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It is often said of an artist that making the first mark is the hardest thing to do. The first stroke of the brush across a fresh, blank canvas, the first impression of the chisel on an untouched stone, or the first sentence on a new piece of paper. The lack of any guide or direction at that moment has been described as intimidating, stressful, or even a suppressant to the creative process.


The anxiety to get it right, make the first mark count - to commit to a direction; the endless and open possibility of the blank medium – presenting the opportunity to create without constraint. You can do anything, but what…? With any number of possibilities available it’s easy to see how starting a new piece of work can lead to the unavoidable urge to clean the bathroom again - rather than actually make that first mark.


Many artists may be familiar with this. But to extend the idea a little, perhaps this is also what stops many of us non-artists from being creative. Even before buying a brush, or chisel, or a writing pad - we cannot decide where to start. It’s fair to say that if a talented and professional artist has trouble starting, what chance do the rest of us have!


So perhaps the trick is to look at the situation differently. If, instead of fearing that moment of endless possibilities and unrestrained options, we embrace it, then maybe it works in our favor. After all, none of the marks we make at the beginning will be seen at the end; they start the journey but that’s all.


It is also often said that the solution for an artist to overcome this fear of making the first mark is simply to begin. Make that brushstroke, mark the stone, write the sentence – see what happens, and see where it takes you. Eventually, through trial and error, dedication [and an immaculate bathroom,] ideas emerge.


There is something wonderfully rewarding about creating something yourself. Finding your inner artist and making something unique is a very personal thing. Whether you’re a talented artist or an enthusiastic novice, only by starting the process can the creativity properly begin.

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We all speak at least one other language. What's more, we've been learning it all our lives and speaking it fluently every day, despite the fact that no one taught us. The language of iconography – simple pictures representing complex ideas, instructions, or information – is all around us and deep within us. Without icons, driving would be a nightmare, shopping would take even longer, and using a cell phone? Impossible. To that end, might it be argued that though it is our second language, it is gradually becoming our first? Written language is ideal when we need to understand a complex idea or problem or read a story, but when we need to make fast decisions, understand something instantly, or avoid danger, the icon's visual language is way ahead. This is because our brain is wired to receive information visually. Long before we humans learned to speak (let alone write), our brains received visual cues. In those days, as far as our minds were concerned, the whole of the natural world was a vast series of icons: visual cues to helps us do anything and everything – from finding food or shelter to avoiding a predator or crossing a river. Although life is a little less primitive today, the way our brains work is much the same as it was, and iconography maximizes this perfectly. The three elements of an icon – color, shape, and image – give the brain all the information it needs, providing a direct fast-track route to allow for quick decision making and a deeper understanding of data being received. So, is the written word disappearing under the inevitable march of the icon in our modern world? Fortunately, this looks unlikely, but words certainly do have competition. While icons are very good at what they do, their reach is limited and cannot (not yet anyway!) compete with a poem or prose to convey, for example, emotion or narrative. Nevertheless, icons have revolutionized our lives and are undoubtedly here to stay, like tiny directional beacons. And without them where we would be? Probably stuck in traffic wearing pants that don't fit.

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When we experience art, our brains go into overdrive, processing and decoding the incoming information at a phenomenal rate, stimulating our emotions and exciting and inspiring us. But why does art have this effect? Although scientists agree there is no single explanation, there are several reasons that help explain.


Some say art works as a social stimulus, helping us form into groups and enable friendships to develop. Through art, we form opinions and enrich our understanding of one another, forming bonds and connections. It’s a collective glue that enables us to get along in close proximity and large communities.


Others argue that appreciating art is a vestige of evolution and an essential reason for our ancestor’s survival. That understanding form and lines, color and texture, abstract ideas and complex smells was once the thing that also helped early humans to understand and avoid danger, to solve a problem and invent tools, or to eat the right food and remain healthy.


Still more say that because the appreciation of art is a distinctly subjective activity, it helps with our personal development, our emotional growth, or our individual understanding of the world around us. Broadly, art helps us develop the mental tools by which to live our lives.


One thing is for sure - art scratches an itch within us humans in a way that nothing else can. Whatever the complex combination of reasons that conspire in our brains, the emotional response we experience when looking at a painting, reading a book, or listening to a song, is a powerful and wonderful thing. So, let’s leave it to the scientists to figure out why we like what we like, and we can concentrate on loving art in all its extraordinary and inspiring forms.

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