Archive for January, 2011
Creativity often defies rational explanation. You can think about the work and break it down into pieces, but you can’t think your way around it. And the hallmark of originality is attention. It’s a rare creation today that will make us stop multitasking and focus completely on reading, listening or seeing.
In school, I consistently daydreamed my way through math class (and then wondered why I couldn’t do the homework… but that’s another story). My mind would travel so far from the classroom that I was practically orbiting the moon. Original creations make that kind of mental escape nearly impossible. They snap you back into the moment and command your attention. They shake you up and change your very thought patterns. The brain connects disparate emotions and ideas in one seamless thread — and whether or not those thoughts make conscious sense, you’re always, always engaged with the experience.
The American poet Audre Lorde said, “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.” We’re all building on the words or brush strokes or visions of the brilliant minds that came before us. True originality lies in absorbing those influences, mixing them in with the mess of daily life, and then saying something completely, uttery true. That’s creativity in action.
Is this original work?
It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately — and it’s a bar I want to set high.
photo by Amir K.
Just like bungee jumping, skydiving and shopping for swimsuits, sometimes you’ve got to trick your brain into taking risks.
Here’s one technique that really works. Start by making a list of 30 people, gatekeepers, institutions or opportunities that represent a big stretch in your career. Think long shots and lofty goals. For example:
– request representation with a gallery you admire
– book a venue far bigger than where you currently perform
– pitch your designs to a prestigious retailer
You get the idea. Keep writing until you reach 30. Heck, make it 50. Force yourself to be really outlandish.
Now it’s time to take action. Start working through your list with the intention of getting 30 or 50 “nos.” Just make sure you’re backing up all those pitches and plans with the necessary legwork. Do your homework and give every item your best shot. As you’ve probably guessed, two important things will happen:
1. You’re going to hear the word “yes” a lot more often than you expected.
2. You’ll become more comfortable with rejection, which is essential for artists and creatives at every point in their careers. The dagger becomes a little dulled — and you start growing a tougher skin.
Give it a try and let me know what happens.
David Downton is one of those prolific artists whose work just seems to pop up everywhere. His illustrations have graced the pages of Vogue, The Financial Times, Harper’s Bazaar and V Magazine, and he draws for commercial clients including Chanel, Barney’s, L’Oreal, Dior, and Tiffany & Co.
In 2007, Downton started an international fashion illustration journal called Pourquoi Pas? Printed on heavyweight paper in a limited edition of 1,500, the periodical is intended to “celebrate drawing in our digital, disposable, point and shoot world.” Pretty fantastic.
He also published a glossy coffee table book last year called Masters of Fashion Illustration, which celebrates some of the world’s most outlandish talents (himself included). Light on text but heavy on eye candy, it looks like a gorgeous source of inspiration — whether you work in a visual field or not.
Surely you all know (and maybe love) The Sartorialist, right? Photographer Scott Schuman is the reigning curator of street style, with a ridiculously popular blog that attracts people-watchers from around the globe. He also does assignment-based client work and is represented by the same gallery as Annie Leibovitz, Chuck Close, and the late Andy Warhol.
Whatever you think about the man behind the lens, I enjoyed watching this slick, day-in-the-life film by Intel — a company that’s obviously leveraging Scott’s cool factor in an attempt to boost their own.
– John Fraser leased a soon-to-be-demolished space in SoHo for a “temporary restaurant installation” called What Happens When. The lean bar is a mobile cart, chairs were bought on eBay for less than $10, and customers will set their own tables to keep staff costs down. Fraser is also funding the nine-month project with contributions from the microfinancing site, Kickstarter.
– Chicago super-chef Grant Achatz is leveraging the power of precise numbers to launch Next, where diners puchase advance tickets for a specific hour and a set menu.
– Manhattan chef Will Goldfarb has experimented with Picknick Smoked, a BBQ trailer in the financial district, and a two-day stint whipping up desserts in a borrowed SoHo bar space. It’s safe to say he’ll continue pushing the boundaries.
And the list goes on…
I celebrated my last birthday at an underground supper club, and it was a delicious, memorable night that ended with a fraction of the typical restaurant bill. The chef also provided advance wine pairing suggestions to enhance what could have been a jumbled BYOB collection.
Clearly, novelty and word-of-mouth buzz have the power to attract even the most jaded diners — especially if you’ve got the kitchen chops to back up your bravery. Pared-down dining makes sense, too, when people are still keeping a tight grip on their wallets. When restaurants eschew convention to focus on making incredible food, we all reap the benefits.
Cheers to creativity that goes beyond the kitchen.