Getting the Creative Wiggles Out

Jen Hewett on getting the creative "wiggles" out

In almost every one of my classes, I have a student who will attempt, for her first project, something that is technically difficult. Unless the project is so complex that it can’t be completed during the class, I rarely discourage ambition – nor do I discourage simplicity – because I don’t want to step in the way of someone who has a vision and tenacity.

But I also know from experience what will happen: the student will complete her first block, print with it, dislike it, and then turn around and quickly create a simpler, more compelling block and print.

This is part of the process. My friend Stef calls this “getting the wiggles out” (which is also a preschool phrase; Stef has two daughters). Often my first (and second and third) drafts are very wiggly. The wiggles demand to have their say before they depart, leaving behind the thoughts/ideas/work they’ve been trying to mask. It’s part of the process.

Now that I’ve been an artist for many years, I can regularly tell when I’m working on a wiggle – for example, the piece above is a wiggle. I liked the blocks, but the layout of the print just didn’t feel right. My wiggles usually appear in the sketchbook phase; other times (as in the case above), they make me go so far as to to expose a screen or carve a block. But the important thing is to take a step back, and tell myself that a particular piece is wiggly, taking it as far as it needs to go before setting it aside. Its purpose is to be the wiggle. I don’t have to do much more with it that acknowledge that, and then move on.

As for the print, above? After numerous iterations, I ended up with something that appears more spontaneous, and has more movement. I can’t show you the finished piece yet, but you can get an idea of what it looks like here.

And on that note, I return to my work, hoping that today I can push through and create something I really like.