In an interview with the contemporary visual artist George Condo, he remarked “I don’t see why it takes so long to make drawings.” He draws a large-scale drawing with oil stick on camera and the whole process take 16 minutes. It appears to be a very quick, dynamic and instinctive method of drawing. He explains “I kind of draw like you’re walking through the forest, y’know. You don’t really know where you’re going and you just start from some point and randomly travel through the paper until you get to a place where you finally reach your destination.”
The idea of making art quickly is echoed in an question on Seth Godin’s ‘Origin Stories’ podcast episode.: “What should teachers be focusing on to help young people write their best? Godin answered “… the problem is the word ‘better’, because when they seek to do ‘better’ writing, they’re focusing on… complying, on pleasing an anonymous reader or a teacher.” Instead, “… get kids to write. Get kids to do lousy writing, Get kids to do frequent writing, emotional writing, superfluous writing, useless writing, writing, writing, writing. That if they write often, then the fear of writing has to do away.”
Do more writing, do more drawings, make art quickly and often and don’t pay attention to the quality of what you make. Down the road, a bi-product of this practice will be ‘better’ technical skills. To focus on getting ‘better’ when you’re a beginner, is a way to stall yourself before you’ve had a change to get any momentum going.
Lego is not just a toy as it can also be used as a design thinking tool. Lego Serious Play – born from the Lego company’s search for ways to get businesses using Lego – helps organisations to get creative and innovate.
In the article Using Lego Serious Play as a Design Thinking Tool by Designorate.com, it describes how “Design thinking is a complex process which combines both logical thinking and creative imagination in order to build innovative products and services.” A range of tools can be used to help the design thinking process such as “issue cards, group sketching, role play, design games and Lego Serious Play.” By playing with colourful bricks, teams can share ideas and problem solve together. “Visualizing the ideas into a model eliminates the fear of failure as it is treated with a prototype that can be modified during the design thinking process.” With fear of failure being a huge roadblock for many people – not just in the creative world – tools that can help move things forward are invaluable.
This open style collaborative approach to design thinking allows everyone to contribute and share ideas. The idea of using play as an approach creatively learning is something that Mitch Reznik, a professor of learning research at MIT Media Lab addresses in the documentary Lego House: Home of the Brick. “When I think about play, I don’t see it as just fun and games, but rather I see play as a type of, a way of engaging with the world.” He suggests that by giving children the opportunity to explore through playing and creating, “they’ll be prepared for a world which is going to require creative thinking more than ever before.”
“Where you’re willing to take risks, to try new things and the greatest learning, the greatest innovations come when people are doing things in a playful spirit. It might be building a sandcastle or a Lego castle or building a poem – whatever they’re creating is a way for them to create new ideas. So there’s this constant cycle between children building things in the world to build new ideas, to let them build things in the world. That cycle provides the basis for the best learning experiences.” – Mitch Reznik
Additional content: For a deeper dive into in the Lego brand, The Toys That Made Us (2018) S2 E3: Lego revisits the journey from wooden toys to the present day brick system. For more on the architect who designed the Lego House, Abstract: The Art of Design (2017) S1 E4 – Bjarke Ingels: Architecture shows more of his innovative architecture and design process: “In the big picture, architecture is the art and science of creating the framework of our lives.” And “He never follows the rules.”
A turning point in Picasso’s career was when he started to paint more of what he felt, instead of what he saw. Or to “Learn to be clumsy again and get back to basics.” This approach to art-making feels much less restrictive, with the journey being more important than making a ‘finished piece.’ In the book Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973: Genius of the century by Ingo F. Walther Picasso said that “Enthusiasm is what we need most, we and the younger generation.” If you have enthusiasm, you’re more likely to continue to make art and reap the creative benefits.
“Paintings are nothing but research and experiment. I never paint a picture as a work of art. Everything is research. I keep researching, and in this constant inquiry there is a logical development. That is why I number and date all my paintings.”
This idea of everything you make is an experiment – and therefore ‘mistakes’ are a vital part of the process – allows you to create with much more freedom. There are no rules when it comes to making art. Picasso was in favour of the unknown: “If you know exactly what you’re going to do, what’s the good of doing it? Since you know, the exercise is pointless. It is better to do something else.” Allow yourself the gift of making ‘bad art.’ Get clumsy like Picasso and don’t worry if the image in your head isn’t matched up with what you’ve made. Repeated consistent practice is the cure for improvement but that requires you to first get comfortable with being uncomfortably ‘bad’.
“There is never a time when you can say: I have done a good job and tomorrow is Sunday. As soon as you stop, you have to start again. You can leave a canvas aside, saying you won’t touch it again. But you never come to ‘The End’.”
There is no end and everything is an experiment so create something bad. Blind drawings are a good starting exercise to help you loosened up.
The cut-outs by Henri Matisse are some of his most colourful and playful work, made simply with paper and scissors. He even created some art from bed as his health deteriorated. It’s inspiring that he continued to make art into his 80’s and right up to the very end and was still doing it with such passion and commitment.
“During the last decade of his life Henri Matisse deployed two simple materials—white paper and gouache—to create works of wide-ranging color and complexity. An unorthodox implement, a pair of scissors, was the tool Matisse used to transform paint and paper into a world of plants, animals, figures, and shapes… He described the process of making them as both “cutting directly into color” and “drawing with scissors.” – MoMA explaining Matisse’s process
In Matisse A Cut Above the Rest as part of BBC The Culture Show 2014, his work was referred to as “Simple, almost childish, blazing with colour,” and “He had the audacity of simplicity.”
The simplest of ideas is usually the best. We tend to over-complicate, wanting things to be more complex in order to be ‘good’. Danielle Krysa in Collage, reminds us “You don’t need any fancy equipment or a workshop full of tools – every household has a pair of scissors and some glue or adhesive tape. In the book she interviewed Anthony Zinonos, who spoke of a special relationship with his tools: “My scissors and glue have become my best friends, they never judge me.”
Spending time moving paper around with no final outcome in mind can be very meditative. It creates an intuitive, loose method working as nothing has to be fixed in place until you’ve settled on a final look. Even then you can take a photo of the arrangement and not commit to sticking it permanently which is perfect if you change your mind a lot!
Start small: Pick a few colours, cut some basic shapes and have a play. Either use a timer to force quicker decision making so once the time is up, the work becomes finished by default. Or use the intuitive method of feeling when it’s ‘done.’ There are no rules when it comes to collage.