Do you notice patterns in your moods while sharing and viewing art on social media?
Does social media begin to feel like an echo chamber of stagnant ideas?
This series of questions explores some underlying issues of the unethical, unhealthy and uninspired behavior we see frequently in the creative community through social media. Taking responsibility for how we use social media and create projections/illusions we tend to cast on others is a start. As ‘change starts within,’ a first step is to reassess our own social media consumption, engagement and patterns of self-promotion. But, to survey this new digital landscape requires a community conversation. Venting privately with friends can be a healthy outlet, but do we really know how our entire creative community feels about both plagiarism and online engagement and find resolution when our boundaries have been crossed? Not until we start the conversation. Public discussion topics on ethics will help us to discover both our own and others’ boundaries. They will also help us to formulate our own ‘laws’ to obtain justice for artists who have been exploited in a way the justice system generally fails independent artists who are copied. Social media can be a powerful form of currency to mobilize peers and clients — and often as independent artists, it's one of our most abundant currencies. I created a guide not as the ultimate word on ethics in art and craftsmanship, but as a community conversation starter that is a culmination of my years teaching and working in the creative community, sharing and listening to artist-friends vent, and observing patterns within myself while engaging with social media.
So many makers seem to fall onto the well-tread path of plagiarism while on their creative journey because they feel overwhelmed, blank or creatively blocked. Some makers are very adept at following DIY instructions and haven’t ever unlocked their own creative potential — failing to understand the difference between the two. Others are currently being copied by so many other makers that they feel drained and ready to abandon their creative pursuit altogether. Some makers feel so overwhelmed by the current of creative soup swirling in their Instagram and Pinterest feeds that they have gotten stagnant in their own creative practice. And many are so addicted to social media that they can’t look away from their phones long enough to really sit down with their own practice. If you feel your creative platform needs centering, refocusing or reboot, I’d like to share a few resources for reigniting your practice.
First, take a sabbatical from social media for a set period of time and pick of one of these books to guide you through this new phase:
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron— Maybe you’ve heard of this artists’ self-help classic…. for a good reason! It is an interactive guide that should be required reading in every high school or introductory college course. The ‘homework’ assigned by the book includes ‘Morning Pages’ and “Artist Dates.’ It's a book that many return to frequently when their creative tank is low. It's meant to be read like a 3-month course, so carve out some time and dig into it.
- Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland— Is the heaviness of a blank canvas overwhelming? Another self-help classic, this quick read focuses on perfectionism, expectations, acceptance and approval. It has a calming tone and strikes a vibe somewhere between a psychology textbook and spiritual manual. I read this book in college and it really helped to make the blankness of an empty page less intimidating. Created by artist-teachers with a professorial tone, this book has the feel of preparing a young grasshopper to move forward into the wild unknown.
- Grapefruit by Yoko Ono— Since high school, I have just loved this fat, little book of surrealist art prompts. Maybe you need farce, playfulness, absurdity and subversiveness to feel alive and inspired with your process again. Directives like “Draw a map to get lost” could lead to new breakthroughs. If you like this approach, you may also like “A Book of Surrealist Games” by Alastair Brotchie.
- The War of Art — by Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne — “We have met the enemy and he is us” — Are you your own saboteur? Do you feel the lack of routine and consistency is one of your greatest battles? This book is all about helping you shape your practice — and by practice, it really means practice. No excuses. We have to make a concerted effort to carve space for channeling our muses. This book discusses the concept of “resistance” and how this almost-personified entity within us fights our creative growth. If you can find the interview he did with Oprah for Super Soul Sunday, I highly recommend watching that, too.
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert — Knocking down a lot of the old European male martyr-ism mythology of the art world, this book advises you to be a trickster in your creative process. Written with a spiritual undertone, this book is all about syncing with the flow state of the universe, embracing change and channeling your muses. I highly recommend the audiobook version. Also, The TED Talk the author did on creative muses has to be one of the best TED Talks ever.
- Practice you: A Journal by Elena Brower — Maybe instead or in addition to books that challenge your mindset and routine, you just need a journal that offers gentle guidance toward divulging your thoughts and feelings. This beautiful watercolor-brushed book has heavy matte pages you can write on. It invites you to make lists, free associate and tell stories to yourself. It is great for emotional introspection and would be a useful autobiographical book to complete while you are working through concepts.
If you want more, check out Lise Silva's online guide, Art & Practice, on the personal boundaries we face as makers, creatives and entrepreneurs.
Lise Silva Gomes is an artist & teacher based in Oakland, CA. She explores the power of symbols through her work with Sacred Knots creating fiber jewelry and wallhangings with handmade cord entwined in knot designs that serve as a metaphor for life experiences, dreams, and deep desires. Her collaborative jewelry designs with metal worker and Spirit Speak tarot creator Mary Elizabeth Evans, called In The House of Lovers, is a ceremonial collection of Artwear where they experiment with innovative design and mythic iconography. As an extension of Lise's exploration in symbology, meditation and visualization are a tool in her creative process. She leads guided meditations as a tool for manifestation, lucid dreaming, mental/emotional balance, creativity and relaxation. She offers knotting workshops to connect people with the ancient craft and symbolic beauty of knots.