The Creative Endeavors Thread Bowls With Others

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A couple of weeks ago, on my last visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts, I stopped in at the Scarab Club, located right behind the main building on Farnsworth St. in a musty-looking brick edifice. The last few times I’ve hit the D, I’ve tried to vary my routine by checking out different arts spaces along with the DIA: MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Arts Detroit), the Detroit Artists’ Market (gallery and sale space), and now the Scarab, which is a subscription-based arts outfit founded over a century ago, offering sketch sessions, lectures, and potential submissions to the odd exhibition here and there.

My artist friend had mentioned the place a couple of times with wary respect, and as I’ve become familiar enough with the DIA to feel like I don’t have to cover everything and spend every waking moment of my visit there, I figured I’d check it out. It was interesting, with some cool artwork and a cavernous lounge, and the woman at the door had said they were always open to new members. Given that I only visit Detroit every few months or so (though given how cheap it now is, I really ought to do it more often), I wondered whether it would really be cost-effective, but the lowest level’s a pretty good deal (only a few bucks a month) and maybe this would get me out a bit more.

(I also got to have a proper look at the new exhibit on Inuit art at our local museum and did a bit of sketching)

Either way, I’m not going through with it—if at all—until I get back from the UK (and thus with a better idea of my financial situation), but it got me thinking about peer groups and creativity. The fire’s been lit and I doubt it’s going out, but it does make a difference sometimes to know someone’s interacting (usually positively) with your work, whether in artistic or literary associations, on Facebook or Instagram, or just on the street. So throwing it out there, what effect do outside interactions or relationships—in terms of feedback or collaboration–have on your work, if any?

The header this week is a scene from Ronald Neame’s The Horse’s Mouth, a 1959 film based on Joyce Cary’s novel about a pain-in-the-ass British painter in grim postwar London. Alec Guinness not only starred as Gulley Jimson but also wrote the screenplay, making a number of changes to Cary’s story. I enjoyed it when I first saw it but really ought to give it another look given what I’ve been doing the past year and a half. In this scene, Jimson commandeers an abandoned church to paint his “masterpiece” mural and gets some locals to help, turning what’s so often seen in popular culture as an intensely individual activity into a semi-communal endeavor (never mind that Old Masters like Michelangelo or Rubens often depended on assistants to achieve their greatest works). The film’s been described as one of the best ever made about the artistic consciousness (certainly the painterly variety).

Have a great (and creatively productive) week!