How do artists spin bundles of inspirational fleece into one canvas? How do sculptors cultivate an essential thing out of mere material? What is that single point of beginning, the launch of the creative process?
Poet Richard Hugo wrote about the triggers we get from place and memory, while Rainer Maria Rilke advised us to go into ourselves for meaning. There is a crystalized passage in Twyla Tharp’s energizing book on creative habits where she connects the invention of her renowned ballet choreography to a warm space, an empty room, and a box of useful things.
Tharp also claims a process called “scratching:”
Scratching can look like borrowing or appropriating, but it’s an essential part of creativity. It’s primal, and very private. It’s a way of saying to the gods, “Oh, don’t mind me, I’ll just wander around in these back hallways.” and then grabbing that piece of fire and running like hell.
From Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit
“The more experience you have the more ingredients you add to the mix,” agrees Mark Hearld in his collection of work and thoughts on the nature of creation and creativity, The Raucous Invention: The Joy of Making. The Yorkshire artist continues: “Ultimately the more richness you can have.”
Hearld knows richness. He gathers ideas like kindling and bellows the flames across multiple art forms: printing, textiles, ceramics, linocuts and his primary work, collage art and sculpture.
Like Tharp, Hearld’s work commences in the studio but only after he’s gathered enough scratches to overflow those mental pockets creatives carry.
Being in nature, exercising, noticing, being aware of the seasons, being aware of the changing time of day, suddenly having a nature encounter such as a hare running down the path in front of you: it’s a vital part of my engagement with the world.
Like those who turn to nature as a source of solace and are rewarded by its unexpected handmaiden, inspiration, Hearld traipses (my word, but isn’t it grand?!) about his local Yorkshire and brings into his art everything the surroundings offer. And more often than not, he brings those precious things into his studio and home as well.
It is at this point, the mental pockets turned out and all the bits removed like cosmic lint, that the raucous invention begins.
It’s a case of going into the studio and finding a beginning. That beginning might be a connection you notice between a beautiful piece of violet paper and a piece of mustardy yellow paper, and something about the way they combine gives you an idea, or you cut a shape from one of them, and place it down, and then the collage might begin like that.
Fellow Yorkshire sculptor Barbara Hepworth once admitted that she preferred carving to modeling because she liked to find the hidden form rather than build up something piece by piece. The distinction could be applied to collage art but in reverse: the idea of adding, or as Hearld writes “you cut a shape form one and place it down…” over and over until form emerges.
Whatever is ultimately created, Hearld reminds us, the creative process is jumbled and anti-directional.
Collages can begin in many different ways there’s no one way to create – there are no rules, and that’s the rule. You’ve got to suspend disbelief and keep going, find your groove. That’s very much like making an image, because until the marks and the gestures begin to connect, they all seem unrelated, gauche, inarticulate.
Through the doubt we push towards the balance and ordering of everything disparate yet connected and somehow in that process, that raucous invention, is the joy of making.
Raucous Invention is a scarcely contained book of color, form, shapes, pieces, scenes, ideas and a first hand look at this unique artist’s “scratching.” It draws from Hearld’s collaborations with St. Jude printmakers and with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park which features his work.
Couple this splash for the senses with Rollo May’s seminal work on emotions and vulnerability in the creative process, my own look at the connection between curiosity and wonder, and Annie Dillard and Virginia Woolf on the mental and physical space necessary to create.