Photo: A page from The Red Book by Carl Jung.

by Clare Ultimo

How does the artistic spirit liberate itself from the slings and arrows of ‘bacon bringing?’  How does the working artist (of any discipline) give her/him self back the excitement of the journey?  When does the artist revisit his vulnerability, forget results and just take a chance?  If you’re not selling your stuff, showing your stuff, getting paid to make stuff, your artistic ‘vulnerability’ (ie the ability to play for the sake of play, willingness to explore and make creative mistakes) may have a tendency to become stunted.

If those inspiration tendons get flabby, it’s totally understandable. Success is demanding (lack of success seems to be too, btw!) and may not always make room for that illogical little voice inside you that got you on this path in the first place. Trying to combine your livelihood and your creative liberation is tricky.

It doesn’t really matter what you do to engage the little genius within you, but acknowledgement that it exists would be a good place to start. The art genie within our creative souls is disconnected from deadlines and practical stuff like money; it doesn’t care about public appeal and also doesn’t care about communicating with anyone except you. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, texting, don’t have too much meaning to this unbusinesslike, phantasmagoric or possibly pensive alter ego that inhabits the B Side of every artist.

OK, so what have you done for that unruly muse inside you lately? Having a drink after work and commensurating the foibles of the day with a co-worker does not count. Vacations, as much as we desperately need them, may not give us this kind of personal focus either. No matter what creative work you get paid to do, the artist in you used to never have a schedule, a deadline or a plane to catch. It’s the truly free part of your creative spirit and you need to check in with it more than you think.

There are loads of books and sites to choose from to kick start a re-introduction to your inner muse. My favorites through the years have been the work of Julia Cameron and Sark; and I’ve been consistently inconsistent with a variety of processes to keep in touch with my inner explorer. Sometimes I can go weeks in a row and be able to give myself 45 minutes before I get to sleep; sometimes I can block longer periods of time in the morning. At other points, all I can do amounts to a half-hour a week; but whatever it is, I don’t worry about it. This kind of expressive attention has become a part of my life, especially since I got to see The Red Book “in person” at the Rubin a few years back. Seeing that book re-kindled my own process again.

If you haven’t seen this beautiful thing on paper already, please check it out.  The Red Book is an autobiographical visual and verbal exploration created by Dr. Carl Jung completed over a 15 year period. As an inter-personal expedition it is said he surprised even himself quite a bit in the process. It was never meant for public consumption originally but fortunately it was published for everyone to see in 2009.

It’s pretty gorgeous, over 16 inches high, more than 400 pages and a little intimidating as an example of a “journal”, even for hardcore visual artists, but what a trip! A meticulous physical specimen – full color hand lettering and drawings divinely produced with seemingly supernatural drafting skills. You’ll have to see it for yourself: copies of it are in bookstores and libraries everywhere.

Of course, you may not want to work inside pages of a book, at least not a paper one. But whatever you decide to do to feed your muse, start simple (even 15 minutes can make a difference); give it time in whatever way will fit into your schedule. The whole point is not to forget that you value this kind of inner adventuring; not to get hung up on the when, where and how long you’re doing it.

Possibly once we are part of the Great Machine of Commerce, it gets more and more difficult to see our creativity with fresh eyes, to find really new perspectives relative to our work, to appreciate mistakes, to grow our inner resources as artists. It may be more frightening to work without an outside opinion than you think, so stay brave in your reconnaissance. Exploring in this part of you is bound to surprise and invigorate the imaginative spirit within you.

See more of Clare Ultimo on her website and Altpick page.

What are the ways that you keep your inner muse alive? We’ll post on AltPick.

Basic info on the Red Book in wikipedia:

About altpick connects

Established in 1992, The Alternative Pick commenced with a clear mission, providing creative buyers with a vehicle to source the best brightest and most exciting illustrators, photographers, graphic designers and animators in the business. The Alternative Pick sourcebook (1992-2005) became the outlet for cutting-edge commercial talent, offering a unique platform for artists to showcase their work. The Alternative Pick Deck (2009-2012) offered a fun and engaging format for locating leading commercial artists. In addition, The Altpick Awards (2003-2011) introduced yet another way to provide a platform for talents to shine. To meet the demands of an ever-changing industry, was launched in 1996 and presently provides a vehicle for talent to utilize the web to connect more effectively with buyers. As we mark our 30th anniversary in 2021, remains a premier source for creative professionals and we plan to continue to push the envelope providing the best vehicle for buyers to connect with creative talent.
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4 Responses to ARTIST AS AN EXPLORER IN 2013

  1. Carol says:

    Thank You, THank you!!!!!!


  2. I have come to greatly appreciate the value of stealing time and/or setting time aside to play with whatever is at hand at the moment. It could be playing with lights, or actually photographing an object, or simply looking at a group of calling cards stuck on a film box on my desk. But to whatever called me at the time, I completely let it dictate what course of action to follow. I found that in doing so, my insecurities and self-doubts completely disappeared. This process has led at times to some delightfully unexpected discoveries that left me elated in the way only a child can be. Playing that way always recharge my batteries to full or near full capacity while providing me with the opportunity to translate the essence of the discoveries into my commercial voice.


  3. Indeed, it is about those moments of observations through play that lead you to delights and surprises. And, what comes from that creative expression can be felt by the observer. Art is everywhere…look, listen…create.


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