Creativity: Path and process of artist John McDonald

GVL / Eric Coulter
Guest painter Jon McDonald speaks in front of his work during the event Creativity: Path and Process held on Monday.

GVL / Eric Coulter Guest painter Jon McDonald speaks in front of his work during the event “Creativity: Path and Process” held on Monday.

Nate Smith

Creativity is a concept that is easily defined, and not as easily practiced. Artist John McDonald combines creativity with humanity in his upcoming exhibit, “Humans”.

McDonald shared his creative journey with a group of Grand Valley State University students on Oct. 29, giving numerous tips and talking about dealing with adversity as an artist.

“If you live in fear you’re not living your life – you’re for someone else,” McDonald said. “You can’t care about what people think.”

McDonald also showcased the first two pieces of “Humans”, which consists solely of portraits of people that he knows personally.

“I just wanted to showcase all of these different people, and show how they’re all the same,” McDonald said. “Human.”

During his career, McDonald has done a lot of traveling, and every place that he’s been has affected his art in some way. The most prominent was noticing how similar people looked in other countries – this had a profound affect on McDonald’s life and career.

“The more I traveled, the more I noticed how everybody looked the same,” McDonald said. “I would look at people and see my friends and family.”

Just as McDonald’s life affected his work, his work has changed his day-to-day life. The need for repetition became more important and McDonald found himself socializing less and less.

“My art made me more safe,” McDonald said. “If I’m not working I become restless and I start looking for things to do.”

The need for repetition became more than a necessity for McDonald because it helped him keep his creative processes going. He goes to great lengths to control his environment and interactions.

“Every day at five in the morning I wake up to paint,” McDonald said. “I go to the same restaurants and eat the same food. I don’t like surprises.”

In his discussion, he made sure to talk about the importance negative space has had on his work, and he told the group of students the importance when it came to drawing.

“When you use negative space your brain has no reference of what you’re drawing,” McDonald said. “You’re forcing your brain to work in a different way.”

Courage and “operating differently” are the keys to creativity, McDonald said.
“You’re not going to fail by screwing up, you’re going to fail by not doing it,” McDonald said. “You have to do you work for yourself, who cares if people don’t like it?”
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