Questions, Questions, Questions…

“The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.”  Anton Chekov

The idea of asking a series of questions in an attempt to gain insight into motivation and creative impetus is not new.  But it is often newly revisited by the most ordinary of us (me) and those recognized to be most extraordinary.  Proust’s questionnaire is probably the most famous of these ( .  It spawned the questionnaire by Bernard Pivot, the French television host with whom you might be familiar if you’ve seen James Lipton on Inside the Actor’s Studio (or Saturday Night Live’s spoof on the show). Lipton uses that dreaded questionnaire to end the interview with his guests, usually to their dismay. And of late, the back page of Vanity Fair has employed a different, but similar questionnaire.

Just last week I proposed the following questions to about the artist you chose to emulate: Ask—palette? Brush work? What size and shape brush would you need to make that mark? Substrate—size? Format? Colors–overlapped? Or blended?  Or flat? How thick is the paint—impasto, thin pours, etc.? Palette knife in use? How is the picture plain arranged–Is it crowded and tense, spacious, or?  Use of light? What are the rhythms? Is there a clear Focal point? What is it and how does it function?  (Begin to answer these for further understanding about the work you’ve been admiring.)

Today I was re-reading famed dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habitin which she says: “Creativity is not a gift from the gods bestowed by some divine and mystical spark. It is the product of preparation and effort, and it’s within and it’s within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it.”  She too has an autobiographical questionnaire designed to discover your “creative DNA”.

This week’s class will be self-directed.  Here are some suggestions for an in depth approach:  Ask your own series of questions about the artist you’ve been studying; Answer the questions I proposed above; Or try to discover your creative DNA by answering the Twyla Tharp questionnaire.  I’ll have copies available in the studio or you can find it at this link: among others.

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