Review: ‘Creative Block’ by Danielle Krysa

I’ve had a blog crush on Danielle Krysa for ages. She’s an artist and the mastermind behind The Jealous Curator, one of the best one-stop sources for the latest and best in art and design.

She’s a genius-level curator, and she brings that eye to her print projects as well, including the one we’re reviewing today, Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas.  

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Although Danielle’s name is on the cover, the book consists mainly of conversations with other working artists of all kinds: painters, sculptors, mixed media artists, graphic artists, textile artists, digital artists, designers, photographers…you name it, it’s probably covered. Danielle asks good questions about important subjects (such as “How do you handle your inner critic?”) and curates the best of them in her own inimical style.

But what I really dig are the exercises.

Each of the fifty artists offers an actionable, concrete suggestion for shaking a creative slump. Whether or not they’d actually help with overcoming a real artist’s funk (the main remedies for which seem to be moping, crappy food, and time) the exercises are varied, interesting, and fun.

In any case, the time to do creative exercises, IMHO, is not when you’re truly blocked; it’s when you’ve been working on a series or project or idea long enough that the thought of it makes you feel like chucking it all out a window.

…or, to put it another way, when it’s time to get away from production and get back to pleasure.

In that vein, here’s my take on Project No.20, from artist Justin Richel, found on page 119.

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Since Creative Block itself is chock-full of collage and I happen to love it, I’ll be doing impromptu collages. Many, many impromptu collages.

I started with a full sheet of 300-pound Fabriano Artistico hot press paper in traditional white. This is one of the workhorse papers of my studio. I can cut, glue, paint, wash, draw, score, and generally harass this paper and it just keeps on being beautiful.

 

In the end, I had 32 stiff little pieces of paper, about 6 inches by 4 inches.

On to the next phase: the first round of collage.

Then I moved outside. At this stage, I used Liquitex artist’s spray paint coupled with a few quick-cut stencils made from plain non-adhesive Duralar and Grafix All-Purpose frisket film.

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After drying, I added more drawing and more collage. This stage was the stage of tough decisions; I did as Justin suggested and made three piles: one for pieces that were working, one for pieces that were not, and one for pieces that I wasn’t sure of.

That last pile, the “uncertain” one, was the biggest. Those ended up getting the most attention, and they probably turned out better than the original “working” pile, truth be told.

At some point I decided that these would make a great starting point for a book art project of some kind. So I dug through my writing notebooks and found a short prose poem to print. I scavenged a piece of handmade paper from the scrap pile, tore it to size, and painted it with a diluted India ink mix. I used this as a sort of backing mat for the cut-up poem phrases.

 

After a few days of working back and forth like this, I end up with 27 good pieces which, when read in order, form a complete prose poem.

One day, they handed it to me, just like that. I was watching the cardinal fish hang in the spotted light, and nothing was happening, nothing, and there it was. My hand had been resting on a brown pillow, slack and palm up. Shadows crossed my open fingers once, twice, maybe all day long. My feet were still. My eyes. The cats the dogs the fish the angel-wing begonias dropping, one per day, each by each, of natural causes. I fed them all, I wasn’t hungry, and now this. the sword, and small beings made of light gathering, gathering.

 

 

When I started this exercise, I had no idea I’d end up with anything close to a finished piece; I also hadn’t really known they’d work together as a sort of mini-series. But that’s how it usually works: if I work through most of the things I start, I’m surprised at how much useful material starts accumulating around the studio.

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At the end of this, I still can’t tell you if Creative Block would work any better for your artist’s block than a week of crying over beer and Americanized sushi (you know, the deep-fried kind with lots of mayo and eel sauce) but it’s definitely inspiring.

Another excellent find. Keep up the good work, Danielle.

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Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas was published in February 2014 by Chronicle Books.

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