456 things to draw

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“Do you feel like drawing, painting, use chalk, do a sculpture in clay, cut and paste, but you don’t have any inspiration? Don’t fear: 456 things to draw will give you many ideas. Draw something you would never think of drawing. This book will pull you out of your comfort zone. In it you will find space to do 456 crazy drawing exercises on extra thick paper. The paper is suitable for all kinds of techniques. From croquettes to fruit liqueurs, from a runny nose to a root canal, from a wining child to colorful make-up techniques. These 456 new and unusual instructions will surely entertain you.”

I got this book from my mom. She saw it in the bookstore and immediately thought I should have it. And although I am very happy with it, I can’t help wondering one thing: why didn’t I think of this? The book is awesome: I certainly draw stuff I never thought of drawing, but why didn’t I think of drawing the stuff they suggest in the book? Is the book meant for becoming more creative, or is it meant for people who lack creativity?

I sure hope the book will help me become more creative. I usually just need one little idea to come up with bigger, different ideas. I think that’s what the book is supposed to do; help you think out of the box. Because that’s all you need to do to get creative: stop thinking in the way you always thought. Outside the box is where you will find new ideas. And if you go outside the box more often; new and crazy ideas will come up more easy.

But does it work? I only did two drawings in the book. (I just got it.) One of the instructions was: the day after tomorrow. Two days after I did the drawing; I had to give my students an exam, so I drew students taking an exam (so much for thinking out of the box and getting more creative,.. sigh,..). For the other drawing I was told to draw ‘speculations’. How does anyone draw speculations? The word has two meanings, so I chose the most easy meaning: “activity in which someone buys and sells things (such as stocks or pieces of property) in the hope of making a large profit but with the risk of a large loss”. And I drew the mission house in our city. This mission house is subject to speculations, and therefore abandoned and becoming a ruin more and more each day. Such a sin!

So; did I get more creative by doing these two drawings? Is the book proof I lack creativity? No, it isn’t proof I lack creativity, but I guess I still need more exciting exercises if I want to practice in becoming more creative. The book is still fun though. Thank you mom!

 

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Review on a book about failure

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kunst20falen20arjan20damFailure. Something we actually don’t want to experience. But most of the times it is unavoidable. Some people told me that any fail will help you improve, and I know they are right. But it still isn’t fun to me. So when I found this book on failure, titled “de kunst van het falen”, which means ‘the art of failure’, I decided I needed to know more about it.

So, the book is called ‘the art of failure’. It is written by a Dutch work- and organisation psychologist. It is a book based on academic research, which I like, and not pretending to be a self-help book in any way. Although it still can be read that way, for it provides some very good insight and advise.

What does the book learn? 

It is helpful to believe in the grow-theory. This means you believe that your intellect isn’t a fixture. It means that you believe that you are able to learn new things and develop. People who suffer from performance  or evaluation anxiety often don’t believe in the grow-theory. They believe that they can do something, or can’t. If those people experience a success, they proceed doing it the way they did it, for any other way will not lead to success. If those people experience one failure, they believe they can’t do it at all. If those people experience a lot of failure, most of the time they are self-handicapping themselves, because they want to protect themselves from a failure experience. And how does someone protect themselves from a failure experience? Well; by not doing anything at all of course. Yes, I know; it’s sad, but it happens to a lot of us.

If you cling to the grow-theory, you’re most likely oriented towards learning goals. This is opposed to being performance goal oriented. Being learning goal oriented is what this book is about, for if you are, you will perform better. Sounds crazy, right? But performance goal oriented people only have one thing in their minds: to perform the way they want to. They don’t spend much time to think about the way to get to their desired performance. The road towards a performance is mostly a learning process. If you don’t want to learn, and you’re only focused on performing, you’re clueless.

The book also tells about how we learn. Aware and unaware. The author tells us how our brain works, but more importantly, how we get motivated to learn. We need to feel autonomous, we need to feel competent and we need to feel connected to other people. But most of the time we only feel competent when we have a success experience. This success experience is most valuable if it is received by doing something challenging.

