“Anything You Can Do I Can Do”…But Why Should I?: Creating My Way

First, the title of this article is not necessarily true in and of its self, but I am trying to paint a picture with words here, so follow along, will you?

I am not sure if you are familiar with the old musical “Annie Get Your Gun” starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel. In the movie, there is a song that they sing to each other. It’s more two people shooting arrogant verse at each other as if they are bullets. “Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better than you.

As creatives, we are all looking for our own place in the world, our own voice. Even when and while we are inspired by and appreciate the expressions of others, we can sometimes find ourselves looking at fellow creatives with competitive eyes. “I can do that and I can do it better. Maybe I should try.

Being human, no matter what we are aiming to do, we can all go ahead and admit we’ve  done that once or twice. 

In an older post, I quoted Octavia E. Butler on how she became a science fiction writer. (Did I mention she is the winner of the Hugo Award and Nebula Awards?) Anyhow, she said that when she was twelve years old she watched a dreadful science fiction flick. It was so bad that she was determined to write “good” science fiction. And she did, obviously.

…I have to make art that I care about not just art that I can make. ~Candice Coates

But her attitude was “I can do better than that.” And that attitude paid off. (If you have not read any of her work, check out Wild Seed.) The thing is, not only did she set out to write ‘better’ science fiction, but she did it her way, in her own voice, without competing with the voices that were already out there.

Since ICFTS began, I have been on a constant journey to identify my voice as an artist. Truth be told, I have been on this search since I have been an artist. I have always been very eclectic. But one thing that has come to mind with all of this is that I have to make art that I care about not just art that I can make.

As I have said for years, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. That is when you get stuck in ruts of hollow, soulless work, be it writing, visual art, whatever it is. Always create what you care about.

I am on a hunt to find what it is that I care about. I love doing oil paintings, I love writing (writing will ALWAYS be my thing. I love to tell a story.) but with visual art, it just all depends.

I find that even with oil painting, though I have a talent for it,  I am exploring more pencil work, with ink and colored pencils. And there is always the option of mixed media illustration.  There are so many options.

…just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.” ~Candice Coates

I remember, years ago, in undergrad during a departmental review, my professors telling me “All your work is amazing, Ms. Coates, but it looks like the work of twenty different artists.”

On one hand, this is not a bad thing at all. It’s like being multilingual. I speak twenty different artistic languages. On the other hand, it begs the question, are you perfectly fluent in any of them? Jack or rather Jacqueline of all trades and master of…only a few.

 

 

 

We need to create on purpose, with purpose.”

CREATING WITH CONSIDERATION

There are 3 verses that come to mind in this regard. I will pluck at each. One is Philippians 4:13,I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

It is comforting to know that if I set myself to do things that He, Christ Jesus, has placed in my heart to do, that no matter what, if I trust Him, He has given me the strength to do them.

I want to make art. He has given me the gift to do so and also the strength for it.

I Corinthians 10:23,You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is helpful. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” but not everything is beneficial.

With the creative strength and gift given unto me, I need to operate in wisdom. So what I can, sculpt. I don’t feel ANYTHING when I am sculpting apart from a loss of time. Dash the great reviews of my audience. (Just using sculpting as an example.)

Where is the benefit of doing something just because you can? You won’t benefit from my efforts and in the long run, no one else will either. The work is void of any life because your heart was not in it. This is arbitrary actions at its best.

Both of these verses bring me to Isaiah 30:21,and your ears hear a word behind you, saying “This is the Way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or whenever you turn to the left.

BE CREATIVE, NOT COMPETITIVE

What is the point? The point is not to be arbitrary, not to be competitive. Art, to me, creation and creativity, is sacred. It needs to be treated with respect and care. We need to create on purpose with purpose. Not in a way to “out do” the person next to us. There has to be meaning involved. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

In conjunction with this, we should not only create what we care about, but we should create on subjects or themes that we care about.  If you are not interested in what you are doing your work “on” you are still going to get the same empty results, a pretty picture with no life to it, even if you are doing it in a medium that you love.

My creative path is still winding forward. I am discovering more about me and what I want out of my career as a visual artist. I am ever on the hunt to uncover my “niche” and voice.

