The following article was originally written by Bob Travis and Harold Enlow and appeared in the Log, the newsletter of the California Carvers Guild. Thanks to both Bob and Harold for their permission to once again share their thoughts with you.
We continue with Harold Enlow's thoughts on creativity, (Part 1 in Volume 7 Issue 5, Sept/Oct '03)
I've often wondered if there is a formula for coming up with ideas, or if only folks with their wires crossed get them. I haven't ever taken time to research such a thing, but here are some for instances. When you do get an idea going you can switch characters. Ask yourself what a cow would say in such a situation, or a possum, or perhaps a nun.
I was thinking about funerals today, probably from reading billboard advertisements. Do only people have funerals? I changed people to possum. How do possums die? The get run over by eighteen wheelers. So, a possum funmeral would have a very flat casket. I was off on road kills so this made me think of armadillos, which seem to be everywhere now. Then I passed a sign that said, NO DRIVING ON SHOULDERS. Now I could see some armadillos carrying signs and demonstrating beside a busy road. The signs would say, WE HATE CARS, and NO DRIVING ON SHOULDERS OURS! Now the possums popped back in. Since the possum is flat his name should be Lester, and he'd probably prefer Bluegrass music as a send off.
Now I pass a grocery store owned by, apparently, two families, and it is called Sharpe-Payne Grocery. I laugh out loud, but no more comes of it. Laughter is good for the soul even if no carving ideas come out. Later it may turn into something useful.
Do songs every inspire you? I can remember a carving I made from a song, probable because I saw it again recently. It is called, MAMMA DON'T 'LOW NO GUITAR PLAYIN' 'ROUND HERE. The carving has Maw in the background looking aggravated. In front is a good looking young gal with one of her endowments just fitting between the bouts on the guitar she is playing. She is singing. On either side of her is a guy playing an instrument, but making eyes at her instead of paying attention to the job at hand. I'm not the only one who does this. I have a painter friend who always wanted to paint GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY. That seems really tough to me with all the descriptions that come out of the song. Anyway, songs could be good beginnings. Do you like to be around people who are bristling with creativity? Some people are rich in this way. I have a friend named Wetherbee who is Rich. Hey, one groaner per article isn't too back.
Can you sometimes get ideas from similar sounding words? Like the old guy who says, "My belly is getting too fat." His daughter says to him, "Why don't you diet?" 'I like the color it is," says the old man. Now that isn't original with me I'm sorry to say, but it is a way of explaining what I mean. This angle could lead to greater things if you pursue it. Sometimes I go through the dictionary or thesaurus looking for something to set me off. Recently we got some encyclopedias for Katie and I plan to have a good time with them.
Back to substitutions. A friend of mine has this idea but says he can't get anybody to draw it for him. It is the Marlboro man looking down at this dead horse and saying, "That second hand smoke really is hard on your friends." Of course all the talk now is about other people suffering from this smoke that seems to be part of the atmosphere in most places. So the switch from people to horses makes it funny.
We have to realize that we are always standing on somebody else's shoulders. Where would we get these ideas if it weren't for others? I'm forever thankful that the English language is so rich. This all brings us to the questions I think. Does God have a sense of humor? I certainly hope so. If he didn't he probably wouldn't be letting me hang around. A lot of ideas I come up with aren't always suitable for consumption by decent family oriented folks. So I have to continually call on Elaine to let me bounce them off her to test the water. I'm lucky to have a wife with such a natural sense of propriety. I'm probably not alone in this because the distaff seems to come up with this instinctively. Did I really say that? I, for one, really this to keep me within my envelope of sanity. A recent case comes to mind. I was making some Christmas-tupe patterns and was fixing to do a Mrs. Claus. A thought came to me out of the clear blue. Maybe I'll do her at age 18 instead of the matronly, middle-ages one you always see. Elaine talked me out of this. I can't believe I let he do that. Lurking in the back of my mind, still, is an image of an 18 year old elfish woman that may one day come out of a piece of wood.
My mind has just wandered again, away from any more thought on creativity. This is OK snce this article is plenty long enough. I would like to add that being creative is great fun, especially when you have an organization like CCA, where it can be shared with others. I wonder if there is anything worse that being a john thinker? Wow!
Thanks Harold. It was fund to see how you let your mind run wild. I suggest that our readers try this approach. Here's another idea you might try. I recently saw an interview with country and western singer and sone writer Holly Dunn. When asked how she came up with new ideas for songs she said that she liked to browse through book stores. It seems that she often gets ideas from book titles.
However you do it, be sure to write your ideas down. Your biggest problem will be remembering them if you don't write them down. Then if you do write them down you will probably never find time to get them all carved. I keep a notebook handy for new ideas. When I get ready to start a new carving I will page through the notebook, assuming that I don't already have something in mind. On thing I have noticed; you will probably come up with some great ideas, but after a while some of them will seem kind of dumb. Don't worry about that. Carve the good ones and laugh about the rest. Have fun and don't cut your fingers.
Learn more about Harold and Bob at the Caricature Carvers of America web site HERE.