Submitted Date 12/27/2019

Reawaken Your Inner Child

-- The photo for this article is one of my deliberately blurry photos through the rain covered windshield of my moving car.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
Pablo Picasso

"To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play."
Albert Einstein

"Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will, childhood equipped now with man's physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order into the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed."
Charles Baudelaire

"You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough."
William Blake

As children, we were taught and encouraged to imagine. The fantasy worlds of Tinker Bell and Peter Pan are a child's playground. Yet as adults it is really only when many go to Disneyland World, that they let ourselves go. Which is why it is so popular.

Children's activities are often fueled by imagination: a dollhouse becomes a place where real dramas occur, for example. Boys and girls imagine they are superheroes.

I believe that this society discourages our imagination when we are adults. After all, "we are not children anymore."

You should learn to let yourself act like a child and think like a child when appropriate and NOT act like a child when adult behavior is called for. This is something many people get wrong.

Play is based on imagination. Play is also based on being non-critical and trial and error without feeling stupid when you try something that does not work or that many people feel you should have known would not work.

When Jackson Pollock started 'splashing' and 'dripping' paint he had to overcome criticism that it was not artistic, it could possibly be an artistic technique and that it was accidental, and that he could not control his work. The common response at the time was, "My kid could do that." In the beginning, he was labeled, 'Jack the Dripper'.

I personally met with this kind of criticism when I started to take photographs that used a lot of blur. As a photographer with twenty years of experience, I understood how blur worked and how to control it. Yet one scathing critic even said that my work was accidental, even though he liked some of the images. Photographers have been taught from the very start to avoid blur so when I used it as an artistic statement, they could only see it as a mistake.

It is very important to let yourself go at times. To become immersed in your work. To work with a sense of abandon.

Yet we, as adults, are conditioned to think that creativity is not the serious work we should be engaged in. As adults we are in control -- when being creative we are a bit out of control and irresponsible.

One of the artistic exercises I like to give students goes like this. Go through the various rules about what is and is not acceptable in your art and then do something based on the unacceptable. In the beginning just 'play' with the medium.

Let's say you are a musician. And the exercise I give you is to make sounds that are unpleasant. In the beginning, I want you to just play and then later start to organize what you discovered into sections or categories.

So to start off you might just bang your fist down on an electronic keyboard. Then you might open your fist and roll your hand along the keys again. You might even record these as you go along and make written notes. Do this for an hour or so. Surprisingly you will probably discover some unusual combinations of sounds that might be useful in a composition. A day or so later, start again, only this time try to group similar sounds together. There are the sharp banging sounds, for example, when keys are hit with a fist at regular intervals and then those sounds when keys are hit at random intervals and then there is also that hated fingernails on the blackboard sound. As a teacher, I would then give you an assignment. I would tell you to listen to several compositions by the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen whose lifelong career was involved with making such sounds. Then I might ask you to go back and listen to your new sounds with Stockhausen in mind. Next, I would ask you to listen to musicians and especially heavy metal bands that were influenced by Stockhausen.

So in this example, we have gone from banging your fist on a keyboard to a number of compositions that have used such sounds.

We could do the same with collage. In the first session, I would give you a bunch of magazines and ask you to cut them up quickly at random and then past them on top of each other. I would give you a time limit so that you couldn't think about the process too much. In the next session, I might ask you to carefully and thoughtfully cut out pictures and such from these magazines and then take a long time to carefully put them together.

The point of these exercises is to get your 'childlike' juices flowing. To turn off that critical voice that is always telling you that you are not good enough and simply letting yourself enjoy the moment of creation and also the final result which was made more for an understanding of the process than for the value of the finished product.

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