***

When I was in college we used old coffee cans to clean our brushes. You laid a strip of screen inside, leaving an inch or two of space at the bottom and wrapped it around the top edges, taping down the sharp parts. Then you filled it half-way with thinner or turpentine and cleaned your brushes by scrubbing them against the screen down in the murk.

By the end of the semester the bottom of the can would fill with all the excess paint and sometimes, if you painted a lot, you’d have to pull the screen up a bit in order to get to the clean turpentine or you’d just end up scrubbing your brush in the sludge at the bottom, making your thinner all cloudy again and muddying the colors on your palette. At the end of the year, you’d pour off the turpentine, take out the screen and let the left-over sludge dry out some. Then you’d scrape it into the trash in order to start over.

I loved that sludge, the color and consistency. It was an even, cool, greenish-grey like moss (at least mine was) and if you spread it out, there would occasionally be veins of color, like the strata of the Earth, all stripes and dinosaur bones and the history of the paintings you’d done laying there in the sediment of the colors you mixed. The consistency was soft, almost buttery, and it was great to paint and draw with. All the binder in the original paint had been stripped out, so it would dry dull and flat like an Ad Reinhardt painting. If you kept a little on your palette, it could be a useful way to cohere the colors in a piece; a hue-glue and muddier, an excellent ground layer.

The sludge was a physical representation of all the beauty inherent in blending and the value found in separating something into small parts.

You can learn a lot from taking things apart.

About

The Creativity Diagram is an attempt to quantify the resources available to creative people so that they can prepare for ideas.  It could also be considered a guide to an active relationship with the environment of creativity. Or perhaps it describes an ecosystem in which an artist, writer, or musician can build a habitat. And like organic ecosystems, it can be harsh or temperate- it can be a rich green jungle or the mountains of the moon. It may also have seasons, and with this tool we can look ahead to see the coming rain.

 

Ideas grow in all kinds of soil- the soil we make with our interests, our craftsmanship, and our desire to tell the world about the things that we can see from here. This could be a chart to prepare ourselves for whatever seed of an idea comes dragging a stick across your picket fence. It describes some of the ways that we can nurture those ideas.  It’s a Farmer’s Almanac for the artistic temperament.
Also, it can be a problem-solving tool, pointing you towards balance. If that’s the kind of thing you’re into.


This hour-long presentation by artist and educator Neal Von Flue is currently in testing, which means it’s available for free to interested groups. Use the contact form to inquire.

Testimonials

“This presentation is like a giraffe in a swimming pool: maybe not wholly practical, and kind of crazy to look at, but it’s also the only thing that won’t drown no matter how far into the deep end it may wander.”

–An anonymous artist

Contact

If you’re interested in learning more about this presentation, use the contact form below.