But even where I stand now,  I can be confident in creating what I am curious about and care about, and leave all the competitive  “I can do better than you” mess behind me. And best of all, so can you!

*This article was originally published on February 12th, 2014 & Updated February 19th, 2018.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

*Do you ever feel like you could be making better use of your creative time, or that you’ve lost yourself in a creative competitive race? Talk about it in the comments below.

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Round 2 of Face Drawing

Last week I did a sketch of a woman’s face. And although I was pleased with overcoming the challenge of handling graphite, I was not satisfied with the end result as it compared to the image I was drawing from.

Today, rather than lean on my crutch of colored pencils, I pulled out my Creta color graphite pencils, opened that same photo, and spent nearly an hour working on the image…again.

 

What I ended up with today, to me, is a giant leap of improvement compared to the first attempt. The proportions are in line with the original image, which makes my soul happy.

I am gaining more confidence with drawing with graphite alone, which in my humble opinion, is a good foundation for drawing. I am eager to dive in and try some drawings and illustrations done with Copic markers, of houses as well as people. but all in time.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

Graphite Sketch of the Face

Today I decided, again, to continue my practice with the use of graphite on paper, Cretacolor Monolith, graphite pencil to be exact. That familiar but waining hesitation was felt the moment I decided to use graphite instead of something that I am more confident in manipulating such as ballpoint pen or colored pencil.

 

I recognize that my hesitation or fear is born out of a mental lie that I have somehow bought into, and I feel that confronting that lie is the sole reason why the Holy Spirit nudges me to start this journey with graphite…for now.

I spent around forty minutes working on this face. I can already see where I have some discrepancies with proportions, still, I am satisfied with dealing this ‘dragon’ one more deadly blow as I gain back my confidence with using graphite.

Face

It is very likely that I will revisit this image again in the future, but with the medium of colored pencil. Then, we shall do a compare and contrast, maybe even next Wednesday.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

Markers & Mansions: Illustrative Sketch

Several years ago I purchased the anniversary box set of Copic Markers…and then I didn’t bother to use them.

House comparisonIt wasn’t anything personal against the markers. I was simply in a place where I was painting and didn’t give any thought to using any other medium but I had enough sense to take advantage of my employee discount and purchase the Copics at a fraction of the cost.

 

I started this image a while ago but put it away and didn’t finish until today. I have decided this year that I will spend Wednesday afternoons listening to spiritual teachings while I sketch. I am ‘stretching’ my old artistic muscles and I have to say I am pleased with the results today.

House

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

A William Adolphe Bouguereau Study of “The Bather”

IMG_20180117_160404_804
A 40 min sketch of William Adolph Bouguereau’s “The Bather”

The first month of 2018 is nearly done, but blessedly new habits are just beginning. As I sat and listened to a teaching from FreshLife Church, speaking on how the habits we make today create the life we will have tomorrow, I took the time to sketch.

It has been several months and maybe even a year since I have done a sketch. It has been at least five since I have done one in plain, old, graphite. Over the past few years, I have either focused on the colored pencil sketches or those done in vibrant and messy strokes of ballpoint pen.

WilliamBouguereau-TheBather-(1879)
WilliamBouguereau-TheBather-(1879) {PD-1923}

Today, I felt the Lord challenging me to sketch in pencil.

As bizarre as it sounds I felt a bit of trepidation and even found myself erasing and starting again as the work that I had done was sorry to say the least.

Why? I was working from a place of fear, that ugly fear of failure that still tries to make its home where it has been forevermore evicted.

It took several long minutes for me to finally loosen up enough to just…draw. But I am grateful that the Holy Spirit placed Himself at the exit of my creativity and refused to let me leave without facing this challenge head-on.

I wouldn’t call this my best work by any stretch but I give it high marks for effort.

I have a burning thirst to sling some oil paint. I am comfortable there. I can do so without much thought, but I need to gain my confidence back with the pencil.

Here is to a year of growth and conquering!

~Candice

Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

 

Fair: Random Words Inspired by Art

Nothing about him was fair, though he was lovely to look at, and that was the cruelty of his form. His stature, his eyes, his lips, his thighs, all of it cried foul because his perfection was purely masculine, undeniably man, but still rivaled the glory of woman.

