Allusions is a poetry zine and blog, with the zine to be printed bi-monthly and the blog to be updated at least once a week (hopefully more than that, once I get other people submitting things, but for now I’m aiming for a once-weekly post because I think that I can keep that pace up pretty well).

If any of you have an interest in poetry, I encourage you to please check it out, and I especially encourage submitting your poetry or blog post ideas!  Submissions are open to absolutely anyone.  You can be an established and published writer or a raw beginner.  You can be from Canada or from South Africa.  You can be a girl, a boy, or something that completely defies categorization.  This whole project is about fostering and encouraging a poetic community, and so I’m coming at it with open arms to welcome all comers.

More information about submitting is available at the Poetic Allusions blog.  Poetry submissions must be received by July 10th at the latest in order to be considered for printing in the first issue, but anything after that date can still be considered for publication in the blog, or in the September issue, so don’t feel rushed.  I’m hoping that this will be something that will carry on for many years, so you should have plenty of chances to submit (but don’t wait too long, as I do need lots of interest to really get this kick-started!)

Please share the link around to anyone else who you think might be interested!  http://PoeticAllusions.Wordpress.com is the place to go!

About my Blue-Haired Friend

Posted in Craftery, Ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2011 by KarenElizabeth

Sorry about the lack of posts lately — I promise I’ve got some planned, I’ve just been busy!  Between work and friends and D&D and modeling and trying to get my new Artfire shop up and running so that I can downsize the Etsy shop, I’m driving myself up the walls with too much to do.  But enough complaining!

Today’s post will be a short one, but I think it’s important.  One of my friends from the UEF and Etsy’s now-defunct Etc. forums got some seriously uncool news yesterday:  she might have to close her shop because a person from a different country, doing an entirely unrelated sort of work, is accusing her of copyright infringement because they have similar shop names.

WallCandy is a very talented artist, but she’s also a supremely awesome person.  And I mean awesome in both the “cool” way and the “awe-inspiring” way.  She’s a professional artist (and how many people can say that, in this economy!), a mother, and a cancer survivor.  A lot of her art is inspired by the struggles she went through while going through cancer treatments, and it’s raw, emotional, absolutely beautiful work.  Check her website for some examples of what I’m talking about.  She says in her artist’s statement:

As I sat alone in my hospital room, an ocean away from my children and anything that was familiar, I was afraid I would be forgotten. Life went on without me. I felt like I needed to live so I could at least create enough artwork so I wouldn’t fade away into nothingness. I didn’t know who I was anymore, without my children, without my artwork, without the feel of the green grass beneath my feet. I was nothing … I drew whatever I was feeling but more often than not, I painted my power. I painted the strength inside of me that pulled me through. I took photos of and drew my pain, my vulnerability and my grief.

I created a new narrative, one where I am the heroine. I took this broken body, my betrayer, this lemon and showed it for what it truly is, beautiful.

I sincerely hope that my friend doesn’t lose her name, and that she’s able to keep her shop open.  If it’s not possible, I know she’ll find a new name that’s just as meaningful — but it sucks when I see someone who’s gone through so much and who is such a good person, being trodden on just because they’re a “little guy” without a bunch of lawyers and such to defend them.

The Creative Process

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , on September 5, 2010 by KarenElizabeth

The following post was originally written down as a journal entry, with no real thoughts about sharing it.  I’ve decided, though, to clean it up grammatically and publish it:  I’m curious to compare my particular artistic process to that of others, and am wondering how many people go through something similar.  The prose is a bit more flowery than what I’d typically use in a blog post, and some of the metaphors are definitely tending towards the hyperbolical, but I felt that it read better as a slightly poetic piece, instead of being something strictly factual and analytical.  Apologies if my stream of consciousness is somewhat hard to follow.

——-

Creativity is itchy.

Or at least, that’s how it always starts for me.  An itching at the back of my skull and under the skin of my knuckles, crawling up my arms and down between my shoulder blades.  An unformed desire, not entirely unlike lust.  But at first it’s just desire, not yet pointed in any specific direction.  I’m never sure, until the moment comes, whether I’ll be writing or drawing, painting or sculpting, beading or sewing.  I’m sure that many artists are able to choose the direction in which their creativity will go, but that’s never been a trick that I’ve been particularly good at performing.  I just wait, itching and restless, for the art to take shape in my brain so that I can spew it out onto paper or canvas or fabric or whatever other medium I might eventually require.

