Tag Archives: Creativity

My first professional assignment!

The last couple of weeks I have been working hard on my first professional photographic assignment that came out of a chance conversation during our exhibition.    I have spent several hours photographing a site and have put together a portfolio of 60 shots for the client to review.    It was nerve wracking sending it off to them – I hope I got the brief right!

Below are a couple of the shots (all monochrome here but the portfolio is mainly colour) – can you guess where it is?!

I learnt a great deal from this shoot – it was a tricky location, very dark (as you can see) and my initial shots were not nearly good enough quality.   My husband persuaded me to use a tripod (I am always quite anti gadgets and settings, I like my camera to be an extension of my eye, but that’s not always feasible!) – I returned to the venue armed with a very good tripod and took some of the best work I have ever done. (There’s a lesson there…..)

Mindfulness came into play here too, as ever, I wander a location and take it all in, and see what jumps out at me to be taken – what detail can I pick out?  A shadow, a shape or a colour….    With this shoot I found I had to be even more mindful, to slow myself down from ‘snapping’ and really concentrate on getting the best available shot – and it paid off!

I’ll be posting more shortly

What is the link between subversion and creativity?

I realised that after talking about it for a long time, I haven’t actually recorded what I found and summarised my thoughts.

I enjoyed researching this subject immensely and found myself getting deep into the area, I would not have anticipated the conclusions I now draw.

When I reflected on my process, I realised that it resembled a tree, I started off with a trunk with one question on.  I divided it into two – subversion and creativity, neither of which I knew much about, my aim was to understand these two areas fully, before I could then see where one influenced the other.   Each time I read a book, article or found an artist, the topic branched, one idea led to another, until I had numerous ‘leaves’.

My sketchbook….

At first I concentrated on subversion, a subject I had not thought about before.  I read from books, looked at articles online and researched many artists.   I could have done several talks just about them but sadly there was not time.   Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, Francesca Woodman, Banksy, Jann Haworth, Martha Rosler – there is an endless list of artists who subverted the politics of the day or peoples’ thoughts and opinions.

Researching Banksy was especially interesting as I thought I knew his work but discovered that he has been responsible for so much more than I realised.  What I like about his work is the intelligence with which it is staged – it is always carefully planned, perfectly placed and always challenges some belief or opinion whilst maintaining a healthy sense of humour about serious subjects.

Subversion can be bold and obvious or extremely subtle.  It is a form of rebellion, kicking back against the status quo.

I read about the Trickster character in mythology and felt that, this eternal character, was part of our makeup, and the source of subversion.   Tricksters are dangerous, have no respect for authority or the rules.  They mess things up and this is how society progresses and moves forward.

During the time of doing the research I wanted to do something ‘subversive’ myself.   Initially I felt that being subversive meant being somewhat offensive (often just for the sake of it) and since that isn’t really ‘me’ I did think of being overly polite as a subversion of subversion!   I thought about having t-shirts made with things like “Thank you very much” and “No, after you!” or perhaps “Yes please” on them but firstly I found upon doing some research that you can already get t-shirts that say such things and secondly, some phrases may still have been misconstrued as sexual, which was not my aim.    I then considered my existing art practice which is somewhat subversive already – to accepted watercolour painting techniques anyway – as I paint with watercolour neat from the tube directly onto the paper, using a cut down DIY paintbrush from B&Q.

The void – watercolour & mixed media Ailsa Brims

I started to look at creativity and the information I found was fascinating.   At the start of this, I would have assumed that being creative was genetic – I come from a creative family for instance, my great-grandparents, great-aunt, aunt, father and two cousins are/were all artists.   It seems that there is a small genetic component, but the story is much more complex.   Creativity it seems is not a ‘thing’ it’s a process that is multifaceted, and combined with a selection of character traits, personal histories and a bit of luck will manifest itself as creative.   Perhaps creativity seems to run in families because the particular character traits that it requires are encouraged within families, skills are also learnt at your parents knee which combine to make being creative seem a desirable use of time.

I am always interested in psychology and wanted to look into where certain creative and subversive traits come from.    I am familiar with Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis (TA) model of ego states and I propose that the free child described in TA is the same as Trickster described in mythology and by Jung as an archetype.   I believe that this is the source of creativity.

It was fascinating to bring these threads together and show how certain traits may be influenced by our ego state, our very early upbringing and our later childhood experiences (which shape us emotionally).   All of this is conjecture of course but I have discussed it with a psychotherapist who feels it is a reasonable conclusion to draw.    Regarding creativity being genetic, it has long been believed that psychological issues and behaviours are passed from parent to child (subconsciously) and so, if some degree of emotional impact is necessary for creativity to flourish (Grayson Perry certainly feels it is – Reith Lectures 2013), then this will also be replicated down generations, albeit being diluted and changed by each one.

