Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Celebrating Multi-Discipline Artists

Illustration: The work of the 24 artists featured in Inspirational issues 1/2/3

Since starting the Inspirational project last year, I have been lucky enough to connect with twenty four artists that have been featured in three issues. That is pretty good going in its own right, but what has intrigued me most, and has caused me to celebrate the fact in this article, is the number of artists who have taken it upon themselves to expand their creativity beyond the limits of their own discipline, which would be the one they studied for, or started in. 

In so many cases I have come across artists that have made decisions to move their work forward by incorporating different disciplines into their work method. This could be anything, depending on the main focus of the artist, but often includes photography, ceramics, fine art painting, print, natural dyeing, the list is a long and varied one, sometimes surprisingly so. 

There is also an interesting enthusiasm for using a wider range of raw materials, including the recycled and the thrown away, the natural, the manipulated, and the engineered. Many of these materials are not sympathetic, or expected, they are rarely the norm for the disciplines of the artists, yet the artist still feels a strong call to expand their world of creativity. Why?

A lot can be said for the work of those artists who have taken to teaching their skills and their mindset to others. There are many artists who now teach for segments of the year, not only practical skills, but teaching of the natural expansion of creativity into other areas of work, and how that can help to enrich perspective, and the road to artistic individualism.

Another influence has to be the growth of the internet. The net is barely into its third decade, google wasn't founded until 1997, facebook in 2004, pinterest in 2010, but already it has had an enormous influence on the amount of information that each individual has at their fingertips. The creative artist is particularly well suited to this phenomenon as much of the internet today is visual in nature. Never before have we been able to see so much artwork in one place at one time. 

The increased interconnectedness of the net allows us to share, discuss, praise, support, and celebrate individual artists, as well as the community in general. It allows us to highlight work, to cross-over work, to connect between, over, and through disciplines. It allows us to become familiar with artists that use the term multi-discipline as a true moniker, rather than someone who 'didn't quite fit'. Multi-disciplined artists are quickly becoming the norm, and for that we should certainly celebrate.

There is also a general feeling, particularly amongst, but not exclusive to younger artists, that it really doesn't matter anymore. It doesn't matter what you call yourself, or what others call you. It doesn't matter if you use textiles, ceramics, glass, metal, wood, stone, or if you use all of them at once. That to me is a particularly healthy place to be, healthier still is that no one seems to care much what the purity discipline experts have to say any more.

Creativity should never be about purity, never about historical accuracy, and certainly never about non-contamination with other disciplines. No discipline should ever have to have walls put up around it to protect it from the contemporary world, do that and a discipline becomes an historical enactment and nothing more.

To me, all disciplines should be coaxed into areas that are unusual for them, perhaps even uncomfortable for them. A creative artists life is about the excitement of exploration, of cross-pollination, of what can be done with their own perspective on the world of creativity, regardless of the rules. That is all anyone can ask for and all anyone should expect, and I for one am celebrating that fact. Happy mixing everyone! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Workbox Magazine, TTB, and the Art of Mutual Support


I was kindly asked by Workbox magazine whether I would agree to be featured in their March/April issue. I said yes of course, and here we are being featured, John Hopper and ttb in that March/April 2015 issue. 

For me it is an opportunity to help spread the message of what I am trying to do through ttb, the Inspirational magazine, and me as John Hopper the individual, for the magazine it is an opportunity to highlight an aspect of the contemporary creative world, giving a window to that rich complex, but endlessly creative world that they are helping to represent.

This opportunity to form a connection between myself/ttb/inspirational and Workbox magazine made me think about connections in particular and in general. It started me thinking about all of the mutually beneficial connections and support mechanisms that I have been involved in, and how they have managed to change my life.

I am not talking about financial or business connections and support, I am talking about mutually beneficial personal connections and support within the creative community. I have been lucky in finding so many individuals within the contemporary creative arts community that we all find ourselves in, individuals that are genuine, open, compassionate, thoughtful, understanding, and above all fully supportive of each other. 

That can be hard to find in our world where it is still considered the norm by many to step on others before they step on you. Many still see the individual as all that matters, that support groups are a form of weakness, that tolerance and understanding are irrelevant. However, things are changing and the former perception of me, myself, and I is gradually beginning to break down, to be replaced by the infinitely preferred we.


The internet is doing much to shift focus from the I. Although many still use that particular platform to spread the word about themselves at the expense of others, there are many more that are forming groups, communities, as well as mutual support between individuals that are not based on single egos, but on the mutual support of all. 

