Have you ever been in a library or bookstore, glanced at two books shelved next to each other, and realized that their titles formed a phrase or sentence? Today, I turned this phenomenon into art by stacking books so their titles made two short poems.
This project was quick, easy, and only required books and a camera, but it reminded me that opportunities for creativity are all around us. Even if you are not a fan of writing, I would strongly encourage you to try incorporating art into your everyday life.
Here are three tips that will make it easier for you to get involved with art:
1. Start small
Sometimes creating art feels like an enormous undertaking, but you don’t have to start with oil painting. Instead, choose one easy project (like stacking books) and a short amount of time (like ten minutes in the evening). You might be surprised by how much you can enjoy in short, simple projects—I know that I was.
2. Ask friends
If you have friends who are involved in genres that intrigue you, ask them if they’ll teach you. This can be pretty scary, but most people enjoy talking about things they enjoy, so they’ll most likely say yes. I would never have tried ceramics or violin without my friends’ help.
3. Try improvising
You won’t always have the exact supplies that you need to follow directions, and that’s completely okay. You can often find something that will work just as well—like trading an awl for a thumbtack. This improvising just gives you another way to enjoy being creative.
Art is everywhere. You just have to know how to look for it.
Did you know that Charlie White also plays the violin?
Earlier this year, he promised the Today show that if he won gold, he’d play violin on their show. They made sure he kept this promise.
In honor of our fabulous ice dancers, I decided to take one half-hour violin lesson from a friend. I spent the first seven minutes just trying to figure out how to hold the bow correctly and still be loose enough to move my arm.
We’ve been talking a lot about art you can do yourself. Sometimes, it’s just as rewarding to enjoy art that other people have created. This can get expensive (opera tickets aren’t cheap), so here are five ways you can experience art in the Minneapolis area without breaking your bank.
1. Visit an Art Museum
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is a free museum where you can see jade sculptures from ancient China, portraits by nineteenth-century Romantic artists, and contemporary abstract paintings.
2. Hear a Concert at a Coffee Shop
The Coffee Grounds is a local coffee shop that brings in musicians ranging from folk to hip-hop on every Friday evening for a free concert. Sometimes they even have comedy troupes.
3. Watch a Ballet
The Landmark Center offers free ballet performances by members of the St. Paul City Ballet on Tuesdays at noon. They also have free classical music concerts and art exhibitions.
4. Listen to a Reading
The Loft Literary Center brings in local and national authors to read poetry and prose, sometimes from one author’s book, and sometimes from several authors’ works about to explore a theme or celebrate an award.
5. See a Film—Fifty’s Style
The Riverview Theatre still has the architecture, decorations, and furniture it did during the 1950s. While not completely free (tickets cost $2), this theatre makes you feel like you stepped backward in time.
Even if we’re involved in art, we tend to stick to mediums that are familiar. For example, my college campus has a ceramics studio in their art building, but I have never been inside in all my three years at this school. Until now.
This weekend, I strapped on an apron and got my
sister, who is an art minor, to give me a tour. She began with the bucket of wet, slimy clay (called “slip”). After this clay has the excess water removed, it’s usable for projects. Next, she took me to the wedging tables, where artists knead the clay until it’s solid enough to work with. When I tried wedging, I was surprised by how fast the clay dries out.
Then I got to try wheel-thrown pottery. First, my sister showed me how to center the clay by bracing my palms on the rapidly spinning wheel. I couldn’t get my lump centered. Then I pushed too hard and pulled it completely off the wheel. After a couple more tries, we decided I should just make my object by hand.
Some people naturally appreciate modern art. I am not one of them. Several times, I’ve found myself standing in an art gallery, staring at a painting called something like “Red Line on White Canvas,” and thinking, “I could do that.”
Today, I actually tried it. I got out my colored pencils . . . and had absolutely no ideas. I hadn’t realized how hard it would be to create art that didn’t look like physical objects.
