Life is spontaneous. It happens by itself. This is one of the fundamental principles of Buddhism. While it is good to make plans and set goals, it’s important to make time for life to unfold before you. This isn’t living life according to whim. There is more to spontaneity than caprice and disorder.
As an artist, I can tell you how this is true. I can’t tell you where my ideas come from. They happen spontaneously. It’s difficult for me to approach a canvas or piece of paper with an expectation. When I try to make something specific, it never seems to turn out right. So my approach has been to let the materials “speak” to me. I mix the paint right on the canvas. I see what shapes start to appear on their own.
I sprayed and sprayed several hued paints on this board. I noticed how the colors mixed together, how each can sprayed differently. The only method I had was that I would keep painting until it felt right. I did countless layers of paint. The yard was filled with a thick cloud of fumes that made me dizzy. I stopped and mixed some oil paint with stand oil and dripped it over the board. I started thrashing the paint brush wildly at the board, giggling and having fun at not caring what the outcome would be. I turned the board to let the paint drip from one end to the other. Then I alternated between layers of spray paint and oil paint. From the photos, you can see how wildly different the painting looked at each stage.
Suddenly, almost magically, I knew the painting was finished. There was no way for me to schedule the right amount of time. I just had to feel it. To me, painting is like playing a game. When we play games, we get most fascination out of games that combine skill and chance. Games like poker or bridge. You don’t feel completely at the mercy of chance, and you don’t feel completely at the mercy of skill. It’s exciting and fun to not know the predictable outcome. Order and randomness go together, creating surprise. That’s how I define spontaneity – the perfect harmony of order and randomness.
One of my favorite Buddhist philosophers is Alan Watts. He has a great recorded talk called The Art of the Controlled Accident. He consistently compares Buddhist philosophy to painting. Life should be lived in a manner like painting. You can’t have calculated expectations for everything in your life. You have to approach situations with an open mind, only to search for possibilities and opportunities that present themselves. Never force something. It will only elude you. Instead, take the approach of letting the beautiful things around you emerge on their own. You will be surprised – and happy.
If you liked this post, you should consider reading my previous posts:
Prior to the opening of Punk: Chaos to Couture, there was quite a bit of buzz. From what I gathered, a lot of people criticized the exhibition before they even saw it. Strong criticism like this make me wary. I like to make my own observations first. So I was careful not to read anything about the show until I got a chance to take it in myself.
The punk aesthetic can be seen in intentional rips and tears, hardware embellishments, and a sort of disheveled look. Leather is always a nice finishing touch, too. These two leather pieces really caught my attention.
Ensembles by Balmain, 2011.
The skirt was my favorite part of the look. Black and red leather covered in studs, intentionally shredded and pieced back together with safety pins. While it has a DIY feel, work like this takes meticulous precision to complete. Look at how the safety pins are placed so closely next to one another.
As I moved through the galleries, I was really interested not only the details of the garments, but also how the space of the galleries had changed. After noting how the designers distressed and embellished the garments, I focused on the design of the space. The museum staff had cleverly used styrofoam which they carved with graffiti and tags. It was very faint, but visible in this columned gallery.
Wedding Dress by Zandra Rhodes, 1977
I also started to see a correlation to other exhibits I’d see. This jersey wedding dress by Zandra Rhodes reminded me a lot of what I had seen at Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced. Burrows liked to use jersey and finished the edges with a zig zag stitch. This kept the silhouette light, and made the edges wavy.
Burrows called this the lettuce edge. You can see how Zandra Rhodes used this same technique, but also used int for cut outs in the skirt. Punctuated with crystals and chains, the jersey curls and waves around the body. It’s attached to the satin bodice with safety pins.
The construction details on this gown reminded me of staples.
Recycling was another theme I loved. I think it takes someone really creative to take discards and turn them into something fashionable. This part of the exhibit was called Bricolage, which is taking random materials to create a work of art. Bits of paper, envelopes, trash bags and other discarded objects were whipped up into the most inventive garments. Others were made of fabrics treated to look like trash.
Ensemble by John Galliano, 2001.
This ensemble by Galliano is actually cotton twill printed with a newspaper pattern. Raffia, lurex, and scotch tape complete the look.
But my favorite room was dedicated to graffiti fashion.
Evening gown by Dolce Gabbana, 2008.
I’m fascinated with graffiti because it reclaims our right to art in daily life. Art is generally the first to go with budget cuts in any organization – schools, corporations, the government. It’s spontaneous, fun – and often temporary.
