As I was reading journal article called A Creative Life by Susan Brandeis I saw more and more parallels between artists and shamans. This is not the first time that similarities between the two have become apparent to me.
In Shamanism the practitioner experiences a spiritual ‘calling.’ Ignoring this places the shaman at risk of illness and/or madness. So too with the artist, it is only in the creative process that the deep restlessness that haunts us finds stillness and calm through expression.
This reminded me too of a TED Talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert who delivered one of the most inspiring and powerful talks on the elusiveness of creativity. She described those moments of inspiration as a freight train rushing by, demanding the artist to drop everything else in pursuit of this ‘train.’ Sometimes requiring us to reach out and grab it with both hands in an attempt to ‘pull back’ the creative thoughts so that we can record or process them before they are gone. In her article Brandeis speaks of imagination and creativity, working hand-in-hand; she addresses the importance of the brainstorming process and the need to engage fully in this in order to reach moments of clarity and creative enlightenment.
Like the shaman who walks between two worlds, the world of the living and the world of the dead, so too do artists operate between consciousness and subconsciousness; the latter from which many ideas and connections are born. It is however futile to ‘chase the train’ unless the artist is willing to regularly engage in free range thought processes like brainstorming. Relinquishing control and surrendering to the process is what is required to conceive ideas and inspiration from which to create good art and to find the many possibilities and connections that the original ideas can be linked to. This is the realm in which originality is born through extension of ideas and processes.
Brandeis, S. 2007. A Creative Life. Surface Design Journal. Vol 31(2), pp 6-11.
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