No Limits, No Edges, No Rest

Today’s perspective on creativity and creative process comes from Jon-Pat Myers. Jon-Pat is a South African born sculptor with an international reputation and more than one arrow in his quiver.

Jon-Pat’s creative career began in the early 80’s when he was part of the Johannesburg punk band, Toxic Sox. He still writes and performs music and has a band, The Psykotix which is active on the live music scene in South Africa.

He is also a writer with a raft of poetry, short fiction and book projects under his belt. When he is not actually making art of some kind or music, JP also presents workshops and talks to help others achieve their artistic and creative goals.

But JP’s primary reputation is that of a hard stone sculptor. He lived and exhibited in several countries and won prizes at various stone sculpting symposia around the world. His work can be found in New Zealand, Israel, Mexico, China and South Africa.

With so many prolific outlets, JP was the ideal candidate to approach and chat to about how he sees creativity and the process that births all of his myriad interests.

“I definitely believe that creativity is something that everyone has,” begins JP. “Be it music or accountancy or whatever, everyone has it. I think it is obvious that people have varying degrees of ability to start with but no matter who you are or where you are, you have something in you that you can cultivate.”

JP has been cultivating his talents since the early 80’s so it seemed obvious to ask if he can kind of turn it on and off at will. “Well yes, you can,” he says, “The way that I do it is that, in order to avoid any creative block, I have more than one creative avenue to pursue. So basically what I do is if I start running out things to do with say, making musical riffs, then I will maybe be better off writing some lyrics. Or if I think about a new sculpture… basically I skip form thing to thing as I feel like it. That keeps me going.”

He explains further, “I think it also depends on whether you are talking about something coming up from nothing as it were… an entirely new project… or working on an existing project. If its new then I have carte blanche, I want to start to create a new sculpture say… then I will play with the themes that are in my head and percolating all the time which are part of my natural narrative anyway. By diving into those themes and ideas, I can always come up with something. But these are things I have discovered through time. People need to discover their own through actually being creative so, that’s my advice there… just get doing stuff to begin with.”

So far it sounds like JP can pretty much switch flow on and off on demand. “ Yeah, I find that I can do that,” he agrees, “I can say OK I am going to sit down and write a song about Shelter… that brings some ideas to mind. But then if it’s not working and it comes to a stop, then I won’t push it because if I do push it, I will come up with other things, but it will be contrived, it won’t be as heartfelt so to speak. So I find that the product that comes out when I really push it often isn’t as good.”

Jon-Pat also has some triggers which he uses to get his creative processes flowing. “I walk a lot and I have a structured walk,” he explains, “So in other words if I have to walk to a specific place, I say right, I’ve got say 20 minutes to walk there, I want to think about a particular thing that I am working on. So maybe it’s some online content or writing a new song, or working on a new sculpture or working on a creative workshop. I like being out in nature… it doesn’t really matter. Once I have done that creative thing, then I like being out in nature so that ideas can flow and I can let things percolate. Then later I can extract from that the essential nature of the idea and get to the nuts and bolts of it.”

“Silence is good,” he continues, “If you can find silence and switch off that chatter in your mind, or become aware of it without indulging in it, it’s a good rest for your brain. And that’ also a good time for things to move and that’s when I find often an idea pops… and that’s what I do when an idea does come through then I sit down with my notebook and I jot it down or I grab the guitar and write the song…no matter how bad it might be at that time. Then I have that idea captured and I can always work on it later. And that’s a very important point: you do a lot of work. You get a lot of ideas but you need also to do a lot of work and work and work on the idea.”

“Musically, I get most of my ideas when I get out the shower!” Jon-Pat explains about the specific times or places that he gets ideas, “I know I have got that time to think about a particular project and I also know that I don’t have to think too hard about showering… I have been showering for a while now, so I know how to do it! I use that time to work on an idea and then I come out and try to get it down as fast as possible. I never try to be creative at all… I just work on my ideas.”

Jon-Pat’s advice for anyone wanting to be more creative, to produce more work or access their creative side better? “Work! Work and work some more,” he says in all seriousness, “Get your idea. No matter how rudimentary, that is your initial start. Don’t think about the end, you’ve got to think about your initial process. Let’s say it’s to create a bridge in Alexandra that will only operate in flood time. You’ve already got a brief, so you have parameter that you can work your idea in. Then you’ve just got to explore it. Say the first idea is that it is a retractable bridge, or a roll up bridge like William Kentridge did. Then work the idea. Sketch it, jot it, try and find variations of that idea and as you do that, the flow start happening and the rest of the ideas will come. And if they don’t, at least you’ve got a more refined idea for next time.”

Jon-Pat summarises his approach quite simply: “In a nutshell, what I feel is that the creative process is disseminated but it’s basically always the same. You usually have a brief or an objective. That gives you a parameter and you work within that parameter and then you basically just go ballistic and don’t necessarily use that parameter as a box just use it as guideline and then work and work and work”

But, he does issue an important amendment at the end, “It’s just as important during the quiet times to rest and let those ideas formulate in your mind as it is to sit down with a piece of paper and try and push something out. It’s also very important to know when you’ve done enough and to stop. Think of it like this: ‘I’ve got a cool idea, it’s not too much information to put across, now find a way to present it and put it across properly.’”

You can find out more about Jon-Pat and his work and get in touch with him here.