Saturday, September 24, 2016

Creative Strength Training:
Prompts, Exercises and Personal Stories for Encouraging Artistic Genius
Book Review

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

There are a number of book reviews on this blogspot. For your convenience I have listed the other book reviews below:
Textiles: The Art of Mankind - Mary Schoeser
The Pattern Base - Kristi O'Meara
Stitch Stories - Cas Holmes

I first met Jane Dunnewold in 2002 when I accompanied my husband on a tour of the USA. He was invited to give a number of University seminars/lectures and moreover, was attending a meeting in San Antonio (Texas). Instead of following him about, I decided to email Jane about one of her Complex Cloth workshops that she was conducting in her then "Art Cloth Studio", which was on the top floor of the Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church complex, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Just before I left she emailed me that a person had withdrawn from the workshop and she hoped I could attend.

Art Cloth Studio (top floor of the Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church complex), San Antonio, Texas, USA.

A youthful Marie-Therese at her work table in Art Cloth Studio. Some finished samples of her output from the workshop are on the back wall (February 2002).

In 2002-2004 I did a part-time "Continuing Study Program" with Jane which formed part of my outside studies program for my Bachelor of Fine-Arts. In 2007 she invited me to be the inaugural guest editor of her ezine - HeArtCloth Quarterly.

ezine Front Cover of HeArtCloth Quarterly - edited by Marie-Therese Wisniowski (December Issue, 2007).

In 2008 I invited her to be a participant in the first inaugural ArtCloth exhibition held in Australasia. I was pleased that she accepted and her ArtCloth work - Sacred Planet I: The Myth of Human Superiority - illustrated her willingness to push boundaries not only with creative ideas but also with techniques and materials.

A detail view of a panel of Sacred Planet I: The Myth of Human Superiority (Jane Dunnewold).
Exhibition: ArtCloth: Engaging New Visions.
Digital printing on cotton from an original photograph. Mixed Media: sand, felt, and burn out chemical.
Size: 112 cm (width) x 294 cm (length).

As you can see Jane and I have a fruitful, creative, artistic and mutually respectful relationship over a long time! Clearly I am unashamedly biased since: I like her art; I like her penmanship and authorship of her many books; I like her ideas and more importantly, I like the fact that she wants to share her knowledge with others and does so freely - always giving sound and practical advice.

Creative Strength Training[1]

Front cover of Jane's new book - Creative Strength Training[1].
Photograph courtesy of reference[1].

The organizing principle of the book is centered on Jane being your personal creative and artistic trainer to ensure you become creatively fit. That may be the end goal, but it’s the journey to that destination that is the backbone of the book. Furthermore, Jane at the end of each chapter shows how other artists as well as herself have responded to such challenges.

The first chapter centers on "Defining Creative Stamina". It is sectioned into:
(i) Introduction;
(ii) Writing As An Assist To Making;
(iii) Working With Memory;
(iv) Artists Respond.

Each section logically follows from the previous, giving an orderly sequenced introduction, which sets the mood for the rest of the book.

Some of the photographs, quotations and captions in this chapter are in themselves instructive. For example,

Caption[1]: "Some people sit in meditation. Others practice an instrument or write poetry".
Quote[1]: "Be at least as interested in what goes on inside of you as to what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place - Eckhart Tolle".
Photograph courtesy of reference[1].

The second chapter is the first part addressing the need to "Overcome Stumbling Blocks". Here the sections fall into:
(i) Obstacles To Working;
(ii) The Rebellious Expanded Square;
(iii) Artists Respond.

A typical insight into this chapter is Jane's introduction and instruction on how to create an expanded square and how such a square can be employed as the basis of an artwork. In particular, she cites Mary Ann Ashford's work. Below is Mary Ann's expanded square, which she used as a basis of her ArtCloth work (see below).

Photograph courtesy of reference[1].

Photograph courtesy of reference[1].

The third chapter continues the theme of overcoming stumbling blocks. The sections are in themselves humorous since it focuses on regaining control of your artistic voice rather than relinquishing control by trying to second guess what you think may please others. The sections are:
(i) The Committee, Your Chakras And The Tribe;
(ii) Dismantling The Committee;
(iii) Artists Respond.
Note: For the definition of a Chakras - see Chapter 7.

"Judy Cook played with the ideas about the Committee she saw in her mind's eye"[1]. Photograph courtesy of reference[1].

Chapter Four addresses - "The Power of Limitations". It is knowing who we are, what fascinates us, what we can do and what we can't that channels our creativity into reality. Hence this chapter sections into:
(i) Use What You've Got;
(ii) Exploring Limitations;
(iv) Artists Respond.

Here under a sub-section of (ii) titled, "Limiting Variables", Jane uses her own ArtCloth work - "Choir" - as an example of a work that limits a variable since she has stuck to one color palette in her artwork and in doing so provided an unifying effect that underlines the work.

Jane Dunnewold - Choir (2005).
Material: Silk organza and broadcloth.
Size: 203 x 61 cm.
Photography courtesy of reference[1].