He was lovely, and he knew it. He walked with his head tilted just enough so that his eyes looked down upon all from the slope of his nose. The gesture was unnecessary because he stood nearly a full head and shoulders over all.

His way was like that of a peacock, full of pride and glory, yet captivating. His skin was like flawless ebony that glowed from the rays of the sun. He was like the perfect night, challenging the majesty of the day and he was certainly winning.

THE BEGINNING…

I have no image to share with you all besides the one that I have painted with words. This composition of words came from my meditation upon art, searching for my muse for the next step in my creative journey.

As I searched through images created by artists that inspire me, the mingling of different genres and styles created this man in my head. I don’t know where his story will lead but I am grateful and delighted to see how one form of creative expression has given life to another. 

Visual art has born that of written art.

If you are curious as to my creative journey, I tell you that this is a part of my Creative Faith in Action, prompted by my Free Creative Course; Sow the Seeds & Seize the Dream.

Thank you for reading, and do please share your thoughts and comments below!

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

The Beauty of Blinders: Taking Sight of Your Own Creativity #CreativeEncouragement #Creativity #Individuality

BLINDERS:

  1. something that obscures vision: something that prevents clear vision or understanding
  2. eye covers for horse: a pair of flaps attached to a horse’s bridle, one beside each eye, to keep the horse looking straight ahead.Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003. © 1993-2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

In terms of art and creativity, the first definition of the word for Blinders is very negative. Art, after all, is about giving vision and making the obscure more understandable.

But as an artist and as creative people, there are times where Blinders are a necessary tool that we should employ within our journeys.

Real art is not about competition it is about the newness of authenticity. Authentic creativity speaks not only for the artist, but to the artist as well as the audience, and comes from a place within.

Blinders that cover our eyes from distractions, things that keep us from our vision, and looking ahead, staying on the path, are very beautiful and worthwhile.

When you start creating, developing your motion, the thing that you do not want to do is to think, “How can I be different from the person next to me?” When you start your creative process with that mindset being your base or foundation, (and many of us have) you keep yourself from tapping into your true creativity.

What you are essentially doing is looking ‘outwardly’ at what the person next to you is doing, and you are taking what they have created, and have made that your foundation or base. You are putting icing on an already iced cake.

Your individuality begins from within it doesn’t take root from without…”

Digression. Spring-boarding off of the work of others, using their vision as a tool or muse, is one thing. It’s a means of learning. This is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about creative competition and anxiety which is the knife that cuts the throat of many of fantastically creative people.

People who run their creative race with the eyes on the competition never reach their fullest potential. They begin the race with a goal in mind and never reach the finish line because their eyes stayed on the ‘horse’ in the other lane. Ultimately, they ended up crashing and burning, trying to be like the one next to them but never becoming the best expression of themselves.

Real art is not about competition it is about the newness of authenticity. Authentic creativity speaks not only for the artist, but to the artist as well as the audience, and comes from a place within.

When you look ‘inwardly,’ which is a revelation (even if someone else’s work has led you to do so) and you get a new creative revelation that is authentic that speaks from the core of who you are, then at that point you can really  begin to glean from the creative wisdom of others.

From there you can take aspects and concepts of what others have created and from there say, “How can I use this expression and make it my own?” while still holding on to your own individuality.

You create your own lane and forge a new path of inspiration.

Your individuality begins from within, it doesn’t take root from without…if that makes sense. It requires taking an introspective glance into the dark places deep within ourselves and learning our own true voice and song.

Many do not dare dive that deep for fear of what they will find.

We as creatives shouldn’t look around and think “How can I be different?” Instead ask yourself “How can I continue to be me, learn who I am as an artist,  and continue to climb each rung of this ladder of creative enlightenment. How can I rise higher by getting a hand up by other artists and creatives by gleaning the wisdom that they have already produced?”

I hope my words were understood and have given a bit of encouragement to help you soar even higher.

Thanks for reading! And keep it Creative!

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

3 Ways to Make Creative Time in a Busy Day: The Almighty Quarter #MotivationMonday

Quarters are AMAZING! You can do so many activities with quarters. You can do laundry, you can play a game at an arcade with enough quarters. You can purchase a cheap, hot cup of liquid motivation on your way to work with quarters.

