Most people have their creative play driven out of them by fourth grade. Children are told what art is, and lessons are generally about precision and not making a mistake. But art is about seeing and being. And making mistakes so you can fix them and learn to see better.
Making art isn’t about “stuff” either. Art comes from within you, not through stencils, transparencies and puffy paints. I’m not saying they aren’t fun, or that creative play should be sparse. I am saying you don’t need to break the bank and become an art-product consumer to be an artist. It’s not what you own, it’s what you do with what you have.
Here are two great examples of what I mean. Both of these people can’t NOT make art. They stand in the flow of time and art and the work pours out of them because there is no other choice. They have their own ideas of what art is, and the only tool either one of them uses is a Sharpie pen.
Justine Ashbee uses good paper along with her Sharpie. Her flowing lines and subtle use of color are incredibly beautiful art. She does it freehand. It comes from within her. It’s the flow of art. You couldn’t stop her creative work because it makes meaning. It doesn’t need to be supported with a million products.
Charlie Kratzer, the other artist, does a totally different kind of work. He decorated his entire basement with a black Sharpie. OK, it was more than one. It was $10 worth. The rest was his creativity, his ideas, his desire to decorate his life.
Kratzer is a lawyer, and started with one line in the basement–a line that began a mural around his basement wall. The mural is not just furniture and columns and wainscoting, although it is all that.
The art spans literature and popular culture, Picasso and Churchill. I could list all the things on the wall, but there is a wonderful video and article that does a much better job.
Being creative is not about owning stuff, buying stuff, or having a fabulous studio to store the stuff. Right now there it’s popular to have artists’ studios in magazines, along with descriptions about how this big, airy, wonderful space is exactly what every artist needs. Yes, it’s nice to have lots of space and storage, but thinking you need 300 square feet with special furniture before you can create is the same as thinking you aren’t an artist until you have four bins of stuff.
Creativity is making meaning in your life. Anyway you can. No excuses. Get busy doing one thing that you love. It’s fine if you think you can’t. Just get into the studio and start. The rest will wash over you and sweep you away in art.
—Quinn McDonald is using her old stuff to create new stuff.
20 thoughts on “It’s Not About Space”
I just want to tell you I love this post. Loved the beautiful drawings. That making art isn’t about stuff. Before I realized the art and stamping magazines were mostly about selling new stamps and paint, it ate away at my spirit. I thought I should be able to buy all that stuff or my art would be dated & old fashioned & worthless. After awhile, I just got mad, concluded it wasn’t about art but about others getting even more money out of me. Then I stopped buying the magazines. Oddly, I don’t miss them. With that said, seeing new (to me) ideas in an art/stamp magazine resulted in me experimenting with a new medium, finding real & detailed instructions in books by teachers, becoming obsessed, and spending many a happy day or night working/arting. It was a one page article w/ a few pictures that got me going. The right images at the right time. but the directions were lousy LOL and if I would have stopped there, my life would have missed a huge happiness. Thanks for re-inforcing the idea that it is most okay to play with the toys we already own (even though no one is making money off of us with that message). Take Care.
Very well said Dawn!
The Craft Industry has become just that–an industry. The best way to buy is to make us think we can’t be good artists without some gimmick, product, device, or thing. I love toys, but it’s not about making art.
Making meaning in my life… oh yes, still doing that! Different city, different house, different work-space, different light (better!), no basement to decorate but my beloved beach and waves are only a bike-ride away now: how’s that for inspiration! My art journals came out of the moving boxes and I’m slowly picking up the pieces and getting back to creating… I’m glad to see you are still here rockin’ and rolling the blog and cheering to us all to come on and see the beauty in life. Thanks Quinn!
I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you again, Marit, and hear you are a bike ride away from the beach! Life has been really tough on you and not a day has passed that I haven’t though about you.
Quinn, you are truly amazing. Thank you for all your beautiful words!!!
This is SOOOOOOOOO true. And, love the Sharpie walls!
The Sharpie walls blew me away!
Thank you for this reminder! Like, Christie posted, I become overwhelmed with so many supplies! At one point I was on a buying binge and didn’t get things organized. Now, I’ve WAY slowed down on buying but it takes me so long to gather supplies that by the time I do I am in another frame of mind altogether. I know getting organized first is the answer to that problem but with some health limitations I have it’s SLOW going. I don’t have the funds to pay someone to do it. I kept saying when I get everything organized I’ll create more. But after reading your post I’m just going to gather what’s handy and go to it! I’ll organize as I can and create along the way. I appreciate you pointing out what should be obvious but sometimes gets lost in the muddle of what has become my brain. LOL!
I was on that binge too! And there is just so much to “acquire”. And as nice as it is to be organized, that in itself can be overwhelming yes? i agree with you Silverchakra, just go with what is at hand. And that may change every few days. I have a little bag of stuff on my couch that i play with while watching TV with hubby. Minimal supplies. And you know, i find that so relaxing. And no digging for the perfect whatever!
Like you, I figured out how much I wasn’t using when I traveled and had just the minimum with me. And it was enough.
Sounds like you have a good skill of working with your limits–both physical and materials. And that’s the best solution.
Such wise words, Quinn !! I am one of those who has gotten caught that “If I have this or that new thing I will be able to draw/paint/journal just like I really want to”. What a silly idea. Your two examples are perfect – a Sharpie and paper. I hope this will inspire me today to carve out some time and draw. To express myself in art. Thanks for the reminder
Meredith in NC who is slowly but surely downsizing her stash to a manageable level
just recently I found a tote as i was organizing our basement. I had written on it “craft supplies” for when we moved into our current house 12 years ago. It held ALL of my supplies. I now have a whole room full (which does include all my books too, but hey, you know what I mean!)
I do so know what you mean. Even when you cut back, art supplies multiply and accumulate.
Thank you for sharing your “right on” thoughts! My first art space was my closet which was large enough to hold my table! Now my art space is in the guest bedroom. I have discovered that the more “stuff” I have the longer it takes to find a home for it and that takes time away from creating.
It’s much like a pantry–the more you have, the more elaborate the outcome should be.
Thank you for this timely reminder! I find having so many products and choices overwhelming. Simplify and get busy creating. That, I can do.
It slows down creativity, having all those choices. Sometimes simplifying lets the ideas stand out.