I’m wrapping up two months of quotes from Spark: How Creativity Works (2011) by Julie Burstein, based on interviews conducted with artists of all media for Studio 360, which she produced.
Painter Chuck Close on how he creates his portraits: “I know where I’m going to end up but I don’t know the route I”m going to take. So much is embedded in the process of following that path wherever it leads, and the things you bump into, the ideas that occur to you through the act of painting, through the process of building a painting, are so different from the ones that you sit around and dream up. I don’t wait for inspiration. If you wait for the clouds to part and be struck in the head with a bolt of lightning, you’re likely to be waiting the rest of your life. But if you simply get going something will occur to you.”
So much like writing a story or a novel. I often find that I’m “sparked” by interaction with other arts — going to a concert or a gallery opening, taking a painting class, sitting nearby when my singer-songwriter husband and his friends take turns around the circle with their song. I hope these quotes have done something similar for you.
The meat of Spark is, of course, the perspective and experiences of the artists themselves, but Julie Burstein, who produced the radio show and compiled the interview excerpts, offers a few insights into the creative process from her own experience. Here, she’s recounting part of a conversation with her mother, a college professor and author.
“My mother often reminds me that beginning a new project doesn’t start when you sit down at your desk to write, or stand in front of a canvas with a palette full of paint, or figure out a new tune on a piano. For most creative work, there’s a period that she likes to call ‘pawing the earth,’ when we must create the environment in which we can begin.”
– Julie Burstein, radio producer and author
I’m continuing to quote from Spark this month.
Architect Robert Venturi was interviewed with his wife, architect and urban planner Denise Scott Brown
“Quoting T.S. Eliot, [Ventura] pointed out that the creative process consists enormously of criticism. You don’t invent all the time. When you get an idea, you try it out, then you critique it. You work much of the time as a critic of your own ideas.” And he and his wife are critics of each other’s ideas.
Being seen as creative because he’s male, the lone genius, with his wife less creative is a problem. “Both views are stereotypes, and neither acknowledges the complexity in our tasks that pushes us to work creatively together. It’s relevant that we’re not performing artists. If we were, the nature of the collaboration—who is doing what work, how the creative work is shared—might be more obvious.”
I so enjoyed sharing with you quotes from Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein (2011), a book of excerpts from interviews by Kurt Andersen for Public Radio’s Studio 360 show, which Burstein produced, during February that I’m going to continue that this month.
Poet Donald Hall (1928-2018), on writing about the land he was born on, long held by his family, and the life he lived as a child:
“If we could bring [that world] back, I’m not sure I’d want to live there. I want to keep that world in the world by writing about it. … [ellipses original] This is a motive to literature—preserving what is gone or what is going. And it is, of course, an important part of preservation to try to preserve the dead whom you loved and admired.”