Tricky topic? The more I think about it the trickier it gets. To be taken seriously often compels artisans and artists to deny whimsy in their work. Pulling it off is ever so difficult. Here we confront the seesaw of public opinion: the weight of academia, our own adult considerations of fame and fortune and the Art World, capital letters, on one seat (it's a quite crowded seat); the universal human appeal of play, for jokes, for humor on the other. Teetering along, and so few good role models.
I do, however, weigh in on the side of playfulness and whimsy as studio practice, whether it makes it into the work or not. (It does in mine, quite obviously at times.) Out of self-permission to play, comes interesting discoveries in media, in imagery and, for some artists, a unique style of work. (One of the best examples I know is Pam RuBert.)
In answer to a question on a mailing list that I read (TheStudioSalon), I came up with these personal must-dos.
- Dance, where no one can watch, clear a space, put on music and see what happens. Then draw, then dance. Or paint to music -- use a cheap kid's watercolor set to keep the materials from feeling too precious.
- Buy the kind of art supplies you loved as a child (or always wanted as a kid) Try them out with no product
- in mind.
- Journal, think, daydream a bit, sit outside and see shapes in the clouds. Write about all the things you loved to do as a child. see if you can revisit some of those activities.
- What do you do when the inner critic says: you are silly, stop being so immature, you are wasting time, you should be ashamed at being so silly, you will never be taken seriously if you act like this? Say, "thank you for sharing." and keep on doing what you are doing.
- Finish this sentence 25, 46, even 101 times:(from Julia Cameron)If it weren't too late I would ----or --- If it weren't so silly, I would ... Then pick something and do it.
- Build a sand pile and play in it regularly. Also, wade in a creek, watch ants, dig in the dirt, plant beans and watch them grown, collect leaves and press them. Does this sound like kindergarden? We're on the right track.
P.S. So what do you think of my new whimsical jean jacket? Fiber Artists of San Antonio's Runway Show is on the horizon and I really have no ability or interest in sewing garments, but I like cutting them apart, reassembling them and adding stuff -- this is the same me that loved paperdolls and making clothes for Barbie, back when one had only ONE Barbie, instead of a stable of clones. I am also teaching a course this summer at the Southwest School of Art and Craft called "ReTheads," and an altered denim vest, jacket, skirt or pair of jeans will be one of the class projects.
P.P. S. The jacket is now sans sleeves, they were way too short.