creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

Thursday, March 10, 2011


This week continues the debate over being a Jack of All Trades versus a Master/Specialist in terms of creativity and art. I received some great responses to last weeks post, with many people shocked that the historical phrase in its entirety really reads:  Jack of All Trades, Master of none, though oftentimes better than master of one.” Funny how that  really changes the meaning - conspiracy anyone?

In a perfect world I like to think there is room for both Jacks and Masters, where both are equally valued for their expression and contributions. Another way to view the concept is to think about those characteristics in terms of width and depth.

A Jack of All Trades sets his/her vision wide. The Jack is a type of outward explorer, who makes discoveries and collects experiences that can be added into the mix and type of art they create.

A Master sets his/her vision deep. They hone in on a subject, going inward to discover rich treasures deep within, which adds layers of value and skill to their specific work. Both of these approaches are useful and important to utilize at different times in order to have a three-dimensional life!

I think for some Jacks, going deep into any one subject can be challenging. Perhaps our minds get impatient, we receive new creative stimuli that spurs us on to a new project, or the labors of one direction don’t seem to be very fruitful at first so we switch gears. However, going deep in one direction and sticking to it serves to make a person better. It requires time and patience. I recommend picking up the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. It probes into the subject of what makes a person a success, debunking a lot of myths and misperceptions we have about what it takes to succeed.

In one of his chapters he discusses the “10,000-Hour Rule” based on a study by Anders Ericsson, where anyone can become a so-called expert in a field once they have put in that much time.
He uses the Beatles as an example. Before the Beatles fame, they played over 1200 performances - some 270 of those times were from 5-8 hours shifts at strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany. Because they were playing the same music over and over, they had to develop their style and play with the songs in new ways to keep it fresh for them.

John Lennon believed “We got better and got more confidence. We couldn’t help it with all the experience playing all night long. Being foreign, we had to try even harder, put our heart and soul into it, to get ourselves over.”

For a Jack who likes to do it all, it’s just going to take time, lots of it, but slow and steady wins the race, right? Note: I’m only about 9,950 hours away from becoming an expert blogger - although I've been writing blog-like email updates for many years, so maybe make that about 8,950 hours to go.

Several years ago I received a huge lesson on the importance of depth and the development of a series when it comes to making art.

Alexej von Jawlensky, "Schokko", 1919
I went to see an exhibit at the Norton Simon Museum by the artist Alexej Georgewitsch von Jawlensky, a Russian expressionist painter who was a key member of art movements known as The Blue Rider and The Blue Four. The artists shared a common desire to express spiritual truths through their art and were bold with color and form. Jawlensky is not as well known a name as his peers, Kandinsky and Klee. Which is likely because the Nazi’s deemed his work to be degenerate, which had more to do with his Russian background than his wild style.

Most of the works I saw in the exhibit were abstract and way ahead of their time (early to mid 1900’s). Also on display were a large number of similar paintings of an abstract face. I went from face to face and wondered to myself why he was so fixated on creating a series of works of what seemed to me to be rather boring and simplistic. Why did he have to do so many of them? Why not just make a few and move on to something else? I started to get tired of them and was beginning to lose respect after so enjoying his other works. Then I moved into a new room…and there on the wall before me was  a quote by Jawlensky that read:

“I knew that great art should only be painted with religious feeling. And that was something I could bring only to the human face.  I realized that the artist must express that within him which is divine. That is why the work of art is visible God, and why art is ‘a longing for God’”

The face  he was painting over and over was often called “Savior’s Face” - and represented for him the face of the divine. I then came to a final painting of the abstract faces on the walls, and I froze in place. Something about the painting glowed before me with a pure and undeniable spiritual energy. It was beautiful beyond my comprehension. I took a picture of it, but the digital image holds nothing of the original essence, so I won’t even try to show you which one moved me so. I'll just say that it was powerful enough to bring me to tears in humility and awe.

Had he not painted dozens of faces before this one, he wouldn’t have perfected the form and created the “one” that contained so much divine energy that moved me to tears in the way it did. By developing a series of paintings, he was moving deeper and deeper into the form. He wasn’t creating a very wide variety of works, but he was mastering the one form by going deep into it. Another quote of his on the wall explained that he was not interested anymore in his life to go wider in exploration, only deeper. The repetition of the face became a meditation for him and gave him further revelations about life.

So for all us Jacks out there, while I encourage us to be who we are and explore far and wide, I also encourage us to stop every so often and dig our roots down deep so we can experience the divine! And so that we may someday gift someone else the experience of bringing them to tears from the sheer and overwhelming divinity of art.

More to come!

1 comment:

  1. Lovely pictures Jason - it's nice to know the benefits of the wide scope but also drilling down deep - and the power of both for art and skill - bravo!