16. Roelnick's Creativity Compound

Dear Sade,

During the time that I taught sculpture and ceramics I often came across students who expected things to happen so fast that I classified them as the 'Instant-Creativity-Brigade'. Their erroneous belief would at times elicit a facetitious response from me: "OK people, I have here for each of you a sealed tin of Roelnick's Instant Creativity Compound' ...it will give you three stunning ceramic art pieces in a blink. Open your cans carefully, your 'magnum opus' should take you about seven minutes flat so we could be out of here in ten. Go, go, go!" Then came the age-old lament: "Why do we have to work so hard... you make it look so easy." The answer to this is no revelation, no 'great shakes', so at the risk of sounding banal here it is. It is a proven fact that the more you do something the better you get at it. When a sceptic said that in golf success relied a great deal on luck, Gary Player, a world class professional golfer at the time, replied: "I've found that the more I practise, the luckier I get." One of the greatest artists ever, Henri Matisse, wrote : "For fifty years I have not stopped working for a single moment. My first session is from nine till twelve. Then I eat, have a short after-lunch nap, and at two pick up my brush again and work until the evening. I don't suppose you will believe this."

Ah you say, work, work, work is all very well but what about talent? God gave each of us talent - but He gave it to us in different measure. How are you going to find out how much you received unless you give it a very good chance? It has been said that a pauper is someone with talent and no energy, a prince is someone with energy and no talent and a king is someone with talent and energy. There are numerous examples of creative people who were successful with a small amount of talent and a great deal of energy. Just to name four: Sir Jeffrey Archer, one-time British M.P., best-selling author and multimillionaire, the artists Derain, Vlaminck and van Dongen.

OK let's put some cards on the studio table: when you're a fledgling artist your first attempts are not going to be terribly awe-inspiring, in fact most of them will be downright appalling. Before we can be good at something we have to come to grief at the starting line. This is tough because effort takes time and we have been conditioned in our Instant-Everything-Society to accept nothing less than instant cash, instant meals, instant gratification, instant bookings, instant responses - so now we want to add instant success. When this is not forthcoming we draw the blinds on our seemingly futile, infantile attempts at creativity, and join the ranks of Art-Casualties consoling ourselves with 'What ifs'. However, if we muster that little seed of faith in our abilities and work through our disastrous defects we will notice little victories cropping up. These small jumps will increase in length over time until one day we find ourselves taking a giant leap of joy when a painting works out well. A strange feeling of elation mixed with humility comes over us as we look back in the knowledge that the starting line is no longer visible. However, was it even there in the first place?

Love Gramps
April 1999

"High is our calling, Friend! Creative Art
Demands the service of a mind and heart,
And oh, when Nature sinks as oft she may,
Still to be strenuous for the great reward
And in the soul admit of no decay, -
Great is the glory, for the strife is hard!"

From Sonnets, Pt 2, No. 3
(To B.R. Haydon)