We live in a world where for perhaps the first time, we are in a position where we are all able to help to foster a feeling of genuine support for each other, even in small ways, a gesture, a smile from one side of the planet to the other, a 'good morning', a 'how are you', a 'thank you'. Most of us will never see each other face to face, but that's OK, we don't need to if we know that we are always there.

A mutually supportive network, a framework of connectivity is something that we as humans need and should be able to deliver. More specifically, we need one for the creative arts world. Many artists or would be artists struggle by themselves, feel cut off, abandoned, starved of positive creative conversation. Those who feel an aggressive antipathy towards the creative arts are not generally the most supportive of voices, and there are still a lot of them out there and they can be needlessly hurtful and dismissive.

The art of mutual support must be seen as an ongoing process. We have entered a century that can be seen as dark and forbidding, with complex and seemingly endless problems. However, we could also see it as a century of potential, of a growing together as a community, of the final laying aside of the ego in favour of endless connectivity. 

These things don't happen overnight, you have to put intention out there for change, but change can happen and there seems no reason why the creative art community, a community known for its tolerance, understanding, expansive thoughtfulness, compassion, and support, cannot lead the way. It is through mutual support that we help change, that we begin to unglue the codes of the selfishness of the lone ego, and start creating a much larger world, one more celebratory, one in which we can all grow and flourish, not just the few. 

I thank Workbox magazine for helping to give me the chance to expand connections, it is much appreciated. Visit the Workbox magazine website, where a sample of the March/April 2015 issue can be found, including the feature about yours truly, the site can be found HERE


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nature is Everything, and Everything is Nature

Illustration: Lilly Jacker. Detail of a costume, 1928.

Nature is everything, and everything is nature. What do I mean by that? 

Nature is the world, there is no other world but the one we live in, and all of its elements no matter how artificially derived, have compounds that are part of that planet. There is nothing on earth that has not been home-grown, that is not part of the process of life on the planet, no matter how remote from nature it may appear to be, and no matter how many fantasies we roll out in our urban enclaves that appear to separate us from the rest of the planet. 

Contemporary technology for example, is a great addition to our lives, and I for one would be bereft without it, and I certainly would not be able to connect with you all out there without it. I think that the future of technology has the potential to link us all to the greater good, but let's not fool ourselves into believing that our mobile technology has somehow arrived fully formed without having any contact with the planet. They are all made from elements of the planet, its ores, its chemicals, its life cycle processes.

I don't wish to belittle us as a species, we have achieved much through a haze of, at times great difficulty, much of it our own making I would add, and although we are set on a path to eventual maturity, that path to maturity will have to entail stepping back and realising that we are an integral part of the planet that we sit on. Part of that maturity would be admitting that we as humans put the elements of our world together from the already existing world, we always have, and as far as we know, we always will do.

We move elements and raw materials around to suit our needs. We build our shining towers, our hermetically sealed apartments, our almost sealed lives, but we never seem to connect that all of this doesn't just appear, we cannot grasp something from nothing, we cannot wave magic wands and our technology and lifestyle artefacts appear from thin air. They are all rooted within the planet, we bring them into their present form, but from the raw materials that the planet supplies. It would be like saying that I as a human baked a cake, but that I didn't need any ingredients from the planet. I might vindicate myself, swagger in a whirl of self-pride, but I would still eventually have to admit eventually that there was no cake. We cannot create the fantasies of our urban lives and pretend there is no connection with the planet.

No matter how remote the material may seem, all derives from the planet. Plastic is based on an element of the planet, glass is derived from sand, metal has to be dug from the earth, many of our drugs are based on the plants that grow across the planet. In many ways we should be looking at our TV's, our cars, our aircraft, phones, computers and saying "you are of the earth, the same as me". 

I am not going to get into the issue of what we are doing to the planet in order to get those raw materials, that is not what this article is about. It is also not about what happens to materials such as plastic once they come into being. It is about understanding that our human world, no matter how artificial it may appear sometimes, is rooted in the life of the planet, it is not an aesthetic world divorced from the natural world, it is the world, and with that understanding it becomes self-evident that we are enmeshed in that same world. If we don't make that connection then we will not be able to move forward in our path.

