Seven Secrets to Unleashing Your Inner Genius

Embrace Opposing Forces 

Highly creative people tend to welcome paradoxes, melding two seemingly contradictory ideas that lead to greater innovation.”There are a lot of so-called dichotomies that aren’t really dichotomies at all,” says Kaufman. For example, when it comes to the creative process, there’s no sharp  demarcation between work and play. Other lines blur as well.  “People who are really creative are good at trusting and having faith in their intuition but also at being rational in their analysis of whether or not something is correct.”  Strength  and sensitivity also seem contradictory, but the distinction may not always be so clear. ” Creative people tend to have extraordinary sensitivity but also are capable of staying true to their values, even in challenging environments.” Highly creative people have a tendency for post-traumatic growth, an ability to learn from distressing experiences.

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

Courtney Mifsud

Art Quote for the Day


I just finished another Winterim session at my place of employment, Edgewood College in Madison WI. This is a 2 week long period of time that students can take classes and get a full semester’s worth of credit. We meet EVERYDAY  for 3 hours and I had one class in the morning and one class in the afternoon.  Six hours of classtime,  2 hours of prep-time, I was out of the house everyday at 7 am and home by 4:30 pm……. with maybe 30 minutes to gulp down some kind of lunch.


4 days off , and then, the real semester starts and back at it!


The Winterim is proof of  how much can actually get done in a very short time if that time is concentrated and focused. It is proof of what students are capable of learning and doing in that same amount of quality time.

The morning class I taught was in Figure Drawing. Drawing the nude…. everyday a live model, everyday a new set of skills to be learned: proportion, measuring ,bone structure, musculature,modelling 3-dimensional form, gesture/motion, media,patience, focus, imagination. We ended today with a 2 hour long pencil drawing of 2 poses in one drawing that related to each other in some way. Students had to draw a sitting pose and a standing pose that would relate to each other , switching back and forth about every 5 minutes….. After only 9 days of intense instruction and LOTS of practice they all managed to complete a pretty accomplished drawing! Some of the students had never had a drawing course before so I’m pretty proud of them!

The afternoon class was called Art Structure and it is specifically for NON-ART majors. Again, everyday , a new set of skills and information: drawing, color theory, design, painting, abstraction, printmaking, sculpture….. total chaos everyday…. CREATIVE CHAOS! And , once again, the work completed was fantastic.

Some of the work is posted here Enjoy!….

Art Quote for the Day

And once again, the time has gone by SUPERFAST and I find myself at the end of another semester. Projects DONE, grading DONE,cleaning up the art room messes, almost done! A few weeks of a much welcome break where I can really focus on my own painting , and then back at it again!
I was thinking the other night,( while attending a senior seminar where students I had as Freshman and are now about to graduate, had to present their work to an audience and talk about it), that it’s a great thrill to watch these individuals come into our school as these young Freshmen, watch them make it through all their trials and tribulations and then  see and hear them be so articulate about their work at the  end of it all. Somewhere deep down inside I’m always hoping that maybe, in their talks, they’ll mention me…. that I made a difference and when they don’t I have always felt a little sad. BUT, after seeing this presentation the other night I realized there are no thanks needed. My job is to instruct them in the basic foundations courses that are required . In return they inspire me in so many ways , I ‘m never bored. My own personal mission is to create for them an atmosphere of creativity and fearlessness so that they can INDEED go on to create a fantastic portfolio of work . I’m a small part of a bigger picture that includes all of my fellow faculty members, all doing the hard work that it takes to get these young people ready for the real world. And I’m so very happy to be a part of it.

Now, with the holiday break starting, I will take off a few days to do stuff other than school stuff but I’m already sort of thinking about new assignments, projects, and visual examples. I’m looking forward to the first day of classes when I get to meet new students and re-connect with old….

I just Love this Life of Mine!!!!