Research has shown, however, that learning goal oriented people often choose more challenging goals for themselves, than performance goal oriented people do. That’s probably because the performance goal oriented people are a bit afraid to fail. And, as a result, the performance goal oriented people do fail more often, and after their failure, they barely learn from it, for learning isn’t their goal. So they decide they just aren’t able to reach their goal. In contrast to the learning goal oriented people,… of course.art 32

What did I learn?
When painting, I’m very performance goal oriented. I want to produce a certain amount of paintings in a year, I want finish them within a limited amount of time and I want them to be perfect. I’m very much focused on getting compliments, I want people to love my paintings. As a result, I don’t produce as much as I would want to. In 2015 I only finished the 3 paintings shown on258b22a50103b48236dcc2b5296eefa2 this page. I am not as motivated to paint as I used to be, because I’m only focused on production. If I would focus on learning, I probably would revive the joy in painting and produce more.

So, what to do?

In the last chapter, the book discretely reveals itself as a self-814b68628e6d4b7ef9d312f9c08a9cf5help book,… for it gives a road-map on being more learning goal oriented:

  1. name the obstacles
  2. how can you overcome these obstacles?
  3. set goals to overcome the obstacles
  4. monitor progress
  5. give yourself rewards for achieving goals

The author repeats several times that the art of failure, is to experience every moment of failure, as a learning moment. But hey; we all already knew that, didn’t we?

But okay, I will give it a try. I need to give this approach a try, for I really want to revive my motivation and actually get better in painting. And, well; I want to produce more,.. but that won’t be my goal anymore. It won’t. No; it definitely will not.

A normative opinion on art?

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Most of the city’s in the Netherlands have a museum night. In this night, all the museums are open for public and will offer more than just the usual exposition. For example; a musician, singing about a masterpiece in the museum, or a workshop,… you name it,.. I bet it’s lots of fun! Bet;.. because I sadly never, ever, ever have been to any museum night,..

On saturday the 1st of november, Amsterdam has it’s museum night, and because I am planning to go there for ages, (but like I said; never did,..) I follow the organisation of the Amsterdam museum night on Facebook. This morning, the Amsterdam museum night posted a call to ‘all’ to apply for jury member.

As a member of the jury, you need to be assertive and able to give sound arguments for your opinion. Also; you are allowed (or better yet; expected) to visit 4 museums in the museum night! And since I like to be goal-oriented while visiting museums, and I really, really want to go to this museum night, this year; I applied for the job the way they requested: by tagging my name in their Facebook post.

museumnachtAfter I ‘applied’, I kinda asked myself if I should have added a link to my blog to my ‘application’, because then they would be able to see who I am and what I know/ think about art,.. But,… in my blog I am not really assertive and I don’t allways give sound argumentation for my opinion. I usually describe art I like, and sometimes, write down why I like it. But I basically like every kind of art, so that’s not really assertive behaviour, don’t you think?

So; should I be more assertive on my blog? Should I develop a more normative opinion on art? For a moment, I thought I should, till I openened up this book on creativity: “Creativiteit, geen kunst”, (which literally means; creativity; not art, but better should be translated by: ‘creativity; it’s peanuts’) by Lia Nijman en Jenny de Bode.

The first chapter of the book is a reminder of how our creativity dissapeared, due to education focussed on logic and reason. We can get it back by doing small tasks (described in the book) that focuses on intuition. The book really is about the main notion of art; which is something that should not be ruled by reason or logic. On this, I totally agree, and I’m a bit ashamed that I even considered being more assertive and normative about art. I should not. Art is expressing creativity, and creativity can never be expressed in a wrong way. Therefore, dear readers: I will continue loving and writing about art just the way I always did.

Don’t speak

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I finally finished reading a book I started reading ages ago. I bought the book because it was on autism (which I’m interested in, for my son is autistic), religion and science (I’m a master in religious studies, so there you go,..) and philosophy.

