I was not one of those kids in school who was â€œsuch a good drawerâ€; I didnâ€™t seemed destined to create perfect likenesses, I didnâ€™t garner compliments from classmates or artwork hung in the hallway. Â Instead, I was a kind of the weird kid – the one who did homework in crayon, doodled in class, and got in trouble for daydreaming and breaking project rules. Â I was full of messy ideas that didnâ€™t always make complete sense. Â But, regardless of all of this, I was absolutely in love with the possibility of making things and sharing my ideas with others. Â It was a way of thinking that drove me toward art rather than a skill-set founded in pencils and paint. Â IÂ loved making, and thinking about things that others had made, and I knew it was something that would always be a part of me.
Entering college as an art major meant many introductory courses focused on skills and repetition; and though I valued learning my craft, I also resented the rules that restrained what media I could use, what size I must draw, and what subject I must work from. Â Amidst these classes (and all number of boring gen-eds), I had a Design Methods course taught by David Damkoehler (since retired) in which we were to spend a semester solving problems through critical thinking and artistic innovation. Â The class required the purchase of a Moleskine sketchbook which I found shockingly small (just larger than my hand) and filled with smooth, bound pages.
On one of our first days in class Professor Damkoehler delivered a lecture about how each one of us was born with our our own style of drawing, and instead of raging against it, or pressuring it to conform, we should learn to appreciate it and work with it. Â Our Moleskines became our idea books, and freed us from the pressure of what a sketchbook had to be. Â Instead of detailed graphite and charcoal drawings, we made lists, and collages, and doodles and tiny thumbnail paintings. Any idea that came to us went into our books unedited and in ink to prevent us from erasing it out of fear that it was stupid or unimportant. We were taught to accept the mistakes and value the messiness of our own thoughts. Â The pressure was off, and the result was students who trusted their gut and created more meaningful work.
I am a strong believer that rules can be a hindrance to ideas – whether these rules were set by someone else, or unconsciously set by ourselves. Â Whatever your job is, wherever your interests lie, we are made of ideas. Â And these ideas dare us to create solutions, think critically, chase our goals, and be honest with ourselves. Â They are valuable.
Since that class I have always kept an idea book. Â It travels with me, sits empty when I feel uninspired, and opens up when I remember that working is how you make inspiration. Â It is a way to challenge myself, recharge my thoughts, and let go of things I canâ€™t keep inside. Â There are drawings, and journal entries, and random sleep-inspired scrawlings, and I can feel good about all of it – the madness that makes up who I am, unedited.
This summer I will be teaching a class on Discovering Your Vision for Photography in which we will be doing a lot of thought exercises, building toward understanding our ideas and brainstorming how to visually translate them. It will be a great introduction to how to begin an idea book and how to use it as a tool to create. The class will be held at Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek and requires no previous photography or art experience. Â I would love to share this process with you. www.peninsulaschoolofart.com