I once won a Blue Ribbon at the Oregon Polk County Fair.
At first thought, not a particularly noteworthy accomplishment, but there is a back-story that I believe is worth telling.
I grew up in a small town in western Oregon. Built on the industry of ranchers, farmers, loggers, and those who provide services to them, Oregon was primarily a rural economy. Each summer, county fairs from Multnomah in the north to Klamath in the south blanket the state.
The town of Independence where I spent my adolescence was in Polk County, which had a classic county fair: dusty, noisy, smelly, and filled with reunions, laughter, and opportunities to show off your skills through a variety of competitions. Women took advantage of the opportunity to present their canning, sewing, and baking prowess. 4-H projects of lambs, hogs, and cattle were a major draw for the kids, along with a decrepit-looking arcade of rides and games where we learned what it meant to waste money.
There were also art competitions: watercolor, photography, and landscapes, primarily, with birdhouses, quilting, needlepoint, and wood-carving filling the crafts portion of the competitions.
During this particular summer, I noticed that they were holding a graphic design competition. Since I was fortunate enough to have access to art classes and spent much of my time drawing, I decided to give it a go. The theme of the competition was ‘Oregon Tourism’, which seemed easy enough.
Since Oregon is also known for outdoor activities, I chose ‘Ski Oregon’ as the slogan for my poster. My design concept was to have the silhouette of Mount Hood in the background. My media: tissue paper, glue, and poster board. Brilliant, right?
I discovered very quickly, however, that applying Elmer’s Glue to tissue paper can be problematic. I had selected a particularly vibrant turquoise tissue to represent the sky in my poster. Painstakingly tearing it into the shape of the sky over Mount Hood, I managed to create the silhouette of our beloved volcano.
After applying the glue to the tissue and then wrestling the gooey substance onto the white poster-board, I was horrified to see it scrunch into a wrinkled mass of turquoise that looked surprisingly like a topographic map that had lost its sense of direction
Hoping to repair the mess, I peeled back the soggy, disintegrating, glue-slathered, and seriously mangled tissue to find a fascinating repeat pattern of turquoise dye floating on a pure white background. The image left behind was the perfect negative outline of Mount Hood.
Knowing an opportunity when I saw one, I carried on with this wonderful surprise effect as the backdrop for my poster. The next step was to add text by tearing another sheet of tissue into the shapes of letters to create the slogan. I happily found that smaller pieces were much easier to handle, and entered this marvel in the fair. Because of this accidental brilliance, coupled with adolescent courage, I received a Blue Ribbon for my efforts.
More important than receiving a blue ribbon, however, was discovering the joy and reward of ‘accident’ in the act of creation. Every artist can recount similar moments of surprise and horror that become the strongest elements of an artwork. It’s alchemy at its purest, and is a huge part of what motivates us to create. And, I believe, it is the driving force behind creativity: curiosity motivated by accident and egged on by chutzpah.
It’s my contention that ‘The Accident’ is the source of all great works of art, scientific discoveries, heavenly bodies colliding, and genetic mutations — powerful stuff.
Forty years (or so) later, I acknowledge that an accident can also be the beginning of a career.
Let’s actively encourage accidents by providing the space for our children to experiment with all manner of media, from mud to metal. The next great accident is waiting for a perfectly wrong combination of materials to collide.
Lora R Fisher
Creative Director, Galri Montaj Contemporary Art
The Arts Empower Us…
The arts provide countless opportunities to bridge diverse cultures and to engage with and enrich our communities. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the arts also enhance learning and increase engagement in the classroom, while providing opportunities to benefit from creative collaboration.
The passion that artists exhibit to unite and uplift through the arts, to protect the environment, and to stimulate and support community engagement, are my inspirations. My goal as curator of Galri Montaj is to support the creative process, to provide opportunities for emerging artists, and to be a part of the life-changing experience of the arts.
Lora R Fisher
Galri Montaj Contemporary Art
“Out of the artist’s imagination, as out of nature’s inexhaustible well, pours one thing after another. The artist composes, writes, or paints just as he dreams, seizing whatever swims close to the net. This shimmering mess of loves and hates—fishing trips taken long ago with Uncle Ralph, a 1940 green Chevrolet, a war, a vague sense of what makes a novel, a symphony, a photograph—this is the clay the artist must shape into an object worthy of our attention; that is, our tears, our laughter, our thought.”
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the wonderfully talented artist, Michael Ricketson and learn a little about his thoughts on art and creativity…
Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
My primary medium when I first got into painting seriously, was digital paint. I remember creating digital art, back when it was not considered a serious medium. (Of course today it’s come completely into its own). I first did digital painting in the 1990’s, at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, and it was one of the great revelations of my life. I took to it immediately, it was such a forgiving medium, and for me, color on the screen just glowed! At the Art Institute, I majored in animation, but I easily preferred digital painting over the monotonous grunt work of animation. In college I was also introduced to the computer animation series, Miramar’s “Gate to the Mind’s Eye”. These videos gave me the conviction that art should be beautiful and romantic, and should make life better!
