The Creative Process

Life has always been a source of wonder to me - that most of us are born with ten fingers & toes that can play in the sand, stroke our pets and caress our loved ones.  We have beautiful eyes that can see the stars & moon at night and enjoy the paradise of greenery grown by the sun in the daylight.  Our arms and feet enable us to swim, walk, run, jump - everything but fly - but many of us even do this at night in our dreams.  Why and how did of this perfection all come about?  How is it possible that we live amid such creative energy and rarely seem to notice it?


We are all quite fortunate in that we were granted millions of ways to use our creative juices.  Some paint, others dance, some love physics, others sewing - it matters not what you do or really even how you do it.  What matters is the enjoyment.  For life is really not about jobs or money, what you own or where you travel - it is about living - each day on this planet - in complete harmony, peace, love and enjoyment.  


So we try to appreciate the journey of our path.  As I said on the page before, these pages are for my grandchildren.  I would like to think that they will enjoy creating and the process of making artistic designs as much as I have.  





New York’s preeminence as a creative capital could soon be in jeopardy, as emerging artists—an essential component of the city’s cultural sector—are being priced out of the city.



According to a recent Freelancer's Union report, the city's creative sector—comprised of artists, photographers, designers, composers and writers—is facing increasing economic uncertainty related to a lack of stable employment. Over 40 percent report making less than $35,000 last year, half have little to no personal savings, and over a third lack proper health insurance. Ninety percent cited "unstable income" as the major disadvantage of their chosen profession.



All these factors, the study suggests, means that the city’s creative class—including its emerging artists—may leave New York in favor of cities with a "lower cost of living and developing creative centers.”



Filmmaker and video artist Matt Sheridan Smith, who has been splitting his time between New York and Berlin for the last four years, is intimately familiar with the problem.



“In terms of creative production, New York seems to be getting more and more untenable. I can make enough money to produce bigger works here, but then I don't have enough money left over to live,” Smith says.



Many of the financial woes of New York’s cultural sector boil down to the simple question of real estate: the lack of affordable apartments and artist studios, even in the “cheap” fringes of the city. And the role that real estate has played in New York City’s post-War cultural legacy is hard to overstate.



From the emergence of the Abstract Expressionist painters in the early post-War years, to the creative explosion in SoHo in the 1970s and the East Village in the 80s (Basquiat, Goldin, Haring, etc.) to the growth of the Brooklyn scene over the last decade: This creative fervor was made possible by the availability of space—including cavernous lofts—at manageable prices.



Artists, of course, have long served as a vanguard for the forces of gentrification: After they move into once-blighted neighborhoods, the appeal of living in an “artsy” area soon attracts a moneyed, “edge”-seeking class—leading to higher prices and an exodus of artists.



Adding significantly to the space problem today, however, is that emerging artists are being priced out of neighborhoods sooner and sooner. It took more than a decade for SoHo to become an enclave of the rich, and a few years for Williamsburg, Brooklyn to become too pricey. But now, developers and brokers seem to be following artists mere months after they move into a previously "undiscovered" area. Lamentable in itself, this pattern is made worse by the fact that few of these developers, unlike artists, look to build sustainable communities.



It certainly doesn’t help that some of the institutions meant to foster artistic development are adding to the space crunch. A devastating blow was dealt to emerging artists when PS 1 Contemporary Arts Center turned its sprawling space atop the Clock Tower building in Downtown Manhattan—which had hosted a rotation of open studios—into the headquarters of its online radio station, WPS1.



Many emerging artists will find a way to stay in the city whatever the financial struggle, but it seems inevitable that the type of work being created will itself be affected. Few emerging artists, cramped into small studios-cum-living rooms in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, can work on an ambitious scale (unless directly funded by a gallery) or with the same creative abandon that comes with having no rent worries.



“The financial stakes for young artists living in New York, especially with MFA debt, is higher than it’s ever been,” says artist Jason Tomme, himself an MFA from Yale, who lives in Brooklyn and shows with the Buia Gallery in Chelsea.



Tomme sees this fact directly affecting the art.



“That reality causes two things: a greater necessity for delusions of grandeur—this all-or-nothing attitude, which is probably good for art. But the other side is it makes artists shit their pants, allowing more calculated, conservative and market-oriented elements to sneak into their practice, which is obviously bad for art,” he adds.



Smith voices a similar tension.



“Making films and other time- and situation-based works, you often just don't have the financial, mental or even physical space in New York,” he explains. “Here I feel pressured to make more objects and videos that can be quickly executed, presented and digested. I don't feel that pressure at all in Berlin, which is a big reason I keep going back.”



“The irony is that since there's a relatively small market in places like Berlin, emerging artists often need to immediately re-export their work back to New York, London—all the expensive places we fled in the first place. It's a frustrating paradox.”



The fact that artist studios are becoming more and more unavailable might lie behind the rising popularity of MFA programs, which provide their students with space to work in, as well providing a social network that can lead to financial support. But they are a double-edged sword: Most students leave with large amounts of debt—an economic pressure that can both limit where they chose to live and/or cause them to focus on more commercial work.



And although creative workers contribute significantly to the city's economy—$14.5 billion in 2000, according to the Freelancer's Union report, plus untold intangible value—the city is doing little to directly address the problem: Of the $131 million the city plans to spend on cultural programs, according to the study, almost all of the money is earmarked for institutions, rather than direct support for artists.



In the past, the city has recognized—and acted upon—the importance of providing artists with affordable housing. When the Manhattan Plaza Housing Project opened in the 1970s, just blocks from the Theater District, 70 percent of the apartments were set aside for low-income residents working in the performing arts.



Will the city, whose current mayor is a supposed patron of the arts, soon consider a similar effort for visual artists?


















AND SO IT IS - - - the following pages are created for my grandchildren - to inspire them to use their many talents and to show them how much fun you can have with your hands.


Have fun you guys.  Don't forget to e-mail me your pictures.

Great Art and Great Dharma


The artist's dilemma and the meditator's are, in a deep sense, equivalent. Both are repeatedly willing to confront an unknown and to risk a response that they cannot predict or control. Both are disciplined in skills that allow them to remain focused on their task and to express their response in a way that will illuminate the dilemma they share with others.

And both are liable to similar outcomes. The artist's work is prone to be derivative, a variation on the style of a great master or established school. The meditator's response might tend to be dogmatic, a variation on the words of a hallowed tradition or revered teacher. There is nothing wrong with such responses. But we recognize their secondary nature, their failure to reach the peaks of primary imaginative creation. Great Art and Great Dharma both give rise to something that has never quite been imagined before. Artist and meditator alike ultimately aspire to an original act.



--Stephen Batchelor, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. IV, #2