Chapter Five is titled - "Learning to Make and Take Time". Digital disruption has been blamed for many changes in our lives from the casualization of the workforce to demise of newspapers and bookshops to the increase of vitamin D deficiency. But perhaps its greatest disruption is that people claim it makes them time poor. Hence this chapter addresses the need for "me time" in a world where others demand to access your "free" time - all the time! Hence this chapter sections into:
(i) Really Big Or Really Obsessive?
(ii) The Deeper Truth;
(iii) Learning To Make And Take Time;
(iv) Artists Respond.

Perhaps one of the more true and tested ways of learning to make and take time are artistic journals, images of which from time-to-time surface in the artwork of the artist. Jane takes us to Carol Wiebe's artistic hand painted journal as an inspiration of how "me time" can journey back to the artist.

One entry in Carol Wiebe's hand painted journal.
Photograph courtesy of reference[1].

Chapter Six focuses on - "What Does Alignment Look Like To You?" Jane characterizes alignment as a balanced combination of what you are good at and what you like to do. The chapter sections into:
(i) Alignment;
(ii) What Do You Love And What Are You Good At?
(iii) Artists Respond.

Here Beth Schellenberger - Metamorphosis I - shows her unique style in terms of graphic design, color and methodology (i.e. intricate hand stitching).
Photograph courtesy of reference[1].

Chapter Seven addresses - "Making Your Work Distinctly You Own". It sections into:
(i) Focus, Alignment and Goals;
(ii) Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Chakras;
(iii) Mining Content;
(iv) Artists Respond.

As "Chakras" is mentioned in this chapter as well as Chapter Three we should digress to explain its meaning. The Sanskrit word "Chakra" literally translates to wheel or disk. In yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda, this term refers to wheels of energy throughout the body. There are seven main chakras, which align the spine, starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head. To visualize a chakra in the body, imagine a swirling wheel of energy where matter and consciousness meet. This invisible energy, called Prana, is a vital life force, which keeps us vibrant, healthy, and alive.

Under the section - "Mining Content" - Jane refers to Kerrie Boase-Jelinek's artwork who passionately pursues printing with objects from the natural world.
Photograph courtesy of reference[1].

Chapter Eight is the first part of addressing the topic - Each Of Us Is Fascinating. It sections:
(i) Each Of Us Is Fascinating;
(ii) Writing Your Artist Story;
(iii) Artists Respond.

In writing your artistic history Jane suggest you focus upon: who you are and what physical path your life has taken; how do you work and what do you love to do; what do you care about and how does that manifest in your artistic content.

Jane Dunnewold, 2002.
Photograph courtesy of reference[1].

The second part of - Each Of Us Is Fascinating (Chapter 9) - sections into:
(i) Caring Enough To Be Clear;
(ii) How To Distill And Edit Your Story;
(iii) Artists Respond.

Judy Cook - Me And Annie Oakley.
"There is a difference in creating a product to sell and using creative skills to express personal voice. I've found making art to sell is not enough."[1].
Photograph courtesy of reference[1].

The final chapter (Chapter 10) is titled - "Discovering Grace Through Acts Of Making". It sections into:
(i) Why Have The Tools To Be Authentic;
(ii) Moving Ahead With the Plan;
(iii) Artists Respond.

The title of this Chapter cannot be better reflected than in Jane's choice of an Art Cloth work by Adriene Huffington - Dreaming. Here Adriene reflects that her work is created from a juxtaposition of peace immersed within confusion that creates an unresolved creativity and atmosphere.

Photograph courtesy of reference[1].

As a reviewer I could only give a glimpse of the artists and their work as well as that of Jane's that this book contains. Needless to say, there are some books you must read and then again, there are some books you must read and own. Jane Dunnewold’s "Creative Strength Training" falls into the latter category. Jane is there to ensure that you will use your creative strength so that you won't lose it. After you have read and practiced her exercises, whenever you are in doubt in the future, you will dip back into this book for inspiration and motivation. Hence it is a book that you must read and moreover, own!

[1] J. Dunnewold, Creative Strength Training: Prompts, Exercises and Personal Stories for Encouraging Artistic Genius, North Light Books, Cincinnati (2016).


Jody said...

I have been a fan of Jane's since Complex Cloth came out, and perhaps even before then. Last month I got to meet her when she was on the Sunshine Coast (BC, Canada) and I had her sign my well loved copy of Complex Cloth. I purchased Creative Strength Training (and got it signed 😀) at that time. Sadly, I was unable to take one of her classes due to other commitments but the book is at the top of my list for October. Thanks for the review, I am even more eager to get into the book now!

Leslie Tucker Jenison said...

A lovely post about this wonderful book, but more importantly, about this beautiful person. I am fortunate to have landed in San Antonio and met Jane right around the same time. Her creative spirit, generosity of sharing knowledge, and tenderness have been a marvelous role model for me. I'm honored to call her a friend. This book is truly a must-have for any artist, regardless of medium.

Procion.Princess said...

I did Jane's "Creative Strength Training" last year when it was a class online. As someone who struggles with pain from chronic pain at 49 from 5 back surgeries, I found Jane's material to touch not just the quality of my work, but also to help "get me to the canvas" on my worst of pain days. With her help, my hand dyeing and quilting - when I can do them - continue to be both physical and mental therapy. When you are unable to attend classes any more, these books become all the more invaluable.

Art Quill Studio said...

Thank you for sharing your personal stories about Jane and how she has touched your artistic spirits and journeys - as this book has. She is a very special person who has contributed so much to so many.