Sunday, December 06, 2009

Listening to Corita

Well, the movie, Angels and Demons was a disappointment. Except for the great shots of the insides of some wonderful Italian churches and the Vatican. The book was a better read, for me.
We did have a wonderful dinner at Outback. We shared the steak and lobster plate, managed to share some coconut, chocolate, ice cream wonder, for dessert. And, to top it off when I came home and filled out a survey, on line, I got a coupon for $6.00 off my next visit. Not bad.

It's been quite a while since I have quoted from the book Learning By Heart, the teachings of Corita Kent. In the mid fifties through the 1960s, a nun named Sister Corita taught art, at a small Catholic college, in Hollywood Her classes pushed budding artists in new directions and an awareness of life around them.

I was watching a mystery on PBS, on evening and there was a reference to a painter that went to the same spot of the shoreline and painted the clouds, he saw, every day. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember, from Art History, that there was another famous painter that did something similar. I can't remember who it was.

Anyway, Corita talked about limitation and how the making of things, the limitations allow you to choose from something rather than everything. She said that "Limitation is what differentiates a flood from a lake."

If you ask two people to paint something like clouds you are going to get two different paintings.

One person might feel that they are basically creative and they can paint clouds.

The second person might give themselves the message that they really love clouds and the sky
fascinates them, so they want to explore that further.

The first person has given themselves a label, they are creative. Their goal is to express their creativity. It's pretty vague and ambiguous isn't it?

The second person focuses on the clouds, real things. Real things have inherent limitations.

Goals and structure, checking resources will help this person finish their project.

Person number one can only research creative expression since that was the stated goal. Research on creativity can be found only in words and theory.

I've never been to Los Angeles, but I understand that Simon Rodilla built the Watts Towers, "soaring spires-next to some unused railroad tracks. He used old plates, beer bottles and other refuse of civilization to adorn them. When asked why he had built them, Rodilla said he did so because he wanted TO MAKE SOMETHING BIG ON THE LANDSCAPE. He didn't say he wanted to be a great sculptor.

"When the focus is on something tangible, the course of the thing will carry you, rather than you carrying it. When the limitations are natural ones (size, shape, and kinds of clouds), you don't have to wrestle with abstract windmills. You can then apply your energy to the matter at hand."

Corita suggested to her students that how they prepared to begin a project was just as important as the project itself. She told them that deadlines are great organizers.

Set a deadline." When your needs (a state of circumstances requiring something, or the something required), goals (any end aimed at) and deadline (the latest time by which something much be done) are clear, there will be an inherent structure."

In my projects and assignments I work very hard on structures within which students can work- structure should stand high enough to paint those parts of the building they want to paint and it should not restrict how they should paint it. And when they finish, the structure should be dismantled and put away...perhaps to be reused in another form at another time."
Corita Kent, Teaching her students to free their creative spirit.

I always sign off with a reminder to be creative. I hope Corita's advice helps you with some focus and direction for your creativity.

:)Bea Let your soul dance, you know what to do.


  1. When I was younger I used to have a list of her rules up on the wall. I don't know what happened to that list of rules. I should get another copy I guess now that I'm older. I remember it was rule number 9, be happy as often as you can, or something like that. And that is something I've always tried to do. I liked her rules.

  2. Sister Corita lives on...and on.
    I love her books and you have reminded me to open them again.
    She has great exercises to remove
    artistic blocks.
    Love you, Lisa

  3. A wonderful post! I think the other artist you might have been thinking about was Monet--he painted haystacks over and over again in different lighting/times of day. I saw some of the paintings in Chicago once...gorgeous. Thanks for the inspirational thoughts!

  4. Lisa, isn't it amazing how many people she touched that never even made it to her class? Love you back! :)Bea

  5. Oh Dianne, thank you, Monet does sound like it might be the one.
    Some day I'm going back to Chicago and just spend the weekend looking at ART. :)Bea

  6. Sister Corita sounds like a wonderful inspiration. Some people just seem to be given that gift. xx

  7. Gina, I don't how I found out about Corita but it was years and years ago and I've always found what she has to say about art and the way an artist should learn to see and be, worthwhile. :)Bea