Seeing What Others Don’t
Because I am known to be an artist people aren’t surprised when I see things like patterns, details, connections, concepts, etc. that they don’t. They just chalk it up to ‘that’s because he is an artist.’ But I think people get it backwards. Seeing all those things is what made me an artist, not the other way around.
Not Saying No
Why did I and other artists see those things when others didn’t? Because we didn’t say ‘no’. We don’t dismiss an idea because it is not approved. We don’t dismiss a vision because it doesn’t make sense. We don’t dismiss a connection between things because the connection has never been made before. In other words we don’t follow rules.
Rule Followers, Rule Breakers
Wait, I take that back. We don’t follow some rules but we do follow others. That is why some artists are radicals and shock everyone (they follow very few rules) and other artists are the darlings of the rule followers (because they only break very insignificant rules, if any).
How Radical Are You?
in the context of the quote and illustration above you might say the skeptic is the radical, right? She broke the rules of her religion, no longer believing what her religion says she must believe. But if that skeptic merely exchanges one set of rules, the religious ones, for the skeptics’ set of rules, how much has really changed? How much has she really seen in a new or fresh way? It might appear she has at first since obviously there is a breaking away from a set of rules, but then she becomes as doctrinaire as she ever was as a religious follower and nothing really has changed.
The truly free person is the one who holds their ideas and rules lightly. It’s not that they never hold on to them but they aren’t bound to them to such an extent that they don’t see beyond them. They are willing to consider new and strange ideas, issues, images without judgment beforehand. They are willing to see connections that aren’t immediately apparent.
Drawing and commentary © 2018 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
“Skepticism is like faith: both are substitutes for seeing.” – Bert Hellinger, 1925 – not dead yet, German Psychotherapist
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I have known a lot of people, male and female, who wrote poetry when they were young. It was a rite of passage into and out of adolescence. Many did the same thing with journaling, diary entries, drawing and art making in general. And it was almost always about two things. The creative urge to write and visualize at that age was about expressing feelings, emoting and self-discovery. But as time passed many figured things out, the angst lessened and the need to express in that way diminished.
Or at least they thought it did. But the truth is many stopped creating and regretted it. It may have taken a while but at some point they realized they had let something important go. It may have been they needed to rediscover themselves and they once again felt the urge to express that. But they could also have matured and realized creative endeavors aren’t just about letting the world know how you feel. Sometimes it’s a way to understand how the rest of the world feels. Sometimes it’s a way to make sense of a world by returning to something fundamental in themselves.
If you are twenty, I encourage you to keep writing, keep creating. This will require you grow beyond your own expression of self and start using your creative force to imagine and understand other worlds. If you are 40 and stopped your creativity years ago, I encourage you to start that stagnant engine again. It might require some hard work, but it will be worth it.
Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
“To be a poet at age twenty is to be twenty. To be a poet at age forty is to be a poet.” – Eugene Delacroix
This is how I create. I find something and I do something with it. It might be a napkin, a quote, an object, a person, or a combination of all of them. But whatever or whoever it is, I will transform it. I will combine, destroy, build, repurpose, take apart, hide, reveal and more. It’s what makes art fun and interesting for me. It’s how I think about things and people I see. I think about what I can do with them visually to say something of interest to me and others.
Here are some of the things I have transformed over the years. There are more, most of which you can see at the same flickr.com site that these links go to.
Rejection letters – a series I did in response to hundreds of rejection letters I got while applying for full-time teaching positions in the 80s and 90s.
Faces – A recent series I am doing on my iPad using my fingers (in most cases) to paint portraits based on photos and/or screenshots.
Mannequins and Games – Three Dimensional artwork that started with plastic or modeled mannequin heads that I turned into light boxes. Also a foosball table I turned into a self-portrait.
Bible – Drawings done in the bible I used from the mid-90s until about 2000 or so.
Book – I started with the book titled ‘Of Human Bondage’ and collaged into various pages photographs of the body in bondage.
Famous artwork – I started with a book on Impressionism and glued onto the images photos of body impressions.
Drawing, commentary and all artwork © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Quote by James Russell Lowell, 1819-1891, American poet
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I have a theory that if you are an artist, you are an artist whether you create art or not. This is because what counts is that you have an artistic mind.
In practice no one will ever call you an artist unless you actually create art. This is because without the creation of art, the artistic mind atrophies and dies.
My favorite passage in the New Testament of the Christian Bible is this passage in the book of James:
‘So too, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’ James 2:17-18
What do you want to be?
