Artistic Motivation


For the last month, I have been spending hours gluing and folding paper into pyramids so that I can glue them to a board and create a board full of pyramids. This is all part of my next wall sculpture series. As my hands work, my mind wanders, and recently I asked myself, "why do I want to do this?" I'm not really sure, but I do know that I find carrying out my vision to be deeply fulfilling, even if the process is agonizing. 

At the same time, I am also collecting ideas for my next series of wearables. I don't know what it will look like yet, and it's not something I can force. I keep my eyes and ears open, go down rabbit holes of inspiration and put all ideas in a mental container to percolate. I trust that when the time is right, something will emerge.

Why do we want what we want and what motivates us to create? 

I asked a few of my artist friends about motivation and creative process. Between the four of us, we all had a similar response: there is something inside (an energy or curiosity) that we want to understand or explore. How we go about doing that varies. 

Here are their full responses:


What motivates you to create?

At the core, I feel there is something to say. The creative process can be very fickle. In one sense, it doesn't make sense to go to the studio if I'm not feeling excited about something. On the other hand, sometimes just sitting down with my guitar without thinking can start something special. Creativity is very much a paradox.

Where do you get your ideas?

Recently, I have been working through a lot of collaborations. This has been a lot of fun for me since we both bring our own ideas and something completely new and unexpected comes out. In my case, it has been working with people in other disciplines, such as contemporary dance, art or film. Strangely, sometimes having another person there to respond to gives me permission to be more open and free than if I was just working alone in my studio. It's also great to have someone to validate your ideas. I might have thrown something away that had a lot of potential if I just looked at it from a different perspective.

What is your creative process?

I always start with a mood. I want to transmit a certain energy with the songs I create. So, I try to enter into this mood, or energy, and then trust that whatever I do is going to embody that energy.


What motivates you to create?

In a word, curiosity. A lot of what I make has an important experimental aspect. I would say it has to do with putting my mind's wonderings or questions to a test (How will these colors interact? What happens if I use this tool instead? Can I make this speck of reflected light look like the feeling of a kiss?). It is also an urge to see some thoughts from the outside of my mind. I find a lot of pleasure in seeing matter interact with, contradict or go beyond my expectations

Where do you get your ideas?

I get my ideas from what my senses and mind collect from experience, but it's never like I find one precious idea all ready and made up in all its depth in a single time. When I have found an idea, I believe that it is connected to a myriad of previous experiences (that I do or don't remember) that didn't register as ideas before, but that have been adding up to something that can be activated by this one last piece. The image is similar to that of an underwater mountain that finally, after adding one last rock, becomes an island. Sometimes I am aware of such previous inputs, and I know that some date back to my very first years of life, and some taste like dateless dreams (which are in turn recollections), and some are so fleeting that I can only remember the light or the temperature of the moment. But I know they're there. 

What is your creative process?

I start by taking a break to guarantee sincerity. I also make an abundant use of randomness or chance in my process, which I feel also has something to do with honesty. From this starting point, a play unravels between the mind and the matter, hands and decision, and I think a lot of what is at stake has to do with limits (How far can it bend until it breaks? What is enough and what too much? How sharp or blurry is this or that boundary?).

One of my process pieces, "four weeks," is explicitly an investigation on my creative process, through the scope of time.

As far as starting on something, I start by letting my mind flow until, at one point, I do not get to choose. My body starts working - my hands pick something out of my mind's undifferentiated musings and start playing with it, letting my instinct and my body lead the way.


What motivates you to create?

In the beginning, I often feel a certain kind of effervescence - something bubbling up inside of me. It can be emotional or a more analytical fascination, but it is pressure - a kind of internal need to move, to react, to say or do something. Sometimes the creating happens as a way for me to process or understand. Sometimes it is curiosity and a way of questioning or searching. It comes out through moving myself - sometimes through creating dance pieces or a comedy character. Lately, I've been revisiting more visual expressions through embroidery and sewing.

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas can come from any direction. Sometimes they are sourced from the outside - a picture, music, or cognitive inspirations from texts or conversations. Other times, they come from very visceral feelings, sensations or mental images. One creation is always a layering of a core idea and many related ones.

What is your creative process?

My creative process is also fluid. I don't have one clear way of doing things or one clear form of artistic expression. A starting point that worked in the past may not always be the place I start now. 

If the idea is a word or an image, then I might start by going into the studio and find ways of abstracting it and getting it into the body. If the starting point is a feeling, then I need time to work with my imagination and see ways of bringing the feeling to life. In any process, there also comes a phase where, mentally or on paper, I do a kind of connection searching, like making a spider diagram. I search for all possible related images, ideas, or movements. I might also test out opposites to see if there is a collision or a relation, and to see if it generates new movements or scenes.

If I am working as a dancer for someone else, the process is different. I receive input from the outside, from them. Then I internalize it and search for personal connections or sparking points to the topic, the task, or the given movement. Sometimes one very simple movement or task can generate heaps of new movement because I narrow the field of focus and dig deeper into one thing, perhaps expanding or shrinking it as well as transferring it to different body parts.

And you, Dear Reader? What motivates you?

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