Creative Challenges and Opportunities

In the early stages of a larger project like the Creative Arts Fellowship, I often have to remind myself that my first pass at an idea or composition doesn’t have to be perfect. I tend to chase instant gratification and perfectionism in many aspects of my life, but I think this is especially inherent in the work of a creator today sharing their work on social media platforms for digital consumption. While sometimes I wish I was capable of immediately finding the perfect concept or color scheme in my work, the problem solving and repeated sketching process involved in projects like this excites my creativity and feeds my growth as an artist. This visual exploration is where my style and identity live. Not to mention this very practice aligns with the ethos of my project in finding and granting ourselves these spaces to try and fail and try again and find our voices. 

One of my favorite developments in my practice has been allowing myself to keep an “ugly” sketchbook (but what is ugly if not a quintessentially subjective word!). I know other artists who have done the same and said it released some of the internal and external pressure to constantly create beautiful work in a space that by name is meant for rougher and looser strokes. This new designation has given me the freedom to try unique ideas and draw things because I want to, welcoming failure rather than allowing the fear of incorrect proportions or execution or anatomy to intimidate me into not putting a pen to paper at all. Freely sketching for my Creative Arts Fellowship project, tossing concepts that don’t quite fit and refining the ones that do, has reminded me of why I created and proposed my idea in the first place.

An example of a page from my ugly sketchbook

This is not to say that the process is free of frustration. Honing in on your ideas can be thrilling, sure, but with the vastness of possibilities before you it can make it hard to know exactly where to start. These past few weeks I’ve been trying to embrace the expansive nature of these choices while also narrowing my focus with important decisions where I can. I bought four different kinds of paper to test as possible pages for my book and ranked how well materials like colored pencils, gouache, and ink performed on each. I then used my favorite paper type thus far, the Legion Stonehenge Buff White Velvet, to create a larger demo circle book and color coded each page to track which panels and visuals will interact with each other as the viewer opens and explores the book. 

Mapping out panels, color coded according to their host concentric circle and location on the front or back of the paper

Constructing a detailed model of how the four panels of the circle interact and change as they are flipped has helped me ground my visual ideas and think through where I want to place moments according to what they may be in dialogue with. After sketching through a few ideas for the two innermost circles, I opted to start making digital grids to chart the exact boundaries between each panel and what will change or stay the same as the pages are turned. Creating these diagrams and digital records has helped immensely as wrapping my head around how the pages turn and what gets revealed on the front and backside of the circles has been trickier than I initially imagined.

Digital tests on my iPad using exact circles and lines to focus the placement of visuals

My approach to academics is similar to my creative process since my field of Art History often involves classroom discussion and writing research papers. These experiences both align with the mechanisms of trial and error in my visual exploration I’ve described above, particularly in the beneficial structure of discussing ideas with my peers and drafting sentences and written concepts to find coherence and my voice. I typically struggle to allow myself to see a textual rough draft all the way through and not pick at every unsatisfactory phrase or sentence as I write. But like in this Creative Arts Fellowship project, I remind myself that these trials and sketches will reveal themselves in the final product as I clarify my vision and eventually fondly look back upon where I was brave enough to start.

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