Am I repeating myself?


Ashley by Daisy Perkins. Nice.
The old cliché that ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results’, has been doing the rounds again recently. Like many thoughts we return to, it has both utility and nuance.

When we learn, we tend to use repetition to embed skills: as observational artists we look and look again, each time expecting to see more and describe better. Our craft involves a great deal of doing the same thing again and again, mixing paint, sharpening pencils, priming boards, judging value, checking proportion, scraping back. All good, and predictable results are what we look for. Where we look for difference is in our art and it is there that we must be aware of the pitfalls of unconscious repetition.

None of us want to paint the same picture twice. We are on a journey, each visual statement is a step along the way, as we stride on to new pastures we feel the spring of the turf beneath our eager feet. When it comes to creativity, repetition is the deadening hand, the dry wind that sears the juice from our sweet fruit. It is a retraction from the scary, ever-changing present moment Now, back to the remembered safety of prior gambits, the dry bones of past ambition.

Creativity is all about the new, it may look at the old but the eyes are dewy fresh. When we find ourselves languishing in the airless seas of cliché, the zephyr required is the new and the different. We are fortunate in that we live in a world of change, each moment is new and freshly minted, so novelty is not in short supply. If we cannot see it, it’s either because we don’t want to (it’s scary) or because we are not looking.

Even if we change just one aspect of what we are doing we will be helping our selves. A change of subject, space, materials, attitude, or preoccupation will all cause us to fall back on our creative resources. The most important routine an artist can have is to break routine, to connect with what is, rather than what has been.

With the possibility of a Christmas just around the corner why not choose to be gifted a new colour/brush/paper completely at random by a loved one and then to commit to using it and seeing where it goes?