Wednesday, April 30, 2008

This Book Makes Me Thirsty

I now recant my cynicism about the book, "Finding Your Own Visual Language"; it is as wonderful as everybody says.

It is a nice-looking book, but the authors didn't concentrate as much on making a beautiful book as they did on making us get to work and be excited about the making. There are just enough examples showing how the exercises can be done, but not enough to make the book prescriptive, and some examples show how ideas germinated in the exercises have been developed into pieces of work.

The book also has a lot of reminders I didn't know I needed until I read them. Here's one: "... don't be intimidated by the idea that a shape has been 'done'. (They) are all symbols as old as human kind. No one owns these images. They are part of our collective unconscious."

The exercises are simple yet versatile, so I can revisit them for the fun of it, to develop the idea further, to try different options, or to restart with a different topic. Yesterday I made eight examples for Exercise 1 in the afternoon, but my head was flooding with variations I had to try 13 more in the evening. And there's isn't a lot of drawing! Yay!

The exercises are about 2/3 of the book; the authors suggest how I can use these techniques continuously or repeatedly, productively or unproductively (which is just as important) in my work. In this respect, "Finding" may become my Betty Crocker's big red cookbook or Edmonds Cookery Book where I know my favorite recipes but I return time and time again, modifying, multiplying, or just for old times' sake.

I haven't exactly done a lot of design/creativity-training to compare; I did The Artist's Way on my own in late 2003, and one correspondence and two workshops with Alison in the last six years.

The Artist's Way is designed by writer Julia Cameron, so though I enjoyed the process, I needed a few extra step between all the thinking/writing, and the making of something visual. Alison's methods, I really didn't get until the March workshop, so I need to experiment more, but the main difference is, for Alison, I need to research a topic before I can get my hands dirty. With "Finding", it's as if Mom dropped me right in the middle of the kindy where all the material have been laid out and all I that's expected of me is to play.

Or, it's because of my epiphany in the March workshop I can now jump right in without forming expectations. Either way, I think the authors intended to write a book to make us get going.

"Finding" doesn't decrease my liking of Julia Cameron's softly-softly approach, but I've been doing this art thing a while now, and I like the little sturdier nudge I find in "Finding" more honest. This is a book that can lead you to water and make you mighty thirsty.

Kaz the Curious Weaver has a less gushy, more concise description of the book, as well as examples of what she did with the exercises here. (If anyone else has posted something about working with this book, please let me know.)

8 comments:

  1. Meg, can I ask where you got your copy? I haven't been able to find it.

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  2. Taueret, I got mine from Amazon in Japan, but you can get it from Dale Rollerson at The Thread Studio in WA; look under Paper/Misc.

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  3. Here is what I liked best in your post: "I can now jump right in without forming expectations." For the way I weave, no matter how much thinking and planning has gone into the piece, when I actually start to weave, I do not know what will happen. In the particular piece I am about to weave, I really feel almost cast adrift. I've dyed the yarns. I know the treadling. I have a general idea of how I am going to use the colors. But I do not know the details. And even, as the details build, the original general idea may start to change. This will be the closest I have ever come to painting. An I nervous? You bet I am! Am I excited? You bet I am!

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  4. Yes, Peg, and it took me nearly 50 years to relearn to play like a child. I remember as a five-year-old in Tucson I had a mental image of how a five-year-old should have fun playing! A psychiatrist may have a fun time with that, but heck, when you're 50, you haven't got time to waste any more and I'd rather be out playing.

    I sample to death before I weave, so there's very little that is spontaneous or unexpected in my weaving, (except bad tension), and I guess that's the way I like to work, but I do have fun sampling.

    Just so you don't think I'm some kind of a rigid soldier-weaver!!

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  5. I love sampling as also. And one reason i weave as I do is to keep the love in the weaving as well. I'm not one who is thrilled by the meditative throwing of the shuttle! I don't weave everything this way. My daughter has been hinting, almost to the point of demanding, dish towels. They will be a throw the shuttle thing! As for bad tension, that is one of the two things I fear most in weaving. The second thing is a caught warp end which I don't see until after it is off the loom.

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  6. I don't get meditative throwing the shuttle, either, Peg, but I do get an adrenaline rush sometimes. Do you? I think it's the textile nature of the act of weaving.

    And I do really enjoy dish towels, come to think of it, because they are not for exhibits or commission, and I can do as I please. I'm still not what you might call spontaneous, but because the tea towels are mine to use or to give away, I have fun imagining how each one might get used and abused. That joy is stronger with dish towels than with "work" stuff.

    Oh, and then there is the broken warp for me...

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  7. No, Meg, I don't get an adrenaline rush from throwing the shuttle! does that mean I shouldn't be a weaver?! I get an adrenaline rush when I see something working better than I anticipated or when I am weaving on painted warps.

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  8. Heck no. It's probably because I'm such a sluggish person that I notice whenever my body gets a modicum of regular movement, Peg. I'd probably experience euphoria if I ran a marathon before I pass out, at about the 1km mark.

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