Tuesday, June 17, 2008

lynda barry

At this moment I’m sitting in the waiting room of the orthodontist, trying to sort through some of the great ideas I just heard on Q. (It's better than fretting over how I’m going to pony up the cash to pay for the work on Adam’s teeth.) As a big fan of Jian Ghomeshi’s daily CBC Radio 1 show I catch it whenever I can. It’s all about my favourite things: arts, culture and entertainment. In fact, if I could spend every hour of the day painting, watching films, writing, reading good books and playing/listening to music I might become healthy enough to actually unplug this IV (laptop). All accompanied by excellent coffee (or a glass of vino depending on time of day), dark chocolate and Clive Owen of course.

But back to Q. (Check out QTV on YouTube for some recent clips of the show.) Today Jian interviewed Lynda Barry, a comic artist who I first became aware of in the early ‘80s thanks to The Georgia Straight. Barry has just written a sort of creative memoir: “Her new book, What It Is (Drawn and Quarterly), thoughtfully guides and invigorates adults who make stuff.”

Her ideas on creativity are fascinating and based on some surprising research. Apparently the brain functions children use in ‘deep play’ are identical to those adults use when involved in creative pursuits. Both require intense focus and create a level of anxiety. The brain functions we use for entertainment, like watching TV, are quite different, so even though we may be entertained by play, calling it an entertainment activity is misleading. Not only that, she states that this particular kind of creative engagement is necessary for mental health in both kids and adults. I can attest to that one and I have heard so many bloggers say that when they really get going on a good post, blogging becomes so much more to them than an outlet for blowing off steam, communicating or entertaining themselves. Is that also why I have so much more fun when drawing or painting my more abstract/symbolic work? There’s no question that this is way more like play for me (what she calls the unthinkable – or the work created when allowed to be spontaneous) than when I’m doing, say, a landscape or pet portrait and the devil of conventional acceptance is sitting on my shoulder, calling the shots. She explains that this self-consciousness and critical judgement is the biggest killer of creativity.

The painter, writer and nationally syndicated cartoonist, who created the pitch-perfect strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek, believes there are two questions we ask ourselves that take the joy and ease out of art making: Is this good? and Does this suck?

For more of Barry’s philosophy go here. As for me, I have to reread this post now and ask myself, "Is this good or does it suck?" before deciding whether or not to hit ‘publish’.

15 Comments:

Blogger Ellen said...

2 posts in one day? They are both great and far from suck (but you're making the rest of us look bad, stop being so prolific Issac Asimov).
I wonder if we maintained that creative sense of deep play for too long we might go insane. It's all about balance I think. With anything creative being put out into the world, the best is always a mix of pure creativity and then a clinical detachment of fine tuning.

Not that I know, just guessing.

17/6/08 9:41 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

Ellen: It's Mr Asimov to you. As for my prolific posting, I'm like a London bus: nothing for ages then four come along at once. And I agree about balance: 1 part creative work, 2 parts Cllive Owen movies works for me. But the clinical deatchment is also something Lynda Barry talks about. Once you write or paint or compose something, she suggests not looking at it for a week so you can't mess with that creative spark (the unthinkable) that is so valuable. Then you're less likely to do so when you see with fresh eyes.

17/6/08 10:24 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

The brain functions children use for watching TV are being exercised to the extreme these days... I wonder if that will make a difference to their later lives...

Interesting stuff Andrea...

18/6/08 3:00 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

Sounds like a fascinating book - I'll have to add it to my growing "wish list".

18/6/08 5:56 AM  
Blogger Donn said...

Thank You for supporting the Canadian Braoadcorping Castration, without it we would just be North Dakotans.

Go Clive! He has always made such great choices in his roles..I don't think that it is luck. He knows what we want from him.

I just re-watched Children of Men..I loved King Arthur and a while ago I enjoyed Shoot Em Up ...he got to do that scene with Monica Bellucci HELLO!..I would have demanded one million takes..gawd how do you get that job?

