Monday, April 18, 2016

#AtoZChallenge, O is for Ordinary

First things first: I didn't paint this picture I glued onto today's journal entry, but I sure wish I did. Unfortunately I can't even tell you who the artist is--one of the hazards of cutting out pictures from old magazines without paying too much attention to the credits.

Whatever its history, though, looking at this calm and colorful scene makes me happy. I like to imagine the people who live in this house and how they got there. It's the kind of dream-house they used to feature in old movies; any minute I expect Cary Grant to come laughing through the door, or Olivia de Havilland with a basket of freshly-cut roses hanging from her arm. In many ways, the scene is perfectly ordinary: a country home, an open door, a sunny day. Nothing special. And that's what makes it so appealing to me. 

Of course, I could be completely wrong, and all kinds of extraordinary things could have occurred here that have nothing to do with the peaceful life I envision. For instance, the family who lives here might be sick to death of the place and say things like, "That view is so dull! Why don't we concrete in the grass and install a Ferris Wheel?" Or, "Please don't play the piano again tonight, Jolyon. If I hear Claire de Lune one more time I'll have you committed."

And that's just for starters. What if Jolyon the piano player gets so mad he strangles the woman who hates Clair de Lune? Or war has just been declared and the entire family has fled the house without even turning off the lights? Or a flying saucer has abducted everyone except the youngest child and his nanny? Appearances can be deceiving. You just never know; what might appear ordinary to one person could be absolutely mind-staggering to another.

Which is what makes the ordinary such an interesting topic to explore in our journals. How ordinary is ordinary? Maybe it's only the way we perceive it. For instance my commute to work has become so boring to me I'm on auto-pilot half the time, but to someone from out of town they might think: Albuquerque! What a charming place to live! Or when I go shopping for groceries and buy milk and eggs and ice cream again, another shopper might be thinking: Ice cream. Milk and eggs for cake. She must be throwing a party. What we take for granted as dull and routine might stir someone else's imagination in a wholly new, and unexpected direction.

Some of the ways I like to experiment with being that "someone else" is to:

  • Drive down unfamiliar streets. Take note of the architecture and general ambience. Park and journal for a bit.
  • Buy some grocery items I often ignore. Cook them, taste them, write!
  • Look for the beauty in "clutter": a sink of dirty dishes, a pile of laundry: what's the story? How could I turn that into an interesting drawing or painting?
  • Go to clothing or other kinds of stores I don't usually shop at. I'm a huge fan of window-shopping, but sometimes it's fun to surprise myself with some new and out-of-character purchases.
  • Check out some library books on subjects that I've always considered difficult or unappealing. Getting out of my reading/creative comfort zone has lead me to subjects I would never have considered before and that I've grown to thoroughly enjoy.

At the same time, it's important to keep in mind that there's also a unique and special beauty in the ordinary. Not only can it be secure and comforting, but it can also be what provides you with a firm bedrock for your creative endeavors. A clean and bright workspace, a well-organized manuscript and WIP notebook, paints and pencils where you can find them . . . celebrate it all in your journal with colors, sketches, collages, and words.  

Tip of the Day: Another good use of your art journal is to break free of the ordinary. For instance, explore new mediums or color combinations. Go through "dull" magazines for counter-intuitive inspiration and unexpected images to cut-out. Or make a list of all your "ordinary" activities and look for ways to jazz them up.

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