To give myself some inspiration, I browsed the work of two abstract expressionist painters, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. Rothko’s paintings depict colored rectangles. Newman’s works feature bright colors with thin vertical lines running through them. I’m not a very good artist, but I decided to imitate both of these artists. How hard could it be to draw some lines and color blocks?
It was much harder than I thought. Drawing the shapes was fairly easy, but it was hard to create a picture that was visually pleasing. I couldn’t explain why, but my pictures were less interesting than the originals. My rectangles looked like random blobs. My lines weren’t very striking.
This reminded me of a conversation several of my friends who are art majors had about abstract art. They said that it was hard to create good composition with such limited subject matter.
While I still don’t understand modern art, I gained a new appreciation for artists who can make such a simple structure hold the viewers’ attention. It’s a deceptively simple art form.
Everyone suffers from writer’s block at some point, and there are a billion solutions for getting past it. But when someone told me that she runs her poems through Google translate when she gets stuck, I had to try it.
Last week, I came across this picture in my Facebook news feed:
It’s a photograph of priests from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church standing in between the peaceful protestors and the armed police forces in Kiev. When it was taken, they didn’t know if Ukraine would break out into a civil war, or even if it even survive as a country.
This image captures the priests’ bravery and poise during a time of nation-wide unrest. It reminded me of what draws me to photography—its ability to tell stories and communicate emotions.
What’s the hardest part about writing? Most writers will tell you it’s staring at a blank sheet of paper or the blinking cursor on a white screen. But what if you could reverse the process?
Erasure poetry does just that. Instead of starting with a blank page, erasure poems begin with a prose text written by someone else. Then, the poet crosses out phrases (and even sentences) until the remaining words form a poem. My text, a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, fit completely on one page, but many erasure poems are made from a single page of a longer story or essay.
When I started my poem, crossing out words was really easy. Getting the leftover words to make sense was a little harder. This forced me to stop trying to control the poem or plan what would happen in it. Instead, I had to tap into my creative side by choosing interesting words or images and trying to link them together. The result was a lyrical poem that I called “Coal.”
I made a second erasure poem using the same text, but the result was completely different. Although it even used some of the same words as “Coal,” my second poem, “She and He,” was much more narrative.
Working with someone else’s words helped me create images and expressions that I would never have thought of on my own. I enjoyed the variety this technique helped me produce, and I would love to try it again.
I love going to the art gallery on my college campus and seeing what other students have created. I just don’t have time make anything myself.
But that’s not completely true. There’s always some lag time between my classes or while I’m waiting for the shuttle. I just tend to use these gaps to browse Facebook or Twitter. Although I’m never on for very long, these bits of time can add up.
For one day, I challenged myself to use these breaks to create something, specifically to draw. I’m not an art major—the last drawing class I took was in middle school. My confidence in my artistic ability maxes out slightly above stick figures.
Still, I carried a sheet of printer paper and a mechanical pencil with me all day yesterday. Instead of using my breaks between classes to check social media, I drew. I had no specific requirements for subjects, so sometimes I drew geometric shapes, sometimes I drew identifiable (though very cartoon-y) objects, and sometimes I just doodled.
I’m sure that my results violate several artistic principles, but I had fun. At first, I had a hard time coming up with ideas, but it got easier the more I drew. I would love to try doing this again, maybe with more specific subject matter or more realistic drawings. This project made me wonder what else I could create in my schedule’s margins.
Want to learn more about drawing or try a challenge?
Art can be intimidating for those of us without access to studios or even art supplies. For example, I recently visited the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, the largest center dedicated to bookbinding and related crafts. MCBA’s gallery showcases the intricate, beautiful work of local artists.
I have always wanted to try making a book, but I have never taken any of MCBA’s bookbinding or papermaking classes. I don’t own any of the binding thread sold in their shop. It’s easy for me to look at the tiny, hand-cut pages spiraling out to form landscapes of European cities (complete with accurate depth perception) and give up. Continue reading Book Art for the Rest of Us→