“Follow your inner moonlight. Don’t hide the madness.” ~ Allen Ginsberg
Well, summer has come to an end and as the new school year approaches I find myself thinking about creativity and inspiration once again. I have looked to various artists this summer, for new ideas and perspectives; I attended concerts at the Music Garden, special exhibits at Craft Ontario, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Textile Museum, the Dusk Dances, and outdoor performances of Shakespeare plays. And I have done lots of knitting this summer and read some amazing and beautifully written books. I find as I have gotten older I have become more selective about what I feed my brain. Maybe this has to do with the increasing realization that the time I have been given is finite, and passing quickly, and so it is important to use it well and do those things that I find most meaningful. Maybe these days I want mainly beautiful things to be part of my process of becoming, which I view as ongoing.
One of the most challenging things I did this summer was to take a class on abstract drawing, finding inspiration and ideas by drawing in different areas of Toronto (sometimes natural venues and other times in vibrant neighbourhoods). I think my instructor understands important things about learning goals, motivation, individuals’ beliefs about learning, and self-efficacy and the role these play in the creation of art. Ever since I have made the decision to explore drawing and painting, I have been torn between the desire to express myself through art, and the fear of doing things badly, and wrong. I have long been terrorized by what can best be described as a negative inner voice and I am aware that this voice can be such a total jerk. Still, sometimes that voice trumps my desire and my ability to create. At the end of the course, when I looked at my collected drawings, I felt I hadn’t found a unique artistic style that my classmates seemed to possess. Though I enjoyed the process of making each piece, I suppose I felt I should have seen some kind of evolution in my work. Yes, yes, I know this will come in time and with practise. Like my process of becoming, this inner battle is one that is ongoing. I am determined to keep trying.
Interestingly, while doing some reading on foundations for numeracy, the section on social and motivational influences caught my attention, and I realized that these things have as much of a role in creating art as in learning any other subject. So, I wondered to what extent I am ‘mastery’ oriented (focused on learning through challenging myself with something I find difficult) and to what extent I am ‘performance’ oriented (comparing my performance to that of others and needing an external reward for my efforts). I see that I am both and when left alone with a task I can turn inward, go into flow, and figure things out. Comparing my work to others’ is an opportunity for learning, and a way to consider other possible ways of seeing and representing, and even a way to receive constructive feedback, but I admit I found it intimidating and sometimes it made me want to give up.
I think for the most part my art teacher has created a learning climate for forming mastery oriented goals. He gives meaningful reasons for engaging in drawing and painting, and for trying to learn about and understand art. He promotes high interest in the subject and provides opportunities for exploring techniques and materials and for practising that are an intermediate challenge. He allows for gradual skill improvement, and always, always, arranges for novelty, variety and diversity in the learning experiences of his students. I know I definitely have work to do in the area of internal motivation and my own belief in my capabilities. And I must learn to see my art displayed next to the work of others and refuse to let my negative voice lessen my enjoyement of the process of creating something, even if the end result is not so great. I have signed up once again for abstract painting with my teacher, so with this modified perspective, I look forward to seeing what happens later in September!