By Kelvin J. Shachile
Artistry and evolution
Time, they say heals wounds, wipes out memories, builds resilience and is enough to make a forest become a desert but history stays as a monument of remembrance. The biggest observation I have made in the creative industry is the benefit of time. Time either gives you a chance to evolve or a chance to get out of the game without much effort, the reason why longevity isn’t only a corporate term, it is important too in every aspect of the creative industry. Here is my testimony of the evolution process.
Early 2009, I made a huge step in life, discovering that I had so much interest in arts. That is the same year I learned crocheting and had a new found passion for designs. I was just eleven years old. Mid 2014, I made another important discovery, that although I loved art, I had a bias towards literary arts more than other forms of it. I was a writer. I had written poems behind my notebooks and had so many unfinished stories in my locker. In 2015 shortly after graduating from high school, my poem got published in a students’ magazine. There’s a reason I had to clearly state the years, because as 2020 begins, I am celebrating a decade of my passion for art and half a decade being a writer and an artist whose work has been released out to be consumed.
Ten years is not a short time. For the simple fact that it has been enough to turn me from a dreamer to being an artist, it is equally enough to do the reverse. It is within this ten years that I had so many reasons to give up but I was determined to keep going. Time is a factor of development, endurance and sustainability in the creative industry.
Over this whole time, I have gone through the various stages every upcoming creative would have gone through. From being afraid to write and create, then afraid of getting out, to getting many more realizations of what I could do to be sustained in the industry. I have risen through labels, reviews and ratings. Half a decade after my first publication might seem a very short time for me to consider myself an established artist, I am yet to.
However, I still feel good about my little achievements which I am sure aren’t small at all, releasing thirty single pieces of writing published by various outlets in three continents and two books; all bearing a wide noticeable versatility in genre, style and form. From walking out of the privacy of my study room to the stage as a performing poet, a choreographer, cinematographer and a designer. Getting here wasn’t a sit-down-drink tea-thing, I had to sweat my blood out. I had to work smart and hard to be sustained and I still do.
The reason why I included creativity in this, is because of the simple obvious idea of evolution. Artists go through a thing I call creative evolution. This is the process where burnouts, dormancy and versatility happens and get noticed. Then relevance is assessed, the