There is often the case put forward that the planet would be better off without us humans, and I can understand the reasoning, but the reasoning is also flawed in one vital element. It implies that somehow we are not natural to the planet, that we are outsiders that have imposed ourselves onto the system. We may not be acting naturally, certainly not for the betterment of all lifeforms on the planet including ourselves, but that doesn't mean that we are not just as much part of the lifeblood of the planet as every other creature that inhabits it with us, and it is a mistake to believe that because we are estranged from the planet at this juncture, that that will always be the case.

Perhaps when we begin to understand that we belong, that we are rooted within the planetary system, will we begin to understand our role in its life, when we begin to understand that we have not been separated from the rest of the planet by the will of deities, history, or character, then we will be able to move forward into our true destiny.

Further reading links:

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The First Hint of Inspirational 3

Illustration: Cover, minus artist names, of Inspirational 3

Here is the first look at the cover of issue 3 of Inspirational. I have purposefully left off the names of the eight artists that will be featured in this upcoming issue, you will see why a little later on.

With this future set of eight artists I will, counting all three issues together, have featured twenty four contemporary artists that in my opinion are both inspirational and aspirational. I personally think that that is pretty good going considering that all aspects of the Inspirational project/venture has been personally done by myself, that includes writing, editing, graphics, the actual putting together of the magazine, publicity, selling, and so on. Contrary to what some may assume, I do not have a ttb team, it is just me, my keyboard, and my unbounded enthusiasm for the creative arts :)

This is by no means a chance for me to show off, far from it, but I do want to make it clear that what I am trying to do can be done by others. We live in a world now where we are not constrained by what cannot be achieved, but are entering a much wider world of what can be achieved, and that is important. No longer are we constrained by the stranglehold of the few, those that held the reins of power for so long, allowing so many truly talented and struggling artists to live in the negative; the creative scene is now so much more fluid, much more dynamic, full of enthusiasm and progressive optimism. 

Illustration: Mosaic of the work of the eight artists featured, as well as the front cover, minus artists names, of Inspirational 3

I do understand however, that many see the crumbling of the old institutions as threatening in some way, we have all lived with the old pre-internet options for so long that we have seen them as permanent, rather than being just useful for their moment. It can often appear to be an unsettling notion of the new that concerns many, of the untried, of the untested. Perhaps it would be good to take notice of many young people who are involving themselves in the creative arts, building new strategies and new formats for the age they live in and not the age that has been left behind.

So many people across the planet, whether younger or older, have had the first opportunity to set up creative businesses of all descriptions, mostly due to the freedom and international reach given to them, by the internet. Personally, I see great things for the creative arts, a great expansion of artistic creativity, of inspiration, of ability, of influence. It is a time when the creative arts can finally do what it was always meant to do and that is be at the central core of the human experience, not at its edges.

Anyway, back to issue 3 of Inspirational, it will be released on March 12 to a full fanfare by yours truly. The eight artists that will be featured in this issue will be released within the next few days, but I did think it might be fun for you all to try and guess from the photo mosaic, who some or all of those eight artists might be. I will be releasing the same challenge on my facebook/google+/twitter sites, so you won't or can't really miss me.

Thanks so much to all of you for your genuine and enthusiastic support through the years for ttb, and now for the Inspirational project. It makes such a difference to know that you have people out there who are rooting for you and appreciate what you are trying to do, but I would say, that if I can try to make a difference, then I feel anyone and everyone can.

Thanks for everything.

John

Monday, January 26, 2015

Short Walks in Summer



Just a short article today. Because so many of us still seem to be in the throws of winter, at least if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, I thought that it might be nice to share with you a few of the videos that I took last summer and have only now gotten around to sharing on YouTube. 

There are three short videos of my daily walks, where I can relax, unwind, see the purpose and fulfilment of the natural world. Not everyone is lucky enough to experience these small, but precious moments, but I hope that this series of videos, all now available on YouTube, will bring a little of my world to you.

Perhaps this coming Spring/Summer/Autumn I may well get out there and take some more. Sometimes you have to be aware that it is a gift to be alive.

John

Monday, January 19, 2015

Fixed Perspective

Illustration: Fixed Perspective 1 by John Hopper, 2015.

If you type perspective into google the first definition you get is that of the practical perspective , as in 'the art of representing three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface'. However, the second definition you get is the one that serves this article today, and that is 'a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something'. Other definitions of this second idea of perspective give such words and phrases as 'a mental view of outlook', 'to self review', 'the ability to consider things', all of these are invaluable possessions to own when considering your own perspective on the world and on that of your fellow humans.

