Finding your inner artist, day 28: About seeing things through the eyes of a child

Today’s quote:

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work.  I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw.  She stared at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?”  ~ Howard Ikemoto

Of course we all need to learn technique in our chosen field of art. However, it would certainly help sometimes to remember that absolutely everyone can be creative if they allow themselves to be playful and not overly self-conscious (maybe even a bit silly).

When did you last allow yourself to be like that?

© Petra Raspel 2013

Finding your inner artist, day 27: About being wary of those who seem to know it all

Today’s quote:

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. ~ André Gide

English: André Gide, Nobel laureate in Literat...

English: André Gide, Nobel laureate in Literature 1947 Deutsch: André Gide, Nobelpreisträger für Literatur 1947 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is another post about technique…

There are various schools of thought in vocal pedagogy. Some are open-minded, others not so much. If we are talking about pedagogy, methods and technique, I would imagine this to be the same in every other artistic field.

Today, we have many so-called “scientifically proven methods”, which claim to be valid for everyone. I am glad we have them, because they did us an immense amount of good and removed a lot of guesswork. However, the danger is to become complacent and narrow-minded once something is “proven”. The validity of any study, experiment or trial hugely depends on its set-up. Provided there are no other methodical errors involved, the results of single subject studies are valid for one person (still not that uncommon in the singing world, believe it or not). Others are valid for the majority of people; some maybe even for all in that very moment. This doesn’t mean however that it is, and will stay, universally right. Large studies, including thousands of people, are still rare in singing pedagogy. I won’t even start to talk about bias and scientific misconduct now…

Physics and Chemistry are usually classed as exact sciences, Biology and Medicine already rank somewhere in the middle (this is, for instance, important to consider in my field of work), and Humanities – well…

Where am I going with this? I guess what I am trying to say is that art is definitely not an exact science – this includes its technique and methodology, but I guess most people know that. That’s why it never ceases to amaze me that some still argue as if it was. Some scientific studies related to the more technical aspects of our work are the best we have at the moment, and that’s good and helpful. I am generally wary of those though who try to tell me there is only one proven, or “best”, way of doing things, especially if there is some sort of financial interest involved.

Many roads lead to Rome, and it is important to stay open-minded, to exchange ideas, and to accept that no matter how convinced we are of our own methods, they are usually not the only way to do things…

© Petra Raspel 2013

Finding your inner artist, day 19: About not constantly judging and projecting

Today’s quote:

The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly — without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child.  (from “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland).

Art & Fear

Art & Fear (Photo credit: alternatePhotography)

Another quote you can understand in many ways…

There’s this singer, let’s call her Charlotte. Charlotte has huge natural talent, but she also has a lot to learn from a technical point of view. So I recommend she records her lessons to monitor her progress. She blocks. “I cannot stand listening to myself”. “Why is that?” I ask. “Because I hear all the mistakes”.

This is not unusual at all. There was a time when I didn’t particularly enjoy listening to my voice, despite other people telling me it sounded good. I could only hear the mistakes, never the good things. Like Charlotte, I had this “zooming in on mistakes” mentality, no matter if 95% of the song sounded great. Can you imagine the frustration if those 5% are all you are able to take in?

It took me years to learn to listen to my singing (sort of) objectively. Without “need or fear” for things to go perfectly, or hitting a bum note; “without wishes or hopes” that this recording would finally be the one without a single mistake. I needed to let go of projecting, insecurities in other areas of life included, because nothing of this would help me to progress and grow – neither as an artist, nor as a person.

Once I learned to see it from that angle, and I just listened without judgement, I could also hear the good things. I could still hear what went wrong as well, but now it was fine.
“Mistakes” started to turn into a compass; through them, I could pinpoint what my art needed to get better. This wasn’t just technical work, even if I had very often thought so in the past:

Little adjustments in my daily “non-artist” life also helped to become a better singer, probably at least as much as working on my voice…

© Petra Raspel 2013

Finding your inner artist, day 13: About toolboxes, hard graft and letting go when it matters

Today’s quote:

You’ve got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail. ~ Charlie Parker

[Portrait of Charlie Parker, Three Deuces, New...

[Portrait of Charlie Parker, Three Deuces, New York, N.Y., ca. Aug. 1947] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

You need to learn your craft. You need to spend time on honing your skills. You cannot expect to get success handed out to you without working your socks off. There is no instant gratification – if that’s what you expect, you might be in for a massive disappointment.

Have you ever met one of these artists who are never ready to step out there though? Who always “need to learn more”? Who still need to put a few finishing touches to whatever they are creating? Only that they never finish it?

You need to let go at some point. The singer or instrumentalist needs to trust their muscle memory to take over, and then infuse their craft with life. The writer needs to trust the technical skill they have developed over the years, and just tell the story. The painter needs to trust their ability to use appropriate technical skill to bring their painting to life.

Creating art is about a lot of hard work, and finding the right tools in our toolboxes. Only knowing how to hit a nail won’t build anything though…

© Petra Raspel 2013

Finding your inner artist, day 10: About still having time to do what you really want

Today’s quote:

You are not too old and it is not too late to dive into your depths where life calmly gives out it’s own secret. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe you have a “day job” (what is that anyway?). Maybe you are financially comfortable, and maybe you think “I am too old to change”.

You are never too old to do what you really love, and to pursue a different career. You need to really want it however, be prepared that not everything goes swimmingly from the start, and maybe have a backup-plan. Or maybe not – maybe you should just focus all your time and energy into what you really want to do?

This is not about being unrealistic: If you can hardly hold a tune for example, you might not find much joy trying to pursue a singing career (just yet). It is about committing. One step at a time…

© Petra Raspel 2013