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Monday, July 29, 2013

Wassily Kandinsky

Portrait of Kandinsky
by Gabriela Munter (1906)
"Every work of art is the child of its time, often it is the mother of our emotions."

— Wassily Kandinsky
Russian Artist
1866 - 1944

Can a creative leader escape the prison of his times?  Is the content of the work produced locked into the world view of the time?  For example, did the artists and writers who lived when people thought the world was flat produce different work than artists today would? Does our world view frame the work we create?  

Concentric Circles
byWassily Kandinsky
If you believe that works of art are children of the time they were produced, then you must accept the fact that what you create will one day be perceived as old fashioned.  What you perceive as fresh and new today may one day be viewed with embarrassment.  We often think we are better than the people of the past, that we have risen above their prejudices, yet we are often trapped by our own prejudices and misconceptions.

The truly great artist transcends time and custom.  He is celebrated in every age for his creative genius and understanding of the world.  Other artists may be celebrated in some periods and forgotten in others.  Some artists are never discovered in their own time, but because their work is ahead of its time, they find their place in a future they will never see.  And many never survive beyond their own time.

Creative Practice
Spend time this week analyzing your creative work.  What makes your creative work a child of our times?  What in your creative work transcends our times?  How does it fit within the world view of our times?

Kandinsky was born in Moscow, the son of a tea merchant.  When he was five, the family moved to Odessa.  As a boy, he learned to play the piano and the cello as well as draw.  When he was 20, he moved to Moscow to study law.  He graduated six years later with honors and accepted a position teaching. When he was 30, he gave up a career teaching law and economics in order to study art in Munich.  

In 1892, Kandinsky married Anna Chimyakina, a cousin on his father's side. Ten years later he fell in love with Gabriela Munter, an art student, and traveled through Europe with her. He officially divorced Anna in 1911, but never married Gabriela. Instead, he married Nina Andreevsky in 1917.

For more information, visit these sites.


Here is Helen Mirren, the actress, discussing the work of Kandinsky.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rainer Maria Rilke

"In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn't matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come."

Rainer Maria Rilke
Austrian Poet/Novelist
1875 - 1926

Sometimes writers, actors, musicians and artists are impatient and want immediate success.  What most fail to understand is that it does not happen overnight.  It happens as it is meant to happen.  The work has to age and ripen with time.  So don't despair.  Keep creating and the work will find its way.  The work will blossom when it is ready.  Early success often destroys the creative impulse and leaves the creator without anything to say.

Are you letting your work age properly or are you rushing into publication?  Are you looking for instant success or are you willing to wait until the time is right?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Joyce Carol Oates

"Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul."

— Joyce Carol Oates
American Novelist
1938 - 

Reading fiction gives us the opportunity to leave the limits of our bodies and explore the world of others.  We are able to feel what they feel, to experience what they experience, and to understand the world as they understand.  

I can never become another person in the real world.  I will always be myself no matter how much I grow and develop.  Reading like acting gives me the opportunity to become someone else.  I can feel their fear, their love and their joy.  Some people I inhabit I love and enjoy being them.  Others, I don't like and don't enjoy being in their skin, but I can still learn from them.  I can still expand my understanding of the world.

I prefer reading stories where I like the characters and enjoy being with them.  For me, character is more important than plot.  I don't always enjoys novels driven so much by plot that the author sacrificed character depth.  I prefer novels where I can climb inside the character's skin and become him or her for a short period of time.  Two of my favorite private investigators from the world of crime fiction are:  Easy Rawlins (created by Walter Mosley) and V. I. Warshawski (created by Sara Paretsky).  I enjoy spending time with each of them in the worlds they inhabit.  For me, the plot is less important than being with the two private investigators.

Writing fiction gives me a similar opportunity as reading fiction.  As a writer, I am able to become another person in a world of my creation.  Unlike reading, I am able to explore the character on a deeper level and get to know the person even better than the reader does.  The fun of writing is in seeing the character slowly reveal himself and the world in which he lives.  

Creative Practice
This week make a list of characters in fiction who you like as well as those who you dislike. Ask yourself why you like or dislike certain characters.  What appeals to you about certain characters?  What disturbs you about certain characters?  Identify the type of characters you like to write about.

Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most prolific American novelists and writers living today.  She published her first book in 1963 and has since published over 40 novels as well as a number of plays, short stories, poetry and non-fictional works.  She has taught at Princeton University since 1978.

Oates was the oldest of three children born to Caroline Bush and Frederic James Oates.  She was born in Lockport, New York and raised in the farming community of Millersport, New York.  She was raised Catholic, but later discovered that her paternal great-grandfather was Jewish.  Her paternal grandmother encouraged her to read and gave her a copy of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventure in Wonderland which influenced her writing.  She called the book "the greatest treasure of her childhood."  Other early influences included William Faulkner, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway, Charlotte Bronte and Emily Bronte.  She began writing at fourteen when her grandmother gave her a typewriter.

Joyce Carol Oates graduated from Syracuse University in 1960 with a B.A. in English and from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1961 with a M.A.

Here is a video of Joyce Carol Oates discussing how to write characters.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ray Bradbury

"Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way."

— Ray Bradbury
American Novelist
1920 - 2012

Sometimes our rational mind is a barrier to our creative output.  Our intuition makes mental leaps that our rational mind does not understand.  Our rational mind plays the role of the naysayer in our minds.  "You can't do that.  That don't make sense.  It's not rational.  People will laugh."  If we listen to our rational minds, we will lose some very creative ideas brought to us by our intuition.

Learn to listen and trust your intuition.  It may not make sense to the rational mind and that is okay.  In fact, if the rational mind is too resistive to an idea, it probably means it is a great idea.  The more the rational mind resists the better the idea.  Our educational training has taught us to trust our rational mind, not our intuitive mind.  To follow our intuition, we must be able to step outside our comfort zone and go where few others have gone.

Creative Practice
When you write or paint this week, let go of the rational mind.  Listen to your intuition.  If your rational mind tells you not to do something, listen instead to your intuition.  Follow your heart.

Ray Bradbury, the son of Esther Moberg and Leonard Bradbury, was born in Waukegan, Illinois.  His family moved back and forth between Waukegan and Tucson, AZ multiple times while he was a child.  They moved to Los Angeles, CA when he was 14.

Bradbury began to write stories at the age of eleven.  His earliest influences included Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H. G. Wells.  He began writing horror stories at 14 in imitation of Poe.

When Bradbury was 12 he visited a carnival and was touched on the nose by an electrified sword.  Mr. Electrico, the carnival entertainer shouted at Bradbury:  "Live forever."  From that day forward, Bradbury began to write every day.  Some of his influences included Robert Frost, William Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Wolfe and Eudora Welty.  In high school, he was active in both the Poetry Club and the Drama Club, but he did not attend college.  His education came from the library where he spent three days a week.  His novel Fahrenheit 451 was written at UCLA's Powell Library.

Bradbury earned his first money as a writer at the age of fourteen when George Burns hired hime to write for the Burns and Allen show.  Bradbury sold his first story, The Lake, for $13.75 at the age of 22. Homecoming, one of Bradbury's early stories appeared in Mademoiselle.  Truman Capote, a young editorial assistant, spotted the story which was selected for publication also in the O. Henry Prize Stories of 1947.  Bradbury also wrote plays.

Bradbury married Marguerite McClure in 1947 and they had 4 daughters.  He never had a driver's license.

Here is Ray Bradbury talking about writing.