Be Your Best Friend

December 1, 2018 | Leave a Comment |

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Refraction LX

A voice inside my head was grousing, “There’s nothing here. It’s not good enough. You’re not good enough. Someone else has done this before. You’ve done this before. You’re uncomfortable. You’ll have better luck next time.” I’d heard it all before. So I changed my inner dialog, “There’s something here; you just have to find it. You know how much you like the surprise when you do. You have a unique sensibility. You’ll bring something new to the situation. You can do it. It will be great. You’re enjoying this.” If I hadn’t shifted the tone of my self-talk I would have given up before I got started, instead, I stuck with it, for hours, and succeeded, many times. Refraction LX was just one of that morning’s successes.

You’ve heard it all before too. “You’re just like … you always … you never … you’ll never … why try …” As Carla Gordon said, “If someone in your life talked to you the way you talk to yourself, you would have left them long ago.” We’re told that to improve and reach our full potential that we have to be our own worst critics. It’s true that there is a time and a place for this – but it’s limited. Don’t make it a full-time occupation. If you do, you may never get where you need or want to go.

Professional athletes and performing artists have coaches and directors who not only train them but also encourage and inspire them as well. So do many CEOs and salesmen. So do many people from many walks of life at different times in their lives and stages in their careers. They may even engage different types of coaches at different times for different needs. When was the last time someone coached you? When was the last time you coached yourself?  Even if you’re lucky enough to find the right creative coach who can help guide you to perfect practice, they can’t do all the work for you; you have to do the work too; after all, in the end, they’re training you to do it yourself. You can’t afford to wait and find your perfect creative coach. Instead, become that person.

Energize yourself. Affirm your abilities. Take note of your previous accomplishments. Set tangible goals for the future. Chart your progress along the way. Provide yourself incentives. Reward yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments – both verbally and visually, privately and publicly. Be specific using precise language. Give yourself pep talks. Frequently use positive affirmations. Don’t think you can do it? Tell yourself you can. And then do it. Watch your self-talk – and change it for the better. It’s a mindset. If you want better results create a better mindset.

When you talk about yourself or your work, do you use positive or negative words? The words we use can be very revealing about our orientations, attitudes and beliefs. Many times, when we speak about ourselves, if we speak about ourselves, we downplay our abilities and accomplishments. It’s true that no one likes a raving egomaniac. But, there’s a real difference between arrogance and confidence. Confidence is attractive and inspiring; arrogance isn’t; neither is insecurity. Don’t let your insecurities get the best of you. Be careful not to talk yourself down, cut yourself off short, or fall completely silent. Instead, learn to speak simply and directly about yourself and your work and above all share your enthusiasm. Not feeling it? Act as if you do. With just a little practice you will begin to feel it. It’s true we should all beware of overconfidence. And, critical feedback, the right kind and the right amount, is useful for improving performance too. Peak performance and growth take the right balance of positive and negative feedback. But ask yourself, “How balanced are you?” If you’re like most people, you’re not very balanced at all. Change this and you’ll tip the scales in your favor. This takes constant monitoring and recalibration but you’ll soon see substantial changes that make it not just worthwhile but invaluable.

How important is this? Consider how much money is spent every year on motivational resources like books, videos, lecture, workshops, and more. The figures are enormous. That’s how important it is to other people. Ask yourself, “What’s the price of not doing it?” That’s far greater. Don’t pay it. Just do it.

Questions

What is the state of your current self-talk?

How many ways can you improve your self-talk?

How many ways can you make your self-talk more energized?

How many ways can you make your self-talk more meaningful?

How many ways can you measure the results of improved self-talk?

 

Read more in my Creativity Resources.

Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

Suffusion VI
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Ask For It

Do you want more love? Ask for it! When you share images without a request for feedback, the number of responses you get goes down and their content changes. Without an invitation, people often feel hesitant to give you feedback. If they do, they may not know how far to go and end up not going as far as you’d like them to. So, if you’re looking for feedback when you share your work — ask for it. You’ll find people are quite happy to share their opinions with you.

Be More Specific

Love may not be the only thing you’re looking for. If you’re looking for more than love, there are many ways to find it. The way you ask for feedback can make a big difference in the kind of responses you get and how useful they are. If you don’t make a specific request, the responses you get will be general and unfocused. Conversely, you can qualify the type of feedback you’re giving someone. State your approach before giving your feedback.

Ways To Give Feedback

There are as many ways to direct the kind of feedback you get as there are ways to give feedback. Here’s a list of eleven different kinds of feedback and ways to ask for it. You can ask the questions of either single images or groups of images. (You can even use this list to easily copy and paste questions when you post images online. Or make your own!)