Anyway, about a year and a half ago, I felt like I wanted to create something of real value, something that you could hold in your hand and appreciate, and so I finally took up acrylic painting, after many false starts over the years. I really began to understand the necessity of painting from life, and so I took up still life, to give my eye something to ponder while my hand worked the brush. I worried that I had done things backwards, working in digital art before serious traditional study, but I did find that principles learned in digital work translated well to the real canvas. You just have to respect your own path that you’ve followed.
Most recently I trained for over a year in acrylics and oil, with an accomplished painter named Materese Roche. My current traditional painting is done in a realistic style, and also, recently, abstracted. I first got into painting fruit still life, due to an online painting study course that I was taking. I found the subject to be endlessly suitable for what we really value in art, beauty and color and variation, and so I stuck with it, with a patience that I had not anticipated.
I see myself doing much more acrylic than oil painting in the future, both for health reasons and efficiency of technique.
Do you have any creative routines or rituals?
I do my best conceptualizing inside my mind, that is, without a pencil or brush in my hand! I just sit and let my mind wander, with my eyes half closed and a complete disregard for the passage of time. I also think better with words than pictures, having started my creative journey as a writer, rather than an artist. So my brainstorming work on paper tends to be words as much as anything else!
I have to listen to music when I paint, but it can’t be anything loud or obnoxious!
Painting: Afternoon Passion
Oil on MDF, 5″ x 7″
Artist: Michael Ricketson
Galri Montaj Contemporary Art
What is the best advice you have received with regards to creativity, and what advice could you offer an aspiring artist?
My favorite advice from others is actually inspiration, which is what I get when I look at the art of my peers. The continuous source of ideas and concepts that breathe in the works of others is always what I turn to, when I am drained of elation for my art. I’ve spent many hours online and in bookstores, being reminded that there are no limits to creativity except that which we impose ourselves. I doubt that I would still be an artist if I didn’t have the motivation from my peers!
My personal advice to artists, is to never get the idea that you are not creative. When I was younger, I had this firm conviction that I could not generate creative ideas. I would struggle in school to complete writing assignments, as it would take me too long to decide what to write about. Even after I got started writing, I couldn’t finish the paper, because that would involve making more creative decisions and having a commitment to completion. This attitude changed when I took up creating 4-panel comic strips, a medium which forces you to be blunt, immediate and productive. By writing about what I loved and understood, I discovered that I wasn’t as bereft of ideas as I’d imagined. There are some practical tools and tricks for stirring up creativity in the mind that I’ve found very helpful, one of which is working with what you already know, what comes naturally for you. For example, with the comics, I would be totally lazy in idea generation, by simply imagining any type of mundane situation, and then dropping my characters into that scenario. Because I had a good grasp of who these characters were (extensions of myself perhaps) the scene would take a life of its own, as the characters responded and handled the problems at hand in their own ways. Ideas came naturally because I was at ease with the characters that I wrote about. So art is real and can happen on its own, the trick is not to stand in its way.
If you can, absolutely try to train under a professional artist. Being in the presence of a skilled painter will teach you things that you won’t get from books…. Little things, such as how to handle a brush, when and how often to wipe the brush while blending, etc. Of course you won’t end up mimicking your teacher in every way. But when you’re a beginner, seeing is believing, and you need to believe deep down inside that great paintings are possible. Seeing a wonderful painting come alive puts a thought in your head, that you can do the same thing.
We’ve all heard it before, but persistence is really the one important trait to have, in becoming an artist. You become who you want to be, by simply ignoring what any negative self-perception tells you is true. I can’t tell you how many times I set out to become an acrylic painter, only to quit two weeks later with the firm pronouncement that I would never be a traditional artist. But one day I finally decided that I wanted to be a painter badly enough. I started to paint in acrylic once again, and when the usual mental roadblock was thrown in my path, telling me to give it up, I simply ignored it and continued painting. So not long afterwards, I realized, “Hey, look at me! I’m painting every day now. I am a painter!” And sure enough, I was. The mental barrier restraining me, today looks to have been paper thin in reality, but it took too long to figure that out.
Painting: Night Reordered
Oil on MDF, 11″ x 14″
Artist: Michael Ricketson
Galri Montaj Contemporary Art
What does “being creative” mean to you?
This question makes me think more specifically of the controversy, “What is art?” I believe that we’ve let pride and commercialism mold our perceptions in defining art, and I think we need to remember that art is simply any small act of personal expression. And that expression is completely separate from skill of any kind, and is not beholden to people’s opinions on its value or accomplishment. Of course, we can add commercial value to art by doing it with skill, but art is neither about money nor ability at its core.
So what is expression? It is anything done for the sake of doing it, or for creating an aesthetic value. It can be a scribble, or a photorealistic painting. I disagree with those who say that photorealism is a technical exercise as opposed to art, because I think it is rare that a painter creates any type of work without making some adjustment for beauty or other interest!
What would be your dream project?
