I found a brand spanking new reprint of an old classic at the library: "The Zen of Seeing", by Frederick Franck, a book originally published in the early seventies. The book itself is a very lovely creation - it's not typeset, but handwritten (as all love letters should be, Franck tenderly explains) and illustrated with wispy, minimalist (well, zen) drawings, all by the author himself.
One of my favourite passages in this book touches on what I've been musing about here - that the innate artist in all of us is so easily silenced by those invisible shackles we collect through our individual lives. Here's what he said (capitals are the author's own):
"... WHO IS THE MAN, THE ARTIST?... HE IS THE UNSPOILED CORE OF EVERYMAN, BEFORE HE IS CHOKED BY SCHOOLING, TRAINING, CONDITIONING UNTIL THE ARTIST-WITHIN SHRIVELS UP AND IS FORGOTTEN. Even in the artist who is professionally trained to be consciously "creative" this unspoiled core shrivels up in the rush toward a "personal style", in the heat of competition to be "in". " Indeed.
(This quote can be found in the introduction to the paperback edition by Vintage, NY, 1973).
Now how to get out of a creative rut? or how to get some inspiration if you have no idea where to start?
I just remembered that there is such a thing as public domain images - images that one can use as a springboard for inspiration without worrying about the ethics of copying/copyrighting/cheating...
So I went looking on the internet (love ya, Google) and found an endless supply of sites that offer treasure troves of "free images". I'll be exploring this subject more in the near future, but in the meantime, here's an example of what one can play with. I didn't have any illustration for this post and was not in the mood to pick up pen and ink to do some zen-inspired drawing (I'm going through a terribly dry spell, but that's another story...).
So I decided to look around for a picture I could use, and found this nice one of a bamboo plant reflected in the water.
On Photoshop, I cropped it, used "crosshatch" to give it a sketchy feeling, changed it to B&W, infused it with muted colours, skewed it and added some "noise" to make it look like an old picture of something vaguely asian. Obviously, one of the points I am also trying to make here is that it doesn't have to be good - but it's good to practice!