But I wouldn’t discuss this book if there wasn’t a little bit of art in it. Obviously this little bit of art is related to autism, religion, science and philosophy. Therefore, for some people, it might sound a little bit vague. But hey; that’s me,..

So, the book is about autism. And some of you might know; people with autism can have very special talents. Some of them are amazing in math, some, like my son, is gifted in map-reading / -drawing and some are awesome painters. Why? Well, that’s something the book wants to explore. But before I share this ‘answer’, let me first clarify that the book offers merely a theory. You should not forget, it is a book not only on autism and science, but deals with philosophy and religion as well. And since philosophy and religion both have as many ‘truths’ as Rome has gelato shops, IMG_20140215_093214you know just one thing for sure: there always will be someone who will disagree on this theory. But I don’t. And that’s why I want to share it with you.

The biggest part of the book is about autistic people who can’t talk. They can hear, but do not spreak. And not being able to talk makes them, according the theory, better artists. These people can copy everything they see on paper / canvas / board, very, very accurate.

Due to the fact they don’t speak, they think differently. They lack the ability to abstract thinking.

This means that, for example, every horse, they encounter, is a different animal. They don’t ‘see’ the likeness between two different horses, for they only see details. How can a big, slender horse with white, short hair, black spots on the nose and long, white eyelashes, be the same kind of animal as a brown, shaggy little Shetlander? It can’t. At least not if you are not able to think abstract. As soon as people learn to speak, they learn the ability of abstract thinking. And it turned out to be, that highly talented, mute, autistic artists, performed less, as soon as they learned to talk.

So, abstract thinking makes us unnotice details, and lack of abstract thinking makes people notice details way better. Even in such a way that it makes one able to create wonderful  works of art. Figurative works of art, of course, for the abstract art will be a bridge (or two) too far,.. So the recipe for becoming a great artist is very simple: husssssshhhh,…

Vermeer

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It’s been a busy week,.. no painting unfortunately, but I did find some time to read. Not only on art, but also on philosophy. (Which Imagereminds me to add a book on philosophy and art to my wishlist,.. 🙂 )

This week I read a book on Vermeer, which I was intended not to review before I will finish the book. But there are some interesting parts which can be separated from the whole, and be written about, even before I will finish it. This is mainly because the book discusses themes in his paintings. Themes like views, love, historical paintings and wine. The book is filled with pictures of Vermeer’s paintings and when you look at them, the most prominent parallel between the paintings is the room. It’s the same room, over and over again. The tile floor and paintings on the wall differ, as do the people on the paintings. But the room not, and it always is painted from the same point of view. The book has pictures of all the paintings, made in that room, next to each other, and I actually liked to see this parallel, because it was the perfect illustration for another book on Vermeer I read: Girl with a pearl earring from Tracy Chevalier. This was, contrary to the Vermeer-book I was reading this week, a fictional book, which is based on the little information we know about Vermeer. It’s about the painting girl with the pearl earring. The girl in the painting is the main character of the story and she tells her readers how Vermeer Imageworks on his paintings.

Like I said, we actually don’t know how Vermeer worked on his paintings, but it was só nice to read this book and pretend to know how he worked on his paintings! It feels so real, for the book describes Vermeer’s atelier exactly the way you can observe in his paintings. And ever since I read the book, I can’t look at the painting of the girl, without wondering if the actual girl, like the main character in the novel, had to pierce her ears only for this painting, and just in order to wear this earring. I also wonder whether the actual girl had sore ears because of the piercing. When I look at the painting, I can almost feel the pain in my own ears. The only thing Chévalier does not tell about, which I did read in the other book on Vermeer, was the iconography. After reading ‘girl with a pearl earring’ I thought I knew everything about Vermeer, but this week I was surprised to read about his use of iconography. It makes me love Vermeer’s paintings even more, for I love iconography. After receiving this new knowledge I’m curious if I will read more interesting information on Vermeer, as I finish the book. Therefore I will get back to you with a full review as soon as possible.