Having done a great deal of reading and research, I mapped out what I had learnt and from that my conclusions were fairly straightforward.   Subversion is so closely linked with creativity as to be indistinguishable from it, but it is possible to be creative without being subversive.   However, creativity without a point to make could be considered, well, pointless and I would argue that subversion gives creativity its purpose, its energy and drive.

Is there any great art work that is not subversive?

Interesting reading

Andreasen, N. (2014). Secrets of the creative brain. The Atlantic, 62-75.

Banksy. (2005). Wall and piece. London: Century.

Banksy does New York. (2013). Sky Arts.

Barrett, E., & Bolt, B. (2010). Practice as Research. United Kingdom: IB Tauris Co.

BBC Documentary. (2015, 11 3). Imagine – Anthony Gormley.

Cantu, L., Gundersen, D. E., & Rozell, E. J. (2012). Creativity and critical thinking: What is it? Who has it? How do we get more of it? Feature Edition, 108-126.

Chang, C. (2015, 2 27). What does it take to be a genius? Retrieved 11 22, 2015, from News.com.au: http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/mind/what-does-it-take-to-be-a-genius/news-story/bd8024eccbd66bf910cd23cfc3f3beef

Clare Strand . (2015, 12 3). UP Photography Lecture.

Gompertz, W. (2015). Think like and Artist and lead a more creative, productive life. Penguin Books.

Gray, C. &. (2004 ). Visulising Research: A guide to the research process in art and design. Ashgate Publishing.

Hyde, L. (2008). Trickster makes this world: how disruptive imagination creates culture. Edinburgh: Canongate Books.

Joines, V., & Stewart, I. (2002). Personality Adaptations. Kegworth: Lifespace Publishing.

Joines, V., & Stewart, I. (2003). TA Today – an introduction to Transactional Analysis. Nottingham: Russell Press.

Loori, J. D. (2005). The Zen of Creativity: cultivating your artistic life. New York: Ballantine.

McNiff, S. (1998). Art based research. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Sachs S, Minioudaki K. (2010). Seductive Subversion – women pop artists 1958-1968. New York: Abbeville.

Sullivan, G. (2010). Art practice as research. United States: Sage Publications.

The Reith Lectures – Grayson Perry. (2013). Retrieved 2015, from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00729d9/episodes/downloads

Think Different. (n.d.). Retrieved 11 30, 2015, from The Crazy Ones: http://www.thecrazyones.it/spot-en.html


Week 10 – going deeper

Creativity Research

Discovered this quote this week, pretty much sums up the crux of my presentation:

“Ultimately creativity is an act of rebellion

You have to be downright subversive to be creative and you must have the courage to broadcast your ideas to a resistant world.”

Professor Allan Snyder.

And this 1997 advert from Apple which perfectly sums up subversion and creativity – so well in fact maybe I should just show this instead of the 15 min presentation I have planned!

Tanya Wood and Liminality

On recommendation, I discovered the work of local artist Tanya Wood – I have seen her work before – very impressive detailed pencil drawings.  I could not draw that patiently!   I heard that she had some some work on ‘edges’ and this is a quote from her website:

“The station for many is an everyday experience and a site of change, the digital platform and platform edge is in a variety of ways, a precarious line between one condition and another. How many of us pay attention to where we are when we are routinely between places?”  Tanya Wood 

In other words, a station is a liminal space, where danger lurks!

Two of Tanya’s pictures are shown below (with the artists permission).  Torn edge and Platform Edge.

Katayoun Dowlatshahi

Similarly, I was recommended the work of Katayoun Dowlatshahi – who has a series called “Liminal” and says:

“I am driven to explore the threshold between the visible and invisible; the conscious and the unconscious states.”

I enjoyed this interview with her on YouTube as well – hearing artists discussing how they work is always inspiring.   I love her work.

Using Pinterest for research

I spent several happy hours on Pinterest this week – I love Pinterest, the entire world is brought to you – and not just established artists but any artist who has uploaded their work holds equal space and you can admire their work.  I have done a lot of research on Pinterest and follow some very interesting people.

Links to my Pinterest boards:


Loved this idea from Paula Zuccotti – she asked 62 people to document and photograph what they had touched that day.  Amazing array of items!


The featured image is some silver birch twigs against an evening sky.

Developing my fine art practice – week… 7 or is it 8?!

Work for my proposal

I have continued this week to delve into all sorts of interesting articles around the artists who appeal to me and the art I’d like to do.  I am still fairly novice at all this so it was interesting to see the review here of the John Hoyland exhibition in London.   I really like his work, but this reviewer obviously didn’t!      I must make a trip up to see it, there is also an interesting interview with Damien Hurst about it on his website.