Alexander McQueen’s performance dress was on display, too. This dress was presented on stage, and the paint was sprayed in real time in front of the audience.
Dress by Alexander McQueen, 1999.
Also on display was this dress by Vivienne Westwood. It reminded me of Philip Guston’s later work. (Guston was an abstract expressionist painter. His later work was very cartoonish. Have a look for yourself.)
Dress by Vivienne Westwood, 2007.
Dress by Vivienne Westwood, 2007.
I have to say, I’m glad I didn’t read any of the reviews before I went. The DIY themes gave me lots of ideas how I’d like to customize my own wardrobe. There will be updates when I get to these projects this summer.
Unless otherwise mentioned, all images courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It’s been one of those weeks. You know, the kind of week when your to-do list is a mile long and you’re running on fumes. I’ve been juggling multiple projects, commuting, and grading for the end of the term. After carefully finishing all my requirements, I needed some time for myself. Having quiet time is really essential for me to stay balanced. So what did I do?
Earlier in the week, I found this great vintage illustrated dictionary. It was the first volume in a set of six, and covers A to Ch. There was something so compelling about the illustrations that I had to buy it. There were so many wonderful pictures that I knew would inspire me to draw.
The catalpa is a tree with heart-shaped leaves. I’ve seen trees like this before, and marveled at them. A tree full of hearts! What a perfect plant for me. But I’d never know the name. Of course I was inspired and made this little drawing:
The illustration that really made me purchase the book was of a bluff along the sea. It has a little sailboat hugging the shoreline. I thought it was really darling, and reminded me of Monet’s seascapes. (Maybe I will post about those paintings tomorrow!)
I changed the color of the sails to purple, but kept the passenger.
Then, a chestnut tree caught my attention:
I’m not sure if I liked how this one came out, but it was still fun to do!
Every page I turned brought more inspiring images. I sketched a few more things, but was most happy with this canyon.
I could easily entertain myself this way for much longer. I only wish I had the entire volume of this dictionary! There must be so much more to see.
(Like my drawings? I used a thin tip Sharpie marker and Crayola Twistable crayons. I highly recommend these items!)
I’ve been a busy bee the past few weeks. Teaching definitely keeps me on the go! I know that my blog focuses more on my personal observations of art, fashion, and creativity. But I thought you might like to know what I’ve been doing for my profession. Right now, I teach a textile class and a product development class. Grading always keeps me busy, but I really enjoy designing projects for my students. Product development has been so much fun. My students are designing a private label line and going through the steps to put it into production. Here’s a look at some of their work:
This is a preview of a line called Femme Victorial by my student Marija. Aside from designing the looks, sourcing the materials, and verifying costs or fabric and production, they also have to make social media channels to promote the line. You can follow Femme Victorial on Twitter!
This is a preview of Wonderland NYC, by my students Chance and Nancy. Their line is so adorable, and has a great Instagram account. You can see more of there line there.
My textile class keeps me super busy! Just in the last month, we have covered knitting, crocheting, weaving, dyeing and printing. Whew! I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I can only imagine how my students must feel. Learning textiles for the first time can be so overwhelming. I never thought I’d remember all of the complicated information about weave structures. It takes time and practice. I’m also a firm believer in student centered learning, so I try to make lots of activities. So, we learn how to crochet . . .
And knit . . . (by the way, I finally finished this knitting this circular scarf I started over a YEAR ago. It was part of my demo of how to cast off. I’m loving how the purl stitch came out!)
We also tie-dyed in a crock pot last week. Sorry, no photos of that. I somehow misplaced my sample. We discussed printing, and tomorrow we are going to talk more about patterns and repeats. Here is a sketch I made for my friend Ashley’s birthday. I’m going to frame it for her, but wanted to turn it into a textile first. So I’ll be sure to scan a high-res image and show my students how to use Spoonflower, a print-on-demand textile and wallpaper site.
We also discussed block printing on textiles. William Morris used the block printing method for his wonderful fabrics. So tomorrow, we will be making our own block prints from potatoes. I just bought some this afternoon for the class. Since time is so critical, I carved out a few designs myself.
Now, all the students have to do is apply some fabric paint. Plus, they will know how to do it themselves in the future. So fun! But what I’m really excited for is this small silk screening kit I found. It’s small enough to travel well, and perfect to demonstrate the difference between printing types. I so excited for tomorrow!
Now, it’s back to work for me. I have so much left to do!