Art Quote for the Day

“Remember when you were three or four years old and you would just scribble or smear paint around for the fun of it?  At this time in your life, you were totally absorbed in the creative process, and you never gave a thought to what your paintings looked like or what it was that you were tyring to say or express.  As we move along in life, we tend to lose this sense of play and spontaneity that we had so naturally as young children.  Here’s a story that illustrates this point.  An art teacher arrives at a friend’s house for dinner and is introduced to his host’s kindergartener.  The little  girl asks the guest, “what do you do?”  He replies, ” I teach art students to paint and draw.”  Looking confused , the little girl says , “Why? Did they forget?”  Indeed, sometimes we do forget that we were born with powerful instincts to create and that those instincts can get trampled along the way by all the adult responsibilities and baggage that come with age and experience.

In this chapter, I am asking you to revisit those basic creative passions that were so strong in your childhood by sticking your fingers in paint and playing for the pure pleasure of the process.  If you  can suspend your inhibitions about acting like a kid for a  few hours, the exercises in this chapter will help you find the roots of your creative intuition and inspire a renewed sense of excitement and adventure in your art-making.  Exercises listed are:  ACTION PAINTING, PAINTING WITH STRAWS, PAINTING WITH COMMON OBJECTS,PAINTING TO MUSIC-BLINDFOLDED, AUTOMATIC DRAWING, 30 SKETCHES IN 30 MINUTES, OBSERVE AND DRAW SHADOWS, CREATE ART GAMES, SPEAK IN MARKS, SHAPES AND COLORS,DRAW A CONCEALED OBJECT USING ONLY YOUR SENSE OF TOUCH…”

Art From Intuition – Overcoming Your Fears and Obstacles to Making Art – More Than 60 Drawing & Painting Exercises by Dean Nimmer

Art Quote for the Day

Developing Ideas

Creativity  comes from ideas. For the artist , a creative idea may be an all-encompassing  plan, a unique set of relationships, an attitude to be  conveyed, or a solution to a visual problem.  An idea may come as a “bolt from the blue “,  or it may  be the end product of much thoughtful effort as reflected in notes, sketches, and countless revisions of the artwork.

All artists occasionally encounter blocks on their creativity, and it can take an artist many years to break through these blocks. A beginning artist  may find it difficult to even find a starting point for a project, ( ” I don’t know what to do!”). Although a familiar object or experience is usually the best starting point in such situations, the following approaches, suggested by artists, are ways to develop ideas or overcome the creative block. You may want to expand the list.

Study the life and heartbeat of your city or town.  Look closely at nature-notice shapes, values, textures, and patterns.  Remember the flattened frog skeleton you spotted on the way out of the parking lot – could it be used as a symbol for a special theme?  Supplement an impulse by brainstorming anything remotely related.Doodle or experiment with any available media. Think of a pressing social  issue. Make lists of all the verbs, adverbs, or adjectives that could be associated with the issue, and add color notations associated with each term.  Write down a single sentence or phrase that catches your attention during a news report, poetry reading, or argument with a friend. You should note as many variations on the idea or its presentation as possible; include visual metaphors – ways of expressing the idea without actually depicting it directly. And , as with any good debate team, try to express an opposing concept, feeling, or setting in terms of image, color, and emotional character.  In short: observe, explore,and expand.  Generate as many ideas as you can -the last few may be the best.

Art Fundamentals – Theory and Practice ,Ocvirk,Stinson,Wigg,Bone,Cayton

Art Quote of the Day

What advice would you give a young artist who is just starting out?

“I think a lot of times young artists get confused about who they are versus what they think the so-called art world want s them to be.. And I think if young artists basically listened to themselves a little bit and basically did what they really wanted to do, it would be a more interesting art world, and they’d have a more interesting life.  I think a lot of people make funny compromises about something that’s really important not to compromise about.  I see people who try to jump on trends and it’s sort of sad.  It just seems to me like there’s so many ways that we can sell ourselves out.  The whole culture wants us to sell out, and it’s constantly asking us to..  It seems like art’s the place where that doesn’t have to happen.  All day long you can prostitute yourself with whatever day job or crappy thing you have to do to get through the day, but you should never do that with your work.”

quote by Fred Tomaselli, excepted from the book of interviews with various artists called Inside the Painter’s Studio by Joe Fig

Art Quote of the Day

” Why is it that dexterity, knowledge of art, and taste do not necessarily add up to what we seek in art?  What ingredient is missing whose presence would make the work throb with vitality and invite us to live more fully – or at least to SEE more fully- as a consequence?

