Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In Praise Of Creativity

I don't watch very much television, but there are a few shows I love. Mostly centering around creative endeavors.

I used to be a huge Project Runway fan. I would actually get chills watching some of the designs walk down the runway. The final collection for Season One's Jay McCarroll was nothing short of phenomenal. Astounding. Creative, exciting. Gorgeous.

It was a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, and designs, which unfolded in a rainbow assortment before our eyes. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Unique and bold and brazen.

And I loved it.

The recent seasons have focused more on melodrama with the increasingly boring, tedious, and super annoying contestants, and less on the designs themselves. Which is probably good since the designs have been not only mediocre at best, but actually embarrassingly bad.

At its heyday, Project Runway took amazingly talented designers and gave them superb challenges. Using botanical items to create a runway look. Burlap sacks. And on and on. There is something magical about watching strips of foliage transform into a couture dress. It makes you feel like you are part of the creative process. That we are all capable of greatness. It reaffirms and inspires and cultivates our imaginations.

Top Chef is always popular at our house. Seeing these talented cooks create masterpieces from disparate ingredients and under adverse conditions--using vending machine food, cooking over a fire pit, preparing school lunches for kids using only healthy ingredients--is fabulous. I find the difference between Project Runway and Top Chef fascinating. Project Runway is a visual competition. We at home can see the clothing and make our own assessment of the success or failure of each design. With the food, we have to accept the judges' opinions as to taste and the success in that arena. We can see if the dishes are visually exciting, but ultimately we are depending on the judges' assessment of the food.

Nevertheless, I still find this show super entertaining and inspiring. I especially love the outside-of-the-box approach to cooking, and the self-taught chefs proving their worth. I love seeing how their minds work--looking at the ingredients in different ways. The color, the texture, the taste, how they can modify it, play with it, change it up, be silly or serious or deferential. The sky is the limit with every episode and dish.

And in startling contrast to the cattiness of Project Runway (although there are always exceptions to this), the contestants on this show usually help each other out and support each other. I find that refreshing and inspiring as well.

(The dish below was created by our favorite Sheldon Simeon, Filipino chef and total sweetheart. He posted this photo on his Facebook page. LOVE him!)

Our latest obsession is Face Off, on the Syfy Channel. My 10 year old daughter and I have been faithfully watching this season, and the hard work, creativity, technical achievements, and sheer imagination going into these designs are beyond impressive. You watch clay and plastic and paint and hair and fabric transform an ordinary model into something extraordinary, horrifying, alien, fantastical. And more than any other show we've seen, the camaraderie between the contestants on this show was heart-warming. They cheered for each other. They were kind to each other. They supported each other. This is the best possible world for folks involved in a creative field---they have mentors, friends, the proper tools and inspiration, and folks looking out for them and encouraging them. Bravo to SyFy for showing us this side of creativity, and what amazing results you can get from a positive experience.

Anthony Kosar's Finale Design
Photo from SyFy website, by Brett-Patrick Jenkins
(Photo at top of post is also from Face Off)

Does this mean all the designs are successful? Of course not. Some are failures. But the stories and people I find most fascinating are the ones who are crushed by the judges, get back up the next week, brush off their pants, and get back to work. They believe in themselves, their vision, and their talent.

This is also why I find fiction that pushes the envelope exciting and impressive. Instead of following the mold, dishing out the same old stuff, there are authors willing to take a chance. Add a cat's POV into the narrative. Create a hero with quirky flaws, outside of the same old formula. Mix up the structure of the novel. Challenge the reader.

Bravo to the authors willing to take a risk, try something different, create a bold new world.

And hopefully you'll find a posse of friends who support you, help you, encourage you, and spur on that creativity.

Hoping everyone has a bold and inspiring day,