Ideas and thoughts that might, just might, help you. Might. And other ramblings of a creative nature.
My girlfriend Jen (www.artbyjen.co.uk) badgered me into taking part in the latter half of Inktober; namely, drawing something in ink each day and posting online. Rising to the challenge, I decided to do my own version (awkward sod that I am) and have devised Magink – magicians sketched in ink.
If you’re interested and this kind of thing swings your curiosity pendulum to ‘ohhh’ then please check out or follow me on Instagram. Alternatively, you can do one of those thumbs-up likey things on Facebook.
And here’s a sketch of UK underground magician turned super-star Dynamo doing his card-cutting wizardry. Enjoy!
Having been asked to write a tribute to my mentor, friend and adopted granddad Eugene Burger, who was the world’s leading voice on the philosophy and role of the magician, inspired me to pick up the pencils after a sabbatical. Miss you Eugene. (Tribute will be published in November issue of MagicSeen.)
Recently, my director and I were approached to help teach magic to a celebrity couple on a prime-time TV show. We quickly declined. Why?
Television is a platform where you, as a performer, artist or whatever, will have no control over the edit, and therefore will not know how you may be cast. The vast majority of TV production companies will not do anything to tarnish you, your brand or reputation (unless you decide to work for any of the growing number of television shows which do nothing but embarrass the participants) but you will still have no control over what will finally be displayed before the eyes of the masses.
Secondly, television rarely pays any actual cash for these kind of roles. They usually tempt you instead with the ‘publicity’ it will garner for you. Of course, this more often than not, fails to turn into anything tangible. People watch with their minds elsewhere, so they won’t recall you were even on the show (in the 2 seconds that finally did make the final cut), let alone remember your name and what you did. Most shows don’t even offer you expenses.
Thirdly, and this is a biggy for me personally, is a matter of dignity. There just isn’t that much dignity any more to the vast majority of reaility television programming. All of the popular reality shows are made cheaply, and dumbed-down to the level where we can consume it without giving a moments thought to any challenging ideas or concepts.
In the performance business people climb over each other for any kind of television exposure thinking that ‘as seen on TV’ will do them good. I argue that it can do more harm than good. It will rarely, if ever, help you raise your game as a performer, only satisfying your ego. If that’s all it takes to make you feel that you’ve done a good job, then good on you. For others, it’s a case of constantly striving to produce more meaningful and quality work.
It’s a matter of dignity.
Goals, goals, goals… another quick reason why I think short term goals are not something to get too heavily obsessed over; blinkers.
And that’s not a swearword from the Carry-On era.
If we stay focused on the goal, aiming for that and nothing else, then we fail to see opportunities just outside of that vision.
When I reflect on the opportunities and creative projects I have had success with they have come about through a goal-less strategy. Had I been too focused on a particular goal then I’m confident I would have missed these chances to create something.
So free yourself from the never-ending verbiage from ‘get-things-done-Guru’s’ and let goals go for a while. Stay alert and just see what comes your way. You may never know what opportunities you may encounter now you have your blinkers removed. Glance sideways and enjoy the view!
1.BRITISHa pair of small leather screens attached to a horse’s bridle to prevent it seeing sideways and behind and being startled.
The old fashioned way… I’m staying with friends and we share a meal, sit around the log fire, drink, talk and further add to our developing friendship. Later today I’m with other friends doing the same (exchanging log fire for outdoor fire-pit).
The modern way seems to be a case of gathering ‘friends’ (some boasting 5000 plus) and the conversation being a mixture of funny faces, where ‘love’ is represented by a simple ‘x’. Where is the actual love?
I’m a user of the modern way, but really count my friends as those I actually take time out to see, speak to and share experiences.
Those I invest in. And vice-versa.
A quick tale; many of us were catching up after several years of being apart. We were all around 30 years young. We played games, drank and were generally merry and having fun on hearing each others experiences over the last few years. Two teenagers joined us who both sat at opposite ends of the sofa and were absorbed in their phones and their, no doubt, many ‘friendships’ in the digital world of smiley faces. They wouldn’t join in with us, wouldn’t talk, and struggled to even hold eye contact. When we finally started ribbing them as to who they were ‘texting’ it turned out it was each other! Yep, they were in a ‘relationship’.
Consider the depth of your real friendships with those closest to you. And how they may have drifted apart if a physical hug has become a simple emoji.
As social animals we crave company. And loneliness isn’t solved by a smiley face or an ‘x’. Do as I will now; put the digital world to sleep and go talk!
I’m currently writing a book on performing and have been thinking about the reason why I chose to perform magic. Yes, it’s because I love the art-form. But do audiences? Aside from me enjoying myself, was there a good living to be made? Would my audiences enjoy it as much as I?
And then I got thinking about the other things I’ve done. Writing for instance. And that led me to think about the artists, magicians, entertainers and authors I know who don’t actively pursue their passion. Perhaps they think ‘what’s the point?’
If the end result is money, then to me you have the wrong agenda baby. You’re creating solely for the end result.
The enjoyment, satisfaction and reward should be the experience itself. It should be self-fulfilling.