1     Numerical Ratings
Ask, “Please rate this image on a scale of 1-5 (1 is low and 5 is high).”

Optionally, you can ask for numerical ratings on a particular element.
Ask, “On a scale of 1 to 5, how strong is the ___ in this image?”

2     Relative Ranking
Ask, “Please rank these images from strongest (1) to weakest (highest number).”

3     Core Strengths
Ask, “What’s the best thing about this image?”

4     Strengths & Weaknesses
Separate them.
Ask, “What are the strong points of this image?”
Ask, “What are the weak points of this work?”
Or combine them.
Ask, “What are the strengths and weaknesses of these images?”
(It’s SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) simplified.)

5     Improvements
Ask, “What would you do to improve this image?”
Or, ask, “What would you do to improve future images like this one?”

6     Content / Form / Feeling
Ask, “Please rate the strength of these images in these three categories (on a scale of 1-5); content, form, and feeling.”

7     Identify Themes
Ask, “Please identify any themes you see in these images.”

8     Free Associate
Ask, “When you see this image, what do you think of? Please free associate!”

9     Feeling
Ask, “What emotions do you feel when you look at this image? Don’t hold back!”

10     Uses
Ask, “Please identify possible uses for these images.”

11     Questions `
Ask, “Please list any and all questions you can think of when you look at these images.”

This is just a start. There are many other ways to give and solicit feedback. Make your own list. Use anything from this list, whenever and wherever you please.

Being more specific will greatly increase the value of the feedback you ask for, get, and give. So, don’t just post images and expect feedback. Ask for it! And get specific!

Feedback Is Valuable

Major corporations spend thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars to get user feedback on their products. They spend a lot of time refining the questions they ask before they seek for feedback. They know that doing this will make the results they get much more meaningful and valuable. You can get free feedback in your social networks. Imagine if that feedback was not only supportive but also helpful?

Giving Feedback Is A Skill That Can Be Learned

Giving feedback on images is not something that seems easy for many people. For some reason, it seems much easier to give written feedback on something that’s been written. We were taught how to comment on texts in school; it’s a skill set we’ve learned and practiced. Unless you were an art history or a communications major, the chances are high that you weren’t taught how to comment on images; this too is a skill set that can be learned and practiced. (Terry Barrett’s Criticizing Photographs is a good resource.)

Critical or Useful

Sooner or later, we all face the same question, “How do we give useful feedback that is constructive without being negative?” We’ve all learned that criticism can be constructive, but it’s very hard to give it well. Tough love often gets so tough you can’t feel the love anymore. Breaking spirits isn’t useful; helping them grow stronger is. There is an art to giving feedback, one we can all learn and practice. It’s quite likely that if we do this, we’ll become better people and make the world a better place.

The new field of appreciative inquiry has a great deal to offer here. (For a quick primer, read Appreciative Inquiry by David L Cooperrider.) Psychologists use it. Negotiators use it. Businesses use it. We can too. Giving good feedback starts with a good attitude. Start with what’s best about something — instead of what’s worst. This is a totally different attitude than asking “Is it good?”, which is much too general. (Good relative to what? How good? Good in what ways?) Instead try asking, “What’s the best thing about this?” After identifying core strengths, and only after, move to how something can be made even better.

And remember, the current culture for giving and getting feedback online is still developing. And you can be a part of the way it develops by participating. How? Give it. Ask for it. Receive it.

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Titian inspired Manet

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Manet inspired Gaugin

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Manet inspired Monet

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Van Gogh inspired Hockney

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Van Gogh inspired Lichtenstein

Click below to see more and read more.

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How To Steal Like An Artist

November 18, 2018 | 2 Comments |

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Copying isn’t bad; it depends on how and why you do it. I recommend you try copying – and be clear about why you’re doing it. Though I rarely share these kinds of studies with anyone, I make them frequently – and I learn a lot.

I’m not fond of phrases like, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” (That phrase itself has a history that borders on theft. Read it here.) They can be interpreted as a legitimization of plagiarism, as long as your sources are unknown or you hide them well. A lot is lost when this happens; the original author goes unfairly unappreciated; the plagiarist tragically passes up the opportunity to find something of their own; readers are deceived; we all lose. The biggest trouble with phrases like this is that so many fail to go further after pronouncing them.

The best thing about phrases like this is that they memorably raise an important set of questions about the wide variety of purposes for copying: forgeries rob money (except the ones museums and collectors commission as insurance policies for exhibition); plagiarism robs intellectual property and content; studies educate the development of artists; appropriation references culturally important touchstones (best done with attribution like a quote); working in the manner of someone can be both a sign of respect (homage) and a way of fanning those flames of inspiration; and making new authentic work after being inspired by another strikes new sparks carrying the torch further.

Follow phrases like these with a rich conversation about the possibilities and you will be richly rewarded every time.