John Hoyland - Blues, reds 1969
John Hoyland – Blues, reds 1969

This week I was really taken with the Anthony Gormley documentary on BBC1 this week – I’ve watched it twice already and fully intend to watch it again.  I have always loved his figures but I did not realise the depth and story behind them.   I have a wonderful photograph of his figure (“SoundII”) in the crypt at Winchester Cathedral in my house and it never fails to give a sense of peace and calm.       I remember his figures in London (“Event Horizon” 2007) and always enjoyed walking over Waterloo Bridge with them watching over me.  I gather some people found it sinister, but I felt they were benign watchers.

Anthony Gormley, Event Horizon, London 2007

I have continued to research liminal spaces – doors, bridges and the seashore and I am developing my ideas around using these as a metaphor for the liminal spaces in our mind – Eckhart Tolle’s ‘Now’.

As part of that I was researching the use of doors as metaphors in the BBC3 series Being Human as it is used throughout the series as the threshold to the next life (whatever that may be).

This scene from the first series is incredibly emotional as Annie finds her door, but doesn’t want to leave her friends, and it then dissolves into comedy 🙂

Creativity and subversion research

We were discussing creativity and what it is in our tutorials this week and I went on to do some more delving.    I read an interesting article by Svetlana Nikitina about Hackers as Tricksters in the digital age – creativity in Hacker Culture – although on the face of it hacking is clearly subversive, she goes deeper and quotes a definition of creativity as:

“A creative act is one that generates novel products of value” (Robert Wiesberg)

And then goes on to argue that hackers do their hacking for it’s own sake, not to create anything and therefore it is not a truly creative act.

A second article I read that was very absorbing was about trying to define creativity, measure creativity and by understanding both of them, increase creativity.     It was fascinating to see the process we call creativity broken down into 37 elements, all of which are necessary – and to see that one of the most important is persistence.  Creative people are persistent, they keep on trying, and do not see failures, they reflect and work out how to do it better the next time.  If at first you don’t succeed….

Also practice increases creativity – so I better get on with some painting!

Featured Image

This weeks featured image is a triple whammy regarding liminal space – tide’s out, under a bridge at twilight! (Forton Bridge, Gosport) I was quite pleased with that one 🙂

Playing with acrylics – learning how to paint

I have only really painted in watercolour and had training in watercolour techniques – I have never ventured into acrylic until this year.  Initially I just did finger painting (and great fun it was too!) but recently, inspired by work I have seen, I have been venturing into ‘proper’ painting, with brushes and canvasses.

I have a couple of books out of the library and am diving in to see what happens.   My first impressions are that it is fun, and being able to obliterate mistakes by painting over them is a refreshing change over the confines of watercolour! Here is this weeks crop – what do you think?!

World weary - watercolour and acrylic
World weary – watercolour and acrylic
The void - acrylic on canvas
The void – acrylic on canvas (‘finger painting’)
Hand  - acrylic on canvas
Hand – acrylic on canvas
Trapped  - acrylic on canvas
Trapped – acrylic on canvas

Week 6 – Creativity and subversion – where does it come from?

Subversion / creativity project

I have had some time this week for my uni work!  (but perhaps not as much as I’d like) – I have done a great deal more research about the origins of creativity – where does that human streak come from?    I have been reading about how the Greeks thought it was a gift from God, to Freud who was one of the first people to think it arose from the subconscious.

Personally I think it is the child within us who is creative – if you subscribe to the TA (Tranactional Analysis) school of thought, it would be the free child who is fun, free and creative (and subversive – there are no rules!) but in the majority of people, this free child is squashed by the critical parent within us all who tells the child in us that they are not artistic, can’t behave like that, are not doing it right etc.   We all have this side of us that seeks to criticise what we do, and we all have a rebellious child within who wants to break free! (And we need a sensible Adult to help us moderate the more off the wall ideas the free child might have 🙂 )

The model below is very simplified, for more detailed information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transactional_analysis

Eric Berne's Transactional Analysis model of self
Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis model of ego states

Subversive graffiti

I was interested in this news story from the week, about how graffiti artists on the Homeland TV set, have subverted the show by writing negative comments about the show in Arabic graffiti!   The producers didn’t think to check it and it wasn’t uncovered until the show went out on air.   I do not know how appropriate the artists comments are, but I do applaud their creativity.


I am still thinking about how I can do some art to support the subversion theme….. no inspiration yet!   I did think that since one prominent form of subversion has been to be rude and use swear words and be generally obnoxious in order to annoy the older generation, I would subvert that by wearing T’shirts that said incredibly polite things on, like “Thank you very much” and “Golly gosh” but I see someone has been there before me!