When I perform magic, whether in practice or paid play, time passes by and I’m totally absorbed in the moment. The act of magic. When I write, same applies. And now after a few years sabbatical, I’m playing with pencil and paint again.
This complete immersion in the activity makes you lose your sense of self. You become ‘one’ with the creation. When I write my fingers flow over the keyboard and should the door-bell go it actually shocks me back into myself. When I draw I find myself flowing with the pencil.
Sound to woo-woo?
If you’re creating for the sheer enjoyment of it, for yourself and for no other reason then you’ll know what I mean. If you’re creating for an end result of money or recognition, then perhaps you’ll not feel the difference between a true act of creation and the commercialisation of your talent for other ends.
Talking to artists and performers there’s a clear difference.
The key comes to being paid to still create for yourself. And that is what my forthcoming book aims to address. Ever onwards…
Can this be right? No, surely not. Every inspirational-cum-leader-guru-self-help-The-Secret-and-other-such-cackery tells us that the key to success (whatever that may mean, usually undefined, but often referring only to monetary gain) is to set goals.
Having given this a lot of thought and reflection, I’ve long reached the decision that the setting of goals is pointless.
I’m currently writing a book on performing and have been contemplating the effects that goal-setting, or rather the lack of it, has affected my life. Whilst I wont go into the depth I will in the book (shameless plug, although it won’t be available until sometime 2018) it’s enough to say that I think goal-setting is pointless as it is currently understood in our society.
We all want everything instantly. We want a six-pack in days. We want a pill to get rid of our back ache right now. We want instant gratification. Want to be famous? Simply go on a TV talent show. Want to be a magician? Jump on YouTube and learn.
But long term mastery of a subject, art or career is something that will take time, effort and dedication. Setting a goal to be, for example, a kung-fu expert is only going to mean you don’t truly reach the goal. And the end result? One of feeling like a failure (whatever that means, usually undefined, but often referring to not having made considerable monetary gain).
So, if you really must set a goal, then put it in a realistic time-frame. E.g. something you will master over the next 20-30 years. Suddenly that’s not as promising as the self-help books would have us believe. Hence the fat folks still carry on trying to lose weight year-upon-year, the employed folks try to become their own boss and the gym is full of wannabe weight lifters who stop going after the first week or two.
Mastering anything takes a lifetime.
For me there’s another, bigger down-side to goal setting and I’ll come on to that in a future rambling.
For now, do you set goals and if so why? Sounds a daft question, but setting them to achieve something usually has the opposite effect; we rarely achieve what we set out to and so feel deflated. What was the point then?
As a creative person, I’m fortunate enough to meet and correspond with many other ‘creatives’ and that brings up many interesting theoretical discussions. Leading on from a recent discussion with my theoretical sparring partner D.M.Kruger (a superbly talented musician and producer), what makes art art?
I summarise it as the skill being made manifest as a creative object, be it painting, magical performance, writing, sculpting or otherwise, but having two key components brought to the process; namely poetry and love.
If either is missing then the result becomes a shallow representation of skill.
But a painting expressing the poetry (or we could say grace) and love of the artist, makes it a work of art.
What do you think?
A thought for you. ‘Creativity demands solitude’.
Do you agree?
As a magician, I find I create the procedure in isolation. But the plot often comes through collaboration with other performers, my director and magical friends (yes, I actually have magical friends!).
As a writer, I create in solitude, writing being, for me, a very personal experience.
As an artist, I work in solitude.
But in all disciplines, I know I can’t make it happen on my own. I need to team up with others. But at what stage is the creative journey done? Before making it a reality with others? Or during that phase, organically working and developing the concept?
Hmmm… An answer can’t be found in solitude. Or can it?
So, I was thinking.
We hear of visionaries wanting to create colonies on Mars. A conservatory on the Moon. Anywhere other than here. And with our growing want for shiny new play things, devices that numb us, dumb us and separate us from ourselves and each other, will we cope with these grand visions for the future?
As we become more cemented in, moving away from nature and the balance we have living in reciprocity with others on Earth, the more we see mental illness rise, suicide and depression on the increase.
Whilst conceptual images of a happy, thriving society adorn the pages of visionary websites, with their glass walls, robots fulfilling our every need, shiny surfaces and minimalist white spaces, flecked with the subtlest hint of colour, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves why this eagerness for disconnect from the natural world?
We work to save our money and celebrate those two glorious weeks in the sun. The Sun. A source of energy. A natural presence which we cannot live without. We lay be the sea; that natural and awesome shifting mass, waves coming in and out, sighing with its own gentle breath. We seek shelter from the palm trees, and breathe the clean sea air.
Fire, water, earth and air.
Where’s that in our future vision?
The more we think ourselves as all important beings who’s thirst for technological advancement has far more precedence and importance over the naturalness of what we truly are, the more we will cease to be.
So, next time you’re wowed by the latest vision of the perfect future, with flying cars, huge multiplex societies living in their glass domes, the whiteness of nothingness surrounding us, take a moment to go hug a tree and ask yourself if the future we appear to be chasing is the one which will allow us to truly thrive?