Sometimes it takes a while for that first stage to pass.  I’ll spend hours — sometimes days — picking up and putting down my various artistic tools, trying to force my body to calm down and let me actually create something with all the energy running through me.  But my muse, if that is what it is, won’t be rushed.  The eventual product of this frustration will be something beautiful, but until it’s ready to be made all that I can do is create artistic abortions:  failed paintings, poetry so hackneyed that even children’s book authors would cringe, and jewelry that looks like it got dressed in the dark.  Sometimes I’ll go days without sleeping, scratch at my skin until it bleeds, and cry or laugh uncontrollably and for long periods of time, so intense is the desire to just make something.

In this respect, I suppose, my artistry is very closely related to my mental instability.  A prolonged period of artistic frustration is, superficially at least, no different from an anxiety attack.  The only thing that’s different are the thoughts:  throughout the entire time that I’m preparing to be creative, my brain is relatively empty.  Calm, even.  The panicked and self-destructive thoughts that accompany my genuine manic phases are conspicuously absent from the pre-creativity rush, and it’s as though my mind is just patiently waiting for inspiration to be fully realized.

Over the years I’ve found several different ways of dealing with my artistic frustration when it grows especially intense.  Martial arts are a good way of using up physical energy while maintaining mental calm, and so I’ll often spend several hours running through katas or just sparring my shadow.  Sometimes instead of proper karate I’ll just repeat several moves over and over in a sort of stylized dance form, and I’m sure that if anyone were watching they would think that I’d gone crazy (well, crazier — most people assure me that I’m insane).  If I can’t sleep I’ll watch movies or re-read old books that I already know rather well:  nothing requiring real concentration or thought, because I won’t be able to keep a complex plotline in my head, but something that might distract me from my physical discomfort and let me doze off for a few hours.  Drugs are usually a last resort, but sometimes nothing jump-starts creativity like a bit of marijuana (and getting high always makes me sleepy, so even if it doesn’t get me creating it might let me get some sleep).

When the actual creating phase begins, it’s pretty demanding.  I’ll see something in my mind, and suddenly need to make it real.  I try to keep all my artistic supplies well-stocked so that no matter what the creative impulse, I’ll be able to follow it.  It’s pretty enraging when you’re ready to go paint something, only to realize that there are no primed canvases in the house, and it’s past midnight so no stores will be open.

Depending on the medium I’m working in, my creative impulse may be more or less flexible.  Words flow and change in my mind, and a poem that I started out to create may turn into something entirely different — it may even cease to be a poem and turn into a short story or play instead.  Images are less free-flowing:  usually a painting or drawing stays more or less the same in my brain, while my hands struggle to match reality with imagining (and usually manage to come close, but never exact, and it does bother me when I look at a painting and can see all the places where it deviates from the plan).  Beading is something of a special case:  usually all that I begin with is the colours, and the shape evolves as I create it.  No matter what, though, the pieces that I create during these times of intense creativity are always more personal and more powerful than those created at other times.  The poetry that gets the best reviews, the paintings that are the most enjoyed by others, and the jewelry that sells the easiest and the fastest, are always the ones created in these moments.

I’ve always wondered at the artists who are able to maintain studio hours.  Anyone who can go to their studio for 6 or 8 hours a day and manage to create things from such structure is something of a mystery to me.  I am a bit jealous, of course:  controllable creativity seems like such a blissful arrangement.  But then, I suppose my art wouldn’t be very personal if it wasn’t coming from a place of semi-insanity and subcutaneous itchiness.

Sometimes it amazes me that I ever thought I could be a scientist.  I love science, but it doesn’t command me the way that art does.  I can go months without reading a single scientific journal or having a scientifically-minded discussion with anyone.  If I were try to go more than a few weeks without doing something artistic I would probably explode, climb a clock tower, and start taking out innocent civilians.  Although, I suppose if I were to do that exact thing with a paintball gun it could be considered guerilla performance art.  Something to think about.