Review: Creative Strength Training by Jane Dunnewold
A Transformation Period
In the introduction, Jane explains how to use this book to develop our creative strength. Along the way, we will discover powerful strategies and exercises which combine writing with practical creativity.
Jane advises that whilst this book can be dipped into at any point and can be read a little here and there to get a flavour of what it’s about; to get the most from it, we should start at the beginning and work through it. The chapters are laid out in a logical order to help us to discover ourself.
In each chapter, there are cross training exercises and an Artist’s Respond section which is full of anecdotes, real life stories and examples of how the artists have used the exercises.
Inspired by Jane’s online training programme this book is written in an intelligent and informative style with many of Jane’s own life experiences and observations thrown in for good measure.
What’s in the book – Chapter by Chapter
Defining Creative Stamina
Jane begins by spelling out just what creative stamina is and explains that skills can be cultivated using a steady, balanced regime of cross training exercises. Commitment, knowledge, stamina can all be developed using her exercises. Writing lists can serve a purpose and help to overcome creative block. They can be used as a method to access our inner self for inspiration; capturing ideas, feelings, and thoughts and bringing memories of sights, sounds and tastes into play.
Jane draws a comparison between artists and athletes to explain the importance of the repetitive process of training and how experience of this helps us not to panic when something seems to go wrong. For each exercise, Jane provides a handy checklist as a guideline to help us get started and provides examples from contributing artists who have used her methods.
Chapters 2 & 3
Overcoming Stumbling Blocks Part 1 & 2
These 2 chapters encourage us to harness our inner rebel and break some rules. Jane includes some common obstacles to creative practice such as family commitments, not enough time, too much time, no clear action plan, fear of failure, fear of success, and not enough money. Jane explains how each of these can be overcome by breaking a few rules and being inventive in our way of thinking.
There are a couple of practical cross training exercises in chapter 2 and Jane points out that by doing a new and unfamiliar activity it can energise us. One goal of the exercises is to get to know ourselves better.
There are also some good examples of how artists have used these exercises to produce new work. Most of the artists in this book are from the USA and so are unfamiliar to me but I found the examples were all good quality and provided refreshing ideas. There are short artist’s biographies in the back of the book to provide added information.
In chapter 3 Jane details how writing for clarity is essential and how acknowledgment and questioning our unseen self imposed rules will help with managing studio time. There is a clear explanation of what Jane calls ‘the committee’ and how to use cross training to dismantle it. There are several inspirational examples from artists who have used this method to dismantle their own committee.
The Power of Limitations
In chapter 4 Jane explains how placing limitations on ourselves can be a positive experience and how clearing our working spaces can be beneficial. Recycling and using what we have already got can save time and money and keep us in the studio. Jane urges us to consider what she calls the ‘scavenger hunt approach’ by thinking about content first before deciding on technique and explains how to do this through a series of clear and accessible exercises.
The chapter ends with stories of physical and emotional purges we can all relate to from artists who have imposed limitations on themselves using Jane’s methodology.
Learning to Make and Take Time.
We are all aware of the benefits of living in the present and in this chapter Jane explains the art of slowing down and why study, contemplation and exploration of materials are all important in the creative process. Jane asks why some artworks have the ‘Wow’ factor and some don’t and does size make a difference?
Cross-training exercises for making and taking time are clearly set out. One involves dancing with a broom loaded with black paint which sounds like great fun!
What does Alignment Look Like to You?
Jane tells us what alignment means to her and how to achieve it for ourselves, how to analyse our skill set, be honest about what our goals are and how to how to critique our own work.
The accompanying cross training exercise ask us to analyse our skills and reveal what we love and what we are good at? The artist’s respond by letting us see what they think their own strengths and weaknesses are.
Making Your work Distinctly Your Own
This chapter explores distinctiveness; asking where it comes from and how to nurture it. The focus is on what our preferences are and whether our skill sets and goals align.
The cross training exercise asks ‘What Excites You?’ and the ‘Artists Respond’ section gives an insight into how the individual artists work.
Chapter 8 & 9
Each of Us is fascinating Part 1 & 2
Chapter 8 begins with a story which allows us a glimpse into Jane’s own life. The cross training exercise tells us how start writing our own artist story and in chapter 9 there is instruction on how to distill and edit your story. As Jane says ”When you engage your Artist Self to tell your stories. It’s a brave gift.” The Artists Respond section provides some fascinating examples.
Discovering Grace Through Acts of Making
Jane concludes with a section called ‘You have the Tools to be Authentic’ which gives us the encouragement to reach our own potential and one last cross training exercise called ‘Moving ahead with the Plan.’
Who is it for?
This book will appeal to anyone who has suffered creative block or feels the need to take a fresh approach to their work. It’s a powerful resource for those looking to push their own boundaries and an inspirational device to those who are just starting out.
Have you ever felt that being creative and original on a regular basis is impossible?
Then this book is for you.
Product details Creative Strength Training 2016 by Jane Dunnewold
Published by North Light Books – 144 page full colour illustrated soft back book.
Product Dimensions: 25.5 x 20.5 x 1 cm
Review by Sue Stone
Jane Dunnewold is a professional artist, teacher, and author of Art Cloth: A Guide to Surface Design on Fabric (Interweave 2010) and several other self-published books. She teaches and lectures internationally, and maintains Jane Dunnewold Studios in San Antonio, Texas. Jane Dunnewold is a past President of the international Surface Design Association. Her passions include the psychology of artistry and meaning. She is especially interested in writing and making as integral aspects of the creative process.
For more information visit: www.janedunnewold.com
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