Friday, 15 April 2011

risk taking + creativity

light through paper stencil
How often do you take risks in your creative work? By this I mean do you find yourself mostly working in a way you're comfortable with, same method, same materials, same approach? What does it take for you to step outside your comfort zone? Are you prepared to take big or small risks in your creative work?

When I think about the way I work it's usually in quite a tight, fairly small scale way. I draw and print with quite a bit of control. But I love looking at loose, 'messy' drawings and love prints that are layered and built up in a seemingly uncontrolled (or loosely controlled) way. I try to push myself to work against the way I'm used to, not to try to consciously change my 'style', but more as a way of stepping outside my comfort zone, take a few small risks, experiment, play, see where accidents take me.

It's not easy! It can even feel a bit crazy. But it can be a lot of fun.

When I lived in Kyoto I knew a printmaker who worked in a very tight, controlled way basing his prints on intricate, finely detailed drawings. His prints were incredibly detailed and accurate. He told me he was in awe of another printmaker we both knew who worked in a very loose, organic, experimental way. She would sometimes do wild things like blow torch the surface of her woodblock to get a certain texture, or add chemical substances to the wood and then sandpaper them (or then blow torch them) all in the name of texture. She rarely worked by drawing first. She usually just approached the block and started. Her prints was quite abstract but very, very interesting. I was also in awe of this kind of risk taking. To her it was very natural to work in such a way. She probably didn't even see it as taking risks.

My point is, sometimes it's good to step away from the safe, the known, the familiar patterns of working. Sometimes happy accidents can often follow and new ways of working can open up.

What do you think? How open to risk taking are you?


  1. This is something I really struggle with. I'm drawn to all sorts of medium outside my comfort zone, but usually I find myself backing away and relying on my same old tricks. And while I've managed to somewhat stretch my skills within my chosen mediums (ink, graphite, watercolor) I think I really limit myself by shying away from the areas that intimidate me.

  2. Meagan - I so know what you mean! I think a lot of us feel this way and wish we could be more adventurous (or had the time to be at least). Maybe we should make a pledge to ourselves to try one new medium/approach each year, just to force the issue a little?

  3. I did a day with a friend in her studio a couple of months back and I would have thought I was quite open to chopping and changing my style of work and what I am working on but she was pushing me to do different things with the print I was working on. She was going on and on about taking more risks. At the end of the day though, I liked the work I was doing and not the stuff I'd done under her guidance and pushing. Not at all and was quite miffed in the end that I'd been influenced. I knew what I was moving toward and should have stayed on that path.

    Oh and am so jealous of your stone fruit trees. Do you get a good crop off them?

  4. Kate - that's so interesting! I guess risk taking doesn't have to always lead us somewhere we're happy with/want to go.

    On fruit trees - our plum is a baby (3 years old) so we only had 2 plums this year. Both very good I might add. The apricot tree is in a large pot (grown from seed by a friend!) and hasn't produced fruit yet but is a really pretty tree. I guess we have the climate for stone fruit down here. We also have an olive tree (which I love) and it has a lot of olives right now :)

  5. This is such a great post :) I'm constantly trying to step out of my comfort zone. Funny thing though, I can let go enough for happy accidents but letting go of structure I just can't. I am in awe of creations like freeform crochet etc where it seems to just evolve. Organic design just doesn't seem to be in my repertoire I'm afraid ;) Still, we keep trying, don't we? Do you think it has something to do with the way we're taught from childhood? Love the image btw :) Kx