I’ve always hoped that digital virtual reality would make some great strides in my lifetime. It’s been slow in developing, but it’s fascinating to consider the possibilities, that of creating your own world which is almost indistinguishable from real life. Then art will truly be without limitation, every little aspect of your life open to your imagination and development. Paul McKenna predicted that we would soon move out of the information age, and into what he calls the psycho-technology age, in which bettering our minds and tapping our inner strengths would be the prevailing culture. This, along with sophisticated virtual reality, would be an artist’s dream, and would surely result in many new collaboration projects that we could only imagine today.
What are some of your professional goals?
When I was accepted into the gallery of Galri Montaj Contemporary Art, I received some needed encouragement to continue exploring abstraction in my painting, which is new for me. I think that more and more, my paintings will be enigmatic explorations of color and texture, but always with a trace of the representational, so as to retain an easy connection with the viewer. I think that people relate best to human stories, which means that a painting should be thought provoking, and strive to remain in the person’s conscious long after the viewing. Becoming an accomplished abstract artist is a main goal.
To become an art collector myself one day, would bring immense satisfaction! I could imagine turning my home into a place where others could come and see wonderful works of art. I enjoy reading of some of the legendary collectors of our time, and I’m always keen to understand their thought processes, and am appreciative of the opportunities that they can give to artists.
I have a side interest in pigments themselves, I can see myself one day making my own paints!
Painting: Still Life with Small Pumpkin
Acrylic on Masonite, 6″ x 6″
Artist: Michael Ricketson
Where can we find your work?
My work can be found online at Galri-Montaj Contemporary Art:
Also you can visit my website at:
And also on Pinterest:
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Michael for taking time out of his busy schedule to share with us his thoughts on creativity and to give us insight into his brilliant art. Please take some time to check out his amazing artwork.
Writer Julia Cameron Inspires Many On Their Creative Journey
Almost two decades after Julia Cameron first published, “The Artists Way”, many still find this book a source of inspiration. I found her book over ten years ago when on a mission to get back that creative passion I once had. Over the years, my copy has been read and re-read leaving it with dog-eared pages and a rickety spine but I still turn to it when I find myself drifting from my creative self. These days creativity is becoming more and more prevalent as people reach for meaning in their life. Being creative takes us away from the hustle and bustle that inhabits our daily lives, stimulates both our brains and our souls. Often people have the desire to be creative have no clue where to start.
Go to any large bookstore and you will find a growing selection of books designed to teach you how to motivate yourself to live a creative existence. There are books on almost every creative genre whether it is writing, painting, crafts or acting. In addition, there are writers that, regardless of the chosen activity, focus on the creative process itself. These writers make it their mission to help you navigate through your creative journey. Julia Cameron is definitely one of the most prolific of these writers. Cameron who is an artist, playwright, poet and writer herself has firsthand knowledge of exploring and maintaining ones creative spark. Her expertise is not only shared in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (Penguin Putman released in 1992 and re-released in 2002) but she has created a trilogy to address each aspect of what she calls “creative recovery”. “Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity” (Penguin Group released 2002) is basically the intermediate version of The Artist’s Way which helps you to continue your creative growth and the third instalment, “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” (Penguin Group 2006) is meant to help those already following a creative path to overcome creative blocks and stagnancy.
In each book, Cameron has two main basic tools: Morning Pages and Artist Dates.
Morning Pages are three full pages written longhand first thing every morning. In these pages, you write without censoring yourself. You rant, dream, worry, create and explore in these pages and they help you to “Keep the drama on the page” and out of your daily routine.
Artist Dates are also a valuable tool to regain creative passion. These are essentially “dates” with your creative self. This time is meant to be spent alone nurturing your creativity. Artist’s dates can range from visiting an art gallery to going to a corner craft store
Each book consists of a twelve-week course designed to gradually get you comfortable with the creative process through the use of tools and exercises which motivate and inspire.
The Artist’s Way has spawned what are called “creativity clusters” which are groups of compassionate readers who get together to work on the course together. Working in such a way can help for many as it gives you a sense of accountability, which can keep you focused and moving forward.
Although this process can be challenging and require courage – growth is not effortless, it takes time but it is an investment in yourself.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”~Pablo Picasso
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
More and more people are becoming aware of the healing powers of creativity. Human nature makes people want to strive to feel good, and keep their bodies free from illness and dysfunction. Two goals most people hope for are to be creative and to improve/maintain health. Taking our cue from physics, the first law of thermodynamics states that energy is neither created nor destroyed but is changed from one form into another. Expressing your creative energy means the energy within you is given an outlet; it is redirected into a more positive energy. Everyone is inheritably born with the potential for creativity. Drawing, painting, writing, acting, sculpting, knitting, dancing, cooking and playing an instrument are all creative activities that can ignite that creative spark. Many people already embrace their creativity while others are in the realm of “I am just not creative”. The key to being creative is taking action!
“Another word for creativity is courage” ~ George Prince
© Belinda Witzenhausen, 2009-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Belinda Witzenhausen with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.