This is not at all to say that dexterity, knowledge, and taste are unnecessary components of art that DOES move us. It is to say that they are insufficient in themselves and that other qualities of mind and spirit must be present for these constituents to spill over into an art with the power to move us to tears, laughter, or silence.

Unless a couragous stance to life is coupled with these ingredients, tedious and shallow things will be made.  Unless a capacity to dream  and fantasize is there, derivative things will be made.  Without an unflinching sense of self, the work will reign hollow and will remain unconvincing.  Unless one wanders into territory that is perplexing, mysterious, overwhelming, the work will be pedestrian and predictable , and so will we.  To cultivate these “other” constituents of art and life, and so improve one’s life , and consequently one’s art, the creative encounter must be discovered and employed.

In pursuing a vital confrontation with life and our own creativity we are not interested in putting art and ourselves in the service of pretty things or  novel things, or even in the mere exposure of ourselves.. We want  to reclaim the actual  power of art.  Throught the creative encounter we seek to facilitate our private and communal evolutiion so that we may become who we prefer to be.”

No More Secondhand Art – Awakening the Artist Within by Peter London

Art Quote of the Day

” The individuality of your artistic voice takes a while to mature,but be reassured, it’s there. Only a very few artists, such as Durer, VanDyck, Bonington, Sargent, and Picasso, did notable work in their early teens.  The overwhelming number of artists  take much longer.  ( on the other end of the scale we find Auguste Rodin, who was thirty-six when he completed his first masterwork, and Milton Avery and Jean Dubuffet, who became full-time painters after the age of forty.  Hokusai tells us that “since the age of six I have had the habit of sketching forms of objects..  Although from about fifty I have often published my pictorial works, before the seventieth year none is worthy.”) It’s clear that the pace of artistic development is more likely to resemble that  of  the proverbial tortoise than than the hare-like course of athletes and some musicians.  ( In the early Renaissance, students were bound to master for twelve years.)  Artists ordinarily take a great deal of time to arrive at the necessary high level of synthesis and coordination between eye, hand and  mind. This process can’t be accelerated by anything except work.

It may happen that you find yourself making art early on that looks fully developed and receives some recognition. Perhaps it is mature, but if you’re honest with yourself, you might have to admit that for you it lacks meaning or roots.  You have discovered that your work is not genuinely yours, and you must reassess where you are going. You need to keep searching for a way of expressing yourself that will elicit the response from you:  “THAT’S ME”  Ben Shahn describes this experience in his early life as an artist:

‘ It was during those years that the inner critic first began to play hara-kiri with my insides. With such ironic words as, “It has a nice professional look about it ,” my inward demon was prone to ridicule  or tear down my work in just those terms in which I was wont to admire it.  The question, “Is that enough? Is that all?” began to plague me. Or, “This may be art but is this my own art?”  And then I began to realize that however professional my work might appear, even how original it might be, it still did not contain the central person which, for good or ill, was myself.”

The Blank Canvas – Inviting the Muse by Anna Held Audette

Art Quote of the Day

NOTES 1990

12 SEPTEMBER 1990. Accept that I can plan nothing.

” Any thoughts on my part about the ‘construction’ of a picture are false, and if the execution works, this is only because I partly destroy it, or because it works in spite orf everything – by not detracting and by not looking the way I planned.

I often find this intolerable and even impossible to accept, because, as a thinking, planning human being, it humiliates me to find out that I am so powerless. It casts doubt on my competence and constructive ability.  My only consolation is to tell myself that I did actually make  the pictures – even though they are a law unto  themselves, even though they treat me any way they  like and somehow just take shape.  Because it’s still up to me to determine the point at which they are finished ( picture-making consists of a multitude of Yes/No decisions, with a Yes to end it all).  If I look at it that way, the whole thing starts to seem quite natural again – or rather Nature – like, alive – and the same thing applies to the comparison on the social level. ”

Gerhard  Richter – The Daily Practice of Painting