One of the things that I wish had been addressed more in school is the power of play or experimentation. The power of playing and experimenting is that you’re going to get much better results from doing this, instead of simply performing. What do I mean by playing and experimenting? Playing and experimenting is exactly that, playing with the materials that we have, understanding their potential as well as their limits, experimenting for how they can be pushed and interfered to create something new. Playing with composition, cutting things, pasting things, inserting things even if we don’t understand them. I often have found that if I wanted something in my artwork that there was a good chance that my brain was somewhat ahead of my understanding of it. Playing and experimenting with our work involves a degree of fearlessness, as well as telling your inner critic to shut up while you play. Sometimes we brush off the silly ideas, but what we should actually be doing is paying attention to the silly ideas as a point of entry. A lot of times when making work that is abstract is that the work that is being made has never been done before. This involves new pathways being created in the brain as you learn to see and understand from a different perspective. It requires you to ask questions about the materials, the ideas, the history and the context in which you’re placing and viewing the work.
Here are some myths that I have believed in the past about experimentation and play that I hope you can dispel in your own practice.
It’s a waste of time and resources: Its not, I understand that things are expensive, but if we set aside a portion of our time and a portion of our resources in order to play and experiment I believe that the work will be richer as well as your abilities to continue creating.
Its not valuable: It is valuable, each time we practice something a new skill, a new material, a new drawing or sketch this works towards developing our practice as an artist, our mental skills and also our general skills of working with materials. When we master or understand a material through play and experimentation we can really push it to its limits and see how to use it.
This work should be hard and not give any joy: What on earth kind of thinking is this? Artwork is not less valuable because it gave you joy to make it, why on earth are making work that we don’t want to or we get no pleasure out of? Might as well go into accounting or some other vocation that gives me misery if I keep on thinking this.
Oh hello, welcome to my blog, hacking a BFA. Is it an academic blog or is it just an art blog? I don't really know. Some of this might be relevant to art students only, some of it relevant to art amateurs......does it really matter? I invite you to treat this blog as an art buffet. If you want something more in depth...its here, something more geared to art newbies....it's here. Enjoy!
Melissa Cayford is an artist, designer and educator bent on making art and art education more accessible.