One of the hallmarks of cranial creativity is the passage of time..to be fully entranced and involved in your activity...and I fully believe that when we are 'playing' we are at our creative best.

18/6/08 6:28 AM  
Blogger RED MOJO said...

Returning your visit! I have not been here before, but I love your work. I build things too. I'm a carpenter, and love to create with wood, among other things.
I agree with Don, on the Clive thing, "Shoot Em Up" was awesomely action packed and humorously absurd!
Creativity is tough, and I know how perfectionism can paralize the creative mind.

18/6/08 7:32 AM  
Blogger LiteralDan said...

I didn't realize till just now that I miss listening to Jian Ghomeshi's show from back when I lived in Northern Maine (aka Southern Canada).

It was just on when I would leave work, so I was definitely a casual listener, but I guess you could call me a regular. Maybe I'll find it online or something-- thanks for the memories!

18/6/08 8:37 AM  
Blogger Angela Rockett said...

Sounds like a great book. I'll have to see if I can get a copy.

And yes, balance is key. And the more I paint, the heavier importance painting plays in achieving that balance. But if I don't balance it with good books, films, friends,etc., then the inspiration dries up.

18/6/08 8:39 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Caro: I don't know what kids you know but TV, being a non-interactive activity, is not watched much by any kids I know. It's the OTHER technologies that consume them: the computer and the video games. OK, so they use the TV for video games, but they're not watching trashy programmes (except Robot Chicken, The Simpsons and SOuth Park, which I can't help but look over their shoulders ~ fortunately they're teenagers now so I can allow them to watch trash that I like, too! :)

Heather: Oh, me, too...

Donn: Don't get me started on Clive Owen. I'd demand a million takes, too, with him.

Red Mojo: You, too! :) I don't seem to have the same perfectionism with my art that I do with other aspects of my life. Go figure. Maybe it's a confidence thing. On Monday night I was ready to pull a Pete Townsend and destroy my guitar after I couldn't get my fingers to do what my brain wanted.

Literaldan: I thought Maine *was* part of Canada! :) You should see if you can find it. I'm rarely disappointed except when I miss the second hour as CBC cuts back to local programming at that time.

Angela: I was also thinking how important routine is today. I'm out of a routine right now and my work is suffering horribly.

18/6/08 11:03 AM  
Blogger Melody said...

Love Jian and CBC. It is the only station I listen to when I'm in the studo. Except I must admit I sometimes throw on my Madonna CD and dance......ok and sing a bit but don't tell my kids they'd be mortified. Great posts as always.

18/6/08 1:25 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

Thanks, Mel!

18/6/08 2:48 PM  
Blogger dinahmow said...

Thank you, Ms #78 Kew,#31 Hyde Park,#81b Edgware and #54 Brixton.
This definitely resonates. (The post, not the waiting for buses!)

18/6/08 3:47 PM  
Blogger A Kite Rises said...

Andrea: This does not suck, this is a great post! More than that, it is one of those posts that I love, that makes me feel like I want to throw off the mental chains that have so many times kept me 'all tied up' and 'in my head' (and therefore not creating). I agree with those bloggers and you too Andrea, that blogging at it's best (i.e. when I just sit and blog and don't over think it) seems to not affect me in the same way as, for example, sitting down and trying to start a book/poem. There is the ease with which I can just log on, and type type type, I am on the sofa usually and very laid back and I somehow can 'trick' myself into not getting panicky and all wired about 'being creative'.... Your blog makes me think! WOW thank you for that, my brain needs such a poke in the head every so often. A TERRIFIC POST! Love AKR.

22/6/08 9:18 AM  
Blogger albina said...

Two questions I often ask myself are: Does it matter to a three year old? Does it matter in the woods?

22/6/08 5:19 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

Albina: And then there's my favourite question of all: If a man speaks in the forest and there's no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong?

22/6/08 5:33 PM  

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