III. Art Making, Creativity, and Voice

Some thoughts about art making offered to ArtSource participants at the 2014 Summer Institute:

“The creative mind plays with objects you love.” -Carl Jung

“We don’t see things as they are, we see as we are.” -Anais Nin


“The imagination needs moodling…long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering.”  -Brenda Velan

“Most of the time when I work I work in the dark, but sometimes I have just a vague idea of something and I want to bring it into being.” -Peter Voulkos

“Then I apply more paint, scrape some off, more paint, paint it out, paint it black, paint it white, paint it black again and I’m under way.  I sit in front of it and think about it between all the painting, and then it starts clarifying itself to me.” -Susan Rothenberg

“On the one hand, the artist is the imaginer and the producer.  But she is also the critic.” -Ben Shahn

At the 2014 ArtSource Institute, participants considered the following questions about art DSC00028making and voice:

  • Where does my voice / art come from?
  • How does my voice work?
  • Why do I sometimes lose my voice?
  • Is my art meaningful to others?

Important components in the ‘story” of making art:

  • The artist is the originator of her work; not a pawn;
  • Repetition is a key element of “getting it right”;
  • During art making there is a “movement” between unreflective and reflective actions or intentions; between doing (unconscious) and making (conscious);
  • The existence of an inner critic (that voice in your head during the art making process guiding your decisions) acknowledges this transcendence of intentions;
  •  Finally, a dialogue between maker and materials is essential in allowing the artist to “articulate” her ideas.


ArtSourcers discuss the “story” of their art and art making:  

DSC00719Art making involves originating, transforming and reclaiming. The artist’s voice informs exploration, discoveries, and decisions. Voice is not always a constant. Sometimes the voice is soft, sometimes the voice is loud, and sometimes the voice disappears for a while.



IMG_0948Art making (and art teaching) is a construction of past and present events and understandings to covey new insight and meaning. Memory contributes to our construction of meaning in the present. Childhood play, stories, and lived experiences can inform our decisions and actions in making art (and teaching). Play–past, present and future–is vital to the human experience. It is a rich activity that allows for exploration, experimentation, discovery, problem-posing, problem-solving, and embracing ambiguity. It is essential to making.



IMG_0965The artist Ben Shahn described the “inner critic” as the voice that informs our decision making while we create. It is a voice that the artist can acknowledge or refute–but the voice is always there. The voice drives the artist to consider and reconsider her actions, as well as to encourage new possibilities.



IMG_0922The art making process involves a conversation, with the inner critic, about ideas and materials. The artist must recognize the need for this conversation and embrace it as part of the experience of making art. Recognizing the relationship of ideas and how materials work and what they can “say” involves repeatedly playing with media and concepts over time. This process is essential to the creative act.

And another point of view:


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