There are many ideas about human perspective, and even more about the uniqueness or not of individual perspective. One idea is that you have a fixed character from birth, that all of the characteristics that make you 'you' are set rigidly at birth and from then on there is no real change, apart from minor movements and shifts here and there. Another is that your character is in flux, amenable to change until you reach adulthood, once that is reached, your character is set rigid and that is you for the rest of your life. There are others, but they tend to run along the same lines.

Illustration: Fixed Perspective 2 by John Hopper, 2015.

What is interesting is the number of times that you come up against the idea of a fixed perspective, a form of denying growth, change, movement even, and more disturbing still, the number of individuals who believe without questioning that this must be so. Personally I do not believe in fixed perspectives. Life is about experience and that experience blends and mixes with your individual perspective, changing it, maturing it, allowing it to see so much more than you were ever taught to believe was out there, if you allow it to of course.

Part of the problem with so much of the human world today is that we are taught that perspective always has to be hard, controlled, and inflexible. You hate an individual or a group of people because they have a different perspective than you. You value your own perspective, but you feel that they do not value you and yours, even though you may know nothing at all about their true perspective, only that which has been fed to you by others.

Illustration: Fixed Perspective 3 by John Hopper, 2015.

The only way that we will ever get past this seemingly stuck period of intransigence is by embracing diversity. There are so many viewpoints on each pertinent issue on our planet, that the powers that be, including the media, can only see two versions, 'their' way and the 'wrong' way, is a tragedy set to continue as long as we allow them to captivate the perspective of us all, rather than allowing ourselves the dignity of our own viewpoint on the world and its issues.

The creative community is a great example of diversity, empathy, understanding, and tolerance, which in many cases is probably why it is consistently marginalised by mainstream society. However, it is the job of all of those directly and indirectly involved within the creative community to show that same diversity, empathy, understanding, and tolerance, to the world and to our fellow humans. So they don't get you, so they don't understand where you are coming from, they don't understand why you bother with creativity in the first place, that is their perspective. Smile and be tolerant of that perspective.

There is always room for change, always room for growth, it can come from a slow accumulation of moments, or it can come in one instant revelation, and it doesn't matter whether you are twenty, fifty, or eighty. Life is a constant journey of revelation, of petals falling from your eyes, comprehending more and more of life as you grow older. Never let it be one where your view of life becomes diminished, harder, more intransigent the older you get. Never limit  your life view, never fix your perspective so that you cannot adapt and offer more. Life can be good if you have the right perspective.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Inspirational Issue 2 is Published!



Today sees the launch of issue 2 of Inspirational. This issue features the inspirational and aspirational work of: India Flint, Sarah Purvey, Deidre Adams, Meredith Woolnough, Sue Hotchkis, Karen Gubitz, F. E. Clark, Jonathan Fuller. Each artist has an article written by me, which looks at how each individual creative perceives the world around them and within them, and then how that is projected on to their creative work.

This second issue comes about due to the enthusiasm and support of all those who bought and championed the first issue, including the artists, and for that I will always be truly grateful. For this issue I would like to thank all of the eight artists for their genuine and heart-felt support, I really couldn't have done it without them.


Inspirational has been purposely produced in downloadable format for two main and valuable reasons, firstly that it should be instantaneously available to anyone on the planet irrespective of where they are geographically, secondly this format does its bit in helping to save some of our precious trees from ending up as paper.

Inspirational is in PDF format so that it can easily be opened and read either on a computer using Adobe Reader, or through a tablet using a PDF app. All of this information and more is available on the dedicated Inspirational page where issue 2, as well as 1 can be reached, purchased, and downloaded from HERE. Alternatively, the dedicated Inspirational page can always and easily be reached by going to the tab marked 'Inspirational Magazine' at the top of this page, directly under the ttb-inspirational banner heading.


Although the price is in UK currency, any and every currency is automatically accepted and converted without you having to do anything but click.

Please enjoy this second issue of Inspirational. It has been a lot of hard work, but has definitely been something I believe has been worthwhile doing. 

The next issue of Inspirational featuring a new set of inspirationally and aspirationally unique artists and their perspective will be on sale in March 2015. Details of the eight artists that will be featured in issue 3 will be released shortly.

Also be aware that Inspirational issue 1 is still available and will always be available, as will issue 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on.

Thanks again for all of your support for this Inspirational project, it has been great to see this come to fruition and I look forward to the year ahead and the issues that will be released over that year.

Have a wonderful day.

John