Once upon a time, you could make a phone call in a phone booth with a quarter. Packs of chewing gum used to be a quarter!

I mean I could go on and on about how great quarters are!

May favorite quarters, however, are those within a day, made up of minutes and seconds. In a single day, you have 24 hours, 48 half hours and 96 QUARTERS! 96! Now, you are probably thinking, “What is the big deal?”

Time does not play fair. It plays mind tricks. More often than not, it will rob you, trick you and leave you frustrated…if you let it.

Here it is, as creative beings, who have full-time commitments away from our crafts finding the time to cultivate our craft seems like an impossible feat. It never fails that the excuse of “I don’t have enough time.” is used.

I am guilty of that.

Time is a formidable foe indeed. Time does not play fair. It plays mind tricks. More often than not, it will rob you, trick you and leave you frustrated…if you let it.

Here are a few ways to make time for your craft during a busy work week when it seems that extra time is simply and understandably out of reach:

1. Don’t allow time to oppress you: If you, like me, have ever bought into the lie that you don’t have enough time to write, to draw, to compose, to do whatever it is that you feel a creative hunger for just remember you have 96 quarters at your disposal.

Yes, some of them are already accounted for, but when you consider taking 4 of those 96 quarters a day and dedicating them to your craft, you would be amazed at what you can achieve.

Even if you can only spare two or even one at the most, still your creative muscles will be strengthened.

You know what it is like to be hangry. The same rules apply when we are starved of creative release.

2. Use breaks between committed tasks as creative intermissions: A great way to be fresh during the work day as you go from task to task (besides taking a nap which is also a good thing) is to do some mental cleansing.

Doodling or jotting down ideas in a journal or sketchbook for a few minutes can help defrag your thoughts and get you ready for the next phase of your day.

Think of it as palate cleansing between courses.

3. Break your quarters into dimes or even nickels: Maybe you are really pressed for time, but if you allow yourself five or ten minutes to do a quick sketch or jot down your idea, you will be branding the overall concept to your memory in a way that it will be easier to revisit later.

Five minutes here, ten minutes there and the synopsis for a short story or full-length novel, or the preliminary sketch for your next drawing or painting is done.

You may be thinking that a quarter just isn’t enough, but something is always better than nothing.

Consider how a kid under the age of ten goes bananas for a dollar. College students living off of Roman Noodles feel like they’ve hit the jackpot if they find a single quarter laying around. We need to have the same attitude as they do.

Take the quarters you have, count them up, and dedicate a few of them to your craft. Even if it is just one quarter, set it aside to do what your soul is pushing you to do, and don’t spend that quarter on anything else. You will be amazed and enriched by the beauty you can achieve.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

*This is a revision of an article written January 12, 2014

Coffee With Character…Or Tea. How to Get to Know Your Fictional Characters: A Creative Writing Exercise #WritingTip #Writing #CreativeWriting

Writing is such a cathartic expression. Be it used to create poetry, something literary, or a piece that is completely outlandish and full of adventure, writing is indeed a breath of fresh air.

As writers, even in the face of an activity so purifying we often times find ourselves locked in a position where our creative muscles have not been trained to go, or rather have no idea how to get where we are trying to go.  This frustration is no different than Yoga.

Original art by Candice Coates
Original art by Candice Coates

Sure, you have got “Downward facing dog” in the bag, but dare your muscles to attempt “Crane pose.” or “Forearm-standing Scorpion,” and you may find yourself stuck in between the attempt and nowhere near where you had hoped to be.

And it all looked to so easy in the beginning.

Original Art by Candice Coates
Original Art by Candice Coates

This writing exercise is all about getting ‘there,’ helping you stretch past the stiffness of your imaginative muscles, especially when it comes to the characters who are the life blood of the writing you may be working on.

In order to get ‘there’ you need to know the folks you are traveling with, right?

Here are some steps to do that.

EXERCISE:

1.Write down the names of the main characters in your book (and even some important supporting characters). Write them on a piece of paper or even on your computer (your choice) in column style.

