Tag Archives: creativity

Taking it to the streets

Anyone that follows me via Instagram (tpegler) will know I’ve been posting a lot of photos of street art. Partly this is a reflection of the city I live in. Melbourne is blessed with great artists and a culture that is evolving – becoming better at recognising differences between random acts of public art and mindless vandalism.

There were other factors that drew me to the street artists, too. When I made the difficult decision to walk away from a regular income to concentrate on creativity, family and health, I was drawn to others who have made similar choices. I wanted to surround myself with ideas, courage and creativity.

The main reason I began photographing street art is I became acutely aware of transience. What’s here today isn’t necessarily still with us tomorrow. An artist can spend days on a magnificent piece, only to have idiot taggers deface it the following night or a council whitewash it after a week or two. To my mind, this makes sharing images of guerilla art important. As an author, I write a book but my work doesn’t really exist unless people read it. Art needs to be seen so I wanted the street art to live and be enjoyed beyond the back lanes and alleys around town.

After talking to a couple of street artists, I learned that there are different perspectives on the impermanence of their work. Some see the damage wrought by weather, wildlife and taggers as organic, unpredictable enhancements of their work. The art takes on a life of its own and grows into its setting.

At other public places, such as Hosier Lane in the CBD, artists take turns at showing their wares. A doorway off Flinders Street that featured a powerful portrait of Heath Ledger as the Joker, by OD, was recently repainted with an intricate stencil of an elderly woman’s lined face, by ELK. For all I know the door might have a new identity now. The artists understand their work has a limited time in the sun.

That said, there’s anger, too. When a significant piece of work is attacked by someone who clearly only aims to deface or destroy something they couldn’t do themselves, the art community understandably bristles. Sadly, no matter how savvy the town becomes, there will always be morons and vandals.

Anyway, just as I feel honoured to hang out with other authors and illustrators, I get a great deal of pleasure wandering around the city and recognising the work of local artists. I now have a small piece by Baby Guerilla on the wall in my office (purchased from a gallery) and hope to collect other artists’ works. Why? Because each piece is a reminder of the power of art – to make us think, feel and understand other people’s stories.

I’ll share some favourite images here and in posts to come. Maybe the inspiration will flow through to you, too.

Detail from Once bitten, twice shy by Rone and Everfresh in Hosier Lane
Detail from Once bitten, twice shy by Rone and Everfresh in Hosier Lane
Baby Guerilla wheat paste in Brunswick
Baby Guerilla wheat paste in Brunswick
Beautiful work by Hush in Blender Lane, CBD
Beautiful work by Hush in the CBD

All photos are my own. For further insight into street art, check out Dean Sunshine’s Land of Sunshine or, for a YA spin, Cath Crowley’s fantastic Graffiti Moon.

Quentin Blake on creating characters

Quentin Blake is one of my favourite children’s book illustrators. In this video courtesy of The Guardian online he says he doesn’t know the relationship between his characters when he starts drawing them. Rather, his knowledge of them grows as he spends time creating them.

My experience as a writer is similar. I generally have a rough idea what part a character will play in a story universe. But, as I spend more time with them, they still have the capacity to surprise me. I like NOT knowing everything they could do as a plot develops. Planning everything out in advance could stamp out the goshness of a story as I build it, just as I prefer to read a book in full before I watch its adaptation for television or cinema.

Anyway, I’m glad a man of Mr Blake’s experience is still revelling in the newness of creativity. That’s inspirational.

Build your own universe

One of the questions I’m often asked when visiting schools is ‘why I like writing so much’. Well, writing gives me a chance to inhabit my imagination. What’s so good about that? Think of a world where you get to make all the rules. Everything that happens does because you make it so. Need an example?

About a year ago the Little Monkey, now 5, decided she wanted a baby sister or brother. When it became clear her parents weren’t going to fold on this particular demand, she created her own junior sibling. A baby doll became Annabelle, her infant sister.

Annabelle was treated as a normal baby insofar as eating, sleeping, dressing, car travel and other activities went. Just what I needed – a 4 yo telling me her baby sister wasn’t properly restrained in the car seat. Anyway, I played along… until I was informed I had to take Annabelle to creche.

Toys were not supposed to go to creche but that wasn’t a problem as far as the Little Monkey was concerned. In Daughter #1’s eyes, Daughter #2 (Annabelle) wasn’t a toy but a human. Indeed, Daughter #1 had already packed a backpack for Annabelle with spare nappies, clothes, bottle and so on. As far as she was concerned, Annabelle would be treated just the same as she was.

I needed to find an out clause.

I entered the imaginary world, placed my wrist to Annabelle’s forehead and said, “Oh, no Annabelle has a temperature! She’s not allowed to go to creche with a temperature in case all the other babies get sick.”

Pregnant pause.

Then Daughter #1 volleyed with, “She’s only a little bit sick. She’s OK to go to childcare.”

So I persisted with the illness angle, saying it would be better if Annabelle came to the office with me. Daughter #1 insisted that they had medicine at creche and Annabelle would be fine.

It was time to assert myself. End the debate.

“Sorry, Annabelle is way too sick to go to creche. She’ll have to come to the office with me.”

To which Daughter #1 stomped her foot, burst into tears and said: “But Daddy, you’re just pretending she’s sick!”

That’s the magic of imagination. You can choose what to believe and what to overlook. The universe is yours to manipulate.

When you write, you take a snapshot of that universe and describe it so others can share the vision.

Do authors need to be lonely?

Noticed on Twitter recently, courtesy of @parisreview:

“I need the pain of loneliness to make my imagination work.” – Orhan Pamuk

To all the wordsmiths out there – is this true?

In my experience, I don’t need the pain of loneliness. Pain-free works better for me. That said, a stint in solitary confinement can be a good thing. Email, Internet and phone silence can be truly golden.

I do find my imagination fires up more frequently when I have a clear head, empty timetable and clean, quiet workspace. Clutter is the sworn enemy of my creativity.

Holidays help too. Fresh faces and places trigger new ideas and are the catalyst for curiosity. In the past fortnight I’ve had ideas for a picture book, junior fiction book and short story. Finding time to work on and finish them is the tough bit…