You become what you practice. Practice art, you become an artist. Practice running, you become a runner. Practice love, you become a lover. It doesn’t matter what it is, if you want to become something practice is the only way to become it.
Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Quote by Yogi Berra, 1925 – 2015, American Baseball Player
I watched a TV segment about Edward Albee recently. He is the Pulitzer Prize winning playright whose most famous work is ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’. The interviewer was asking him if he considered that the subject matter would be offensive to some. His response was, yes he knew it might be but that the play was telling him what needed to be in it, not people who may or may not be offended by it.
Art Creating Itself
That is how it is with me as well. My imagination starts somewhere and then once I put pen to paper the images tells me where to go and what to do. It tells me what it wants to be. The more I listen to that the better the work. The more I listen to a possible future offended person the more I will create something self-censored, something that looks like someone else’s work, not my own.
That is why I often draw nudes. The content and message in the depiction of a nude says something I want to say. Clothing the person would take that element of the idea away and if I bow to that pressure I am diminishing my power as an artist to create something expressive and valuable. If someone is offended or interprets the work in ways I don’t anticipate that is ok, I even like hearing about that and learning from it. But I can’t try to extrapolate what that might be in advance just to save someone somewhere a possible hard thought or offensive reaction.
You Creating Yourself
So it is with creating your whole self as well as a work of art. Chisel and hammer out who you want to be, not who you would be if you offended no one. Because if you turn yourself into who someone else wants you to be, you become hard to know, admire and love. The world ends up seeing a watered down you, diluted with someone else’s ideas of who you should be instead of the full flavored you. And you’ll end up offending someone anyway.
Drawing and Commentary by Marty Coleman, who is who he is.
Quote by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, 1749-1832, German playright and poet, among other things.
Trivia Question from yesterday answered
Question: Which U.S. President sewed his own clothes as well as some of his wife’s?
Answer: Andrew Johnson. The 17th President was trained and employed as a tailor early in his life and never gave up the practice.
I come across a lot of people who, when I say I am an artist, say in response, ‘Oh, I am SO not creative.’ My usual response is ‘You are probably more creative than you realize.’ But in truth often times I am thinking, ‘Yea, that is probably true.’ Why would I think that? Because anyone who says they aren’t creative obviously thinks they aren’t. And guess what? Those who say they aren’t something very seldom become it.
The Grand Mystery Illusion
The other reason people say it is because it is they think it is something you are born with, something ingrained, mysterious. Not something you can learn. But that is not true, you can learn how to be creative. You just can’t learn it from someone else very easily. You have to learn it and practice it with yourself. So, if that is the case, how can you become creative when you aren’t creative enough to teach yourself.
Talking to Yourself
The key is in talking to yourself. The talk is not of the ‘do this, do that’ variety. it is of the ‘hmmm, I wonder what would happen if’ variety. It is the voice of fearlessness, the voice of curiosity and the voice of joy. If you are willing to talk to yourself, encouraging yourself to try something, something a bit off the wall perhaps, you have a way to bridge that gap.
But, this is a case where you really do need to take your own advice and say, ‘OK, I’ll try it.’
Drawing by Marty Coleman. It is the second drawn interpretation of this quote. You can see the first drawing, from 2009, here.
Quote by Arthur Koestler
I like this quote – it’s about art, it’s funny and it rhymes – what more can I ask?
Creativity is so much about freedom. Letting the dot in your head take it’s walk where it wants to go and not stopping it. Are you able to do that? What stop signs do you have?I tried something a bit different today. I drew the line drawing on the napkin but then did the color work in the computer, just for fun and a change.
Drawing by Marty Coleman of The Napkin Dad Daily
Quote by Paul Klee, 1879-1940, Swiss/German artist.
|“Young Girl” by Paul Klee – Lithograph, 1939.
Are you ignoring Ms. Creativity? She doesn’t like to be ignored. She dresses to get noticed and if you don’t pay attention she will secretly push hunches on you all day until you do. So, PAY ATTENTION, she is trying to tell you something!
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman of The Napkin Dad Daily
Quote by Frank Capra, 1897-1991, American film director
Among his films are:
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- Meet John Doe
- Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
- It Happened One Night
- You Can’t Take it With You
- Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
- Arsenic and Old Lace
He also produced and directed the 7 part movie series, ‘Why We Fight’ during World War II.
If you aren’t willing to teach yourself then you are at the mercy of what other people
want to teach you, what they think is important. If you teach yourself you are in
Take charge. Be your own student and your own teacher. That way you will always be
getting a new degree!