Random Thoughts on the Artistic Process

November 3, 2009 at 2:55 am 2 comments

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I did an interview with visual artist Marty Coleman in September. After the interview was posted, Marty wrote me a quick thank you. In response to his short comment, I wrote a not-so-short, stream of consciousness “you’re welcome” back and ended up thinking deeply about how the artistic process manifests itself across different disciplines, and specifically in my own life.

I wanted to share these thoughts with you, so I grabbed what I wrote and have posted it here — with a few clarifications along the way.

In his comment Marty wrote, “I appreciate your enjoyment of my work and your enthusiasm for the umbrella of creativity that goes over all the arts whether in music, dance, visual or some other area.”

My reply:

Marty, I had a great time catching up with you and learned so much about your art. I am a true fan. I really love the photo collage work you are doing, as well as your photography work. I had such a hard time choosing which pieces of your work to represent in the interview!

As for the artists who influenced you, I was completely knocked out by Vera Lehndorff, Robert Irwin and especially Andy Goldsworthy. Thank you for turning me on to their amazing work. Robert Irwin’s “Two Running Violet V Forms” just sends my perception into new channels of thought. And Andy Goldsworthy.  No words. I am so inspired by his vision.

I was asking myself again, why I am doing this thing – these interviews. And the answer — at least, the partial answer — is this: I do this because this is what I do to prepare, to grow, to develop as an artist myself.

I love plunging into the research part of my career. I have whole notebooks dedicated to prep materials for a given concert, show, or group of songs.  I approach my preparation in a multi-dimensional way: through the music, the text, the character, her emotions, what she is doing during the song, and how she feels about it — and more.  It seems to me that every creative person has their own  approach unique to their work.  The idea is to  to get beyond the usual 3 dimensions  and dive beneath the surface to discover the subtler truths of creativity.

These interviews are an opportunity to explore the individual ways in which an artist thinks, processes, and works.  As a singing actor, my preparation has evolved over time and experience. It is the most natural thing in the world to “dive in” to a song  and to immerse myself in the immediate information, i.e., the musical score and the words attached to it.

That immediate information eventually gives way to the subtler “underneath” stuff: the exploration of the song’s inner life. That’s where new ideas, new views, new sounds, new avenues of expression always emerge. I love to come out the other side overwhelmed by and loaded with all that new stuff!  I need that! I thrive on that!  Then through the rehearsal process I work with all that “new stuff.”  I explore and experiment until I can discover the truth of my own choices for performance.

As a performer, my work is highly collaborative in nature. I depend on collaboration with any number of people.  I am never up there on the stage alone.  There is my accompanist(s), which would be one musician or a whole orchestra and often other singers and/or actors.

But there are those other collaborations too, with the composer and the lyricist, and ultimately my imagination, the place where, if allowed, Inspiration pours in.  All these “folks” are on stage with me when I perform.  They are there, even if they left the planet hundreds of years ago.  Their life lies in the clues and road maps left behind in their musical scores.

Diving in to explore, experiment, and discover the truths and clues left behind are a daily part of my work.  So when we have the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with artists in our lifetime – what a privilege that is! What an amazing thing it is to know a little more about what makes that composer or that visual artist, i.e. Marty Coleman, tick first-hand!

That truly informs my own imagination and work.  And… I figure that if this is deeply interesting to ME, then it MUST be interesting to others out there! How could it not be?  Hah! LOL! : ) Julia

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The next two interviews coming up will be with

Watchfire Music Composers

Robert Collister and Carolyn Kardinal.

Read Marty Coleman: He MAKEs Absorbent Art

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Entry filed under: Art, Inspiration, Inspiratus, Inspiratus Interviews, Performance, Practice & Performance: Working It Out. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

The Kingdom Of God: A Follow Up Interview with Composer Carolyn Kardinal – Part 1

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Carol Jay  |  November 11, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Julia,

    I was fascinated by your article. You are unusual in that you show interest in digging beneath the surface of putting together a performance, by research and other means. You may have the makings of a book here. I am sure your readers would like to hear more about how you research your performances and music. I know that this is a topic that important to many artists of all kinds, three I can name off the top of my head are Bob Brookmeyer, Judy Collins, and Jimmy Webb. They keep elaborate journals on their compositional and performance processes and many, many people read them with great interest. We are all fascinated by the creative process. I guess another more vernacular way of saying this is is everybody wants to get into show business. Keep resareching, Julia, and let us know your findings, in your singing, development as an artist and in your writing. Thanks.

    Reply
  • 2. juliawade  |  November 11, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Hi Carol,

    Thank you for your thoughts on this thing called the creative process. I loved learning about the artists you mentioned and the journals, etc that they keep. I am a huge fan of Judy Collins in particular. Thank you for mentioning them.

    I agree with you that most of us are fascinated with the creative process — I think it’s because we all have that creative instinct — not matter what we do in life.

    Good to hear from you, Carol. Blessings to you.

    Reply

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