Here are a few resources that will help enliven your future discussions.

30 Quotes On Stealing

Copying Is How We Learn

Study Finds Copying Other People’s Art Can Boost Creativity

Why Artists Are Allowed To Copy Masterpieces From The World’s Most Prestigious Museums

From Craft to Art – Leaving Dafen

Kleon – How To Steal Like An Artist

Things get really gray with appropriation.

When Does An Artist’s Appropriation Become Copyright Infringement?

Appropriation In The Digital Age – Richard Prince Instagram & The $100,000 Selfies

Who Actually Shot Richard Prince’s Iconic Cowboys?

Forgery has a fascinating history.

A Brief History of Art Forgery From Michelangelo To Knoedler & Co

How Museums Handle Forgeries In Their Collections

Orson Welles Movie F Is For Fake

 

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Quotes Steal

Enjoy this collection of quotes on stealing.

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso

“Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.” – Igor Stravinsky

“Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.” – Lionel Trilling

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” – T. S. Eliot

“Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright.” – Aaron Sorkin

“If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.” – Woody Allen

“To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.” – Anonymous

“If we steal thoughts from the moderns, it will be cried down as plagiarism; if from the ancients, it will be cried up as erudition.” – Charles Caleb Colton

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Many people think vision and style are the same. They’re not. What’s the difference? Vision is what you have to say; style is how you say it.

Confusing one for the other or focusing on one and not the other can be disastrous.

Just because your images look different doesn’t mean you’ve said anything or said it well. No matter how dazzling something may look, when style becomes a substitute for vision ultimately the viewer leaves unsatisfied – though they don’t always know why. If you confuse style for vision it confuses your viewers. And when you use a style that’s inappropriate for your vision it distorts the way your work is seen and it’s likely that you’ll be misunderstood.

You don’t have to make your images look different to say meaningful things and say them in your own authentic way. Sometimes less is more. Less style, more vision. Stronger styles make the viewer work harder to see past the surface of an image and find the deeper meaning within it. Strong styles work only if they complement a vision – then both become stronger.

Vision and style are related. Hopefully, vision drives style. Vision gives style meaning and purpose. When style reflects purpose it deepens the whole experience, making statements more deeply felt. Style can create meaningful connections between the subject and the way an image looks and even between multiple images. Subtle shifts in style throughout a body of work and even an artist’s lifetime have the potential to communicate even more meaning.

Style is easy to identify because all you need to do is make formal statements about what you see. You simply describe how the things in an image look. When describing style you focus less on the things you see and more on how they look. You state what your eyes actually see, the visual building blocks of an image not the content those elements are used to represent. To do this well, you need to learn a little vocabulary to formally describe images in ways that others will understand, but there’s an added benefit, learning that vocabulary will help you look more carefully and see more things and relationships between them. Line, shape, volume, color, texture, scale, range, and compositional patterns are the fundamentals; you can make finer distinctions in each of these categories. Some aspects of style describe relationships that are visible between multiple images such as the number of images used, their sequence, its pace and rhythm. Style can be extended to anything you do in a particular way, not your actual practice (she used a camera) but the way you practice it (she always moved in close). The ways you do things communicate your attitudes and so imbues what you make with meaning.

Vision is harder to identify than style. This is where you move from taking pictures of things and start making pictures about things.

It’s part plot; your subject, events that happen to it, actions it takes, reactions, and consequences.

It’s part theme. The theme is the big (or main) idea and subthemes are smaller (or subordinate) related ideas. It’s what the work says about a subject. It’s the overall message and the underlying messages. This is the least literal often least visible aspect of work and it’s often where the most soul can be found.

It’s part you … the patterns you see and create, your relationship to your subject and the images you create of and possibly about it, all the associations and connections you make between it and other things, the things you choose to show and not to show, your emotional reactions to things and events and even their appearances, the reasons why you care and why we should care.

If the style of your images is appropriate it will help us see your vision … in a very particular meaningful way.

You don’t have to figure out your vision or your style before you start making meaningful images. Whether you start with no idea or a good idea, it’s likely that you won’t know the full meaning of your work until you make it. An essential part of the process of creating images is figuring things out. Show your process, not all of it, just the interesting parts, the ones you decide are meaningful. What you finally make doesn’t have to be perfect, finished, or even fully resolved; you just have to do it well enough to create a compelling experience. And to do that, you have to figure out a few things, perhaps only the most important things, about your vision (what you have to say) and style (how you say it). Then make more images and figure out a little more. Keep repeating this process enough times and you’ll find your way, your vision and your style, If you hold nothing back and give it everything you’ve got, you will be amazed by what you discover.

Read more in my Creativity resources.

Learn more in my Creativity workshops.


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