These are the names of the folks you are inviting over for an intimate meal or even just a good cup of coffee, one character at a time or if you are feeling adventures, invite them all!

2. Consider the likes and dislikes of each Character: what each character likes to eat. What they don’t like. Who prefers olive oil over butter, how do they take their coffee?

3. Write it all down.

4. Now think about how the conversation would go with them.

5. Jot these things down in each column.  Do they tell jokes? Do they like the shakshuka you prepared? Do they even know what shakshuka is?

Bonus: Have fun with it. Treat the characters as you would any guest you were entertaining.

WHAT IS THE REWARD?

The reward of this exercise is to get to know your characters more intimately. The answers that you find out about these individuals are not necessarily tid-bits you would add to beef up your plot, but they are the gems that really get you in the head and heart of the people who are acting out the story. It makes the flow so much more authentic.

It makes the flow so much more authentic. By knowing these little intimate details you will know what things they will and will not tolerate while you work and weave your plot around them.

This information will stretch you from “Downward facing dog” into “Crane pose” without locking your muscles.

Happy Writing!

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

P.S if you don’t know what shakshuka is, follow this LINK! Happy writing and happy eating!

*This exercise was original created August 28, 2014, and has been revised.

5 Ways to Maintain Creative Joy: Wisdom for Creatives #Creative #Writing #Art

 

Being a creative person is a gift, one that is inherent to us all. Whether you are a writer or an artist, an educator or a parent imagining a new way to get your kids to eat their broccoli, you are operating in your creative nature.

For those us who want to take our creative passion to the next level and turn our hobbies into lucrative business ventures, we run the risk of facing burn out.

This burnout isn’t just from creating nonstop on something awesome. This burnout comes from being unprepared for the reality in the shift that we are making.

When our passion becomes a businesses there is another level of accountability that we have to step into, a level that is not as ‘fun’ as creating itself but just as necessary if we are to be successful.

With that in mind, I want to encourage you on ways to keep the glow of joy in your creating even as you stretch beyond your comfort zone and begin to make your passion available to your audience.

5 Ways to Enjoy Creating

  1. Make a plan: Realize that having an idea is just the beginning. You have to take the necessary steps that will take your plan and make it a reality and this requires time, dedication, and hard work. As Thomas Edison put it, “There is no substitute for hard work.” But the fruits are certainly worth the labor.
  2. Take your plan and break it up into daily, weekly, or monthly achievable goals: How do you eat an elephant? Whether with a knife and fork or simply your bare hands, it’s going to take one bite at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, folks, and neither will your next novel or great sculpture reach completion the very day you begin. Take things a step at a time. The Book of Genesis outlines how the world was created, one day at a time, one plan at a time, and with the completion of each day, God said IT IS GOOD!
  3. Don’t overdo it: Aim for a number of tasks you can do daily and have maybe one or two smaller tasks you can do in addition should you accomplish your big three in a shorter time, but no more. Time with family and friends is just as important and actually more so than work.
  4. Set work boundaries: Give yourself a dedicated time limit to work and then honor those boundaries. Boundaries create discipline. When discipline is developed our productivity is more effective. We can focus more on quality than quantity which saves us time in the end. Boundaries also create balance and enable us to enjoy our work and appreciate the freedom in our lives. I heard Pastor Ron Carpenter say, “The difference between a swamp and a river is boundaries. “ Because a river has boundaries it has a greater sense of order and bears fruit, whereas a swamp…well it’s a swamp. Both have water and trees but which do you most prefer to visit?
  5. Celebrate each victory: Even if you don’t reach your daily or weekly goal in totality, give thanks for what you were able to accomplish and give yourself a reward for a job well done. Whether it is in a specialty cup of tea or coffee, or just fifteen extra minutes of leisure time, be sure to celebrate. Celebration makes the worth just as worthwhile as the goal itself. Life is not just about the destination but each mile that makes up the journey. Again, if the God of Creation can see His daily tasks as good on the way to the greater destination, so can and so should we!
  6. BONUS: Remember that your value is not rooted in the work you do, that you are not measured by your victories and failures. Rather remember that because you have value you are able to do the work you do and do it well even through the ebbs and flows of victories and the unavoidable fails.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!