I had very few assignments in art school. And when I did, I usually didn’t do them. I thought I was, as my mom claimed to be, a “rank individualist.” Though from the first class I taught, I gave assignments.
I work much better with prompts. I thought it was the fact that I was often collaborating with others, but really working with someone else is easier for me because an idea is suggested.
In our Zen Writing group we read a poem or tell a story. I resisted this for a while. “Why should I follow the prompt,” I thought?
One thing that we develop in school is a bag of tricks to use when we are blocked. One trick I’ve use is to draw a nose. A nose needs a face. A face needs a body. A body needs a friend and something to stand on. Hence, a drawing is almost finished.
Prompts abound. I look at my bookshelf and see prompts calling out to me. Odyssey, Digital, Clean, Naked Lunch. All great prompts.
I guess I was afraid that if I used someone’s prompt I wouldn’t be doing “my” art. That was a false worry. The prompt still needs to be processed through and by me. It is in the limitations that one reveals themselves.
I once asked one of my teachers, “Why did you never tell us what to do?” He replied, ”You don’t know how much I told you what to do.” I learned then how a teacher can give prompts in subtle ways. He can look at your photograph and say, “Oh, I see you are interested in line.” Now he has brought the idea of focusing on lines to my conscious mind. Next time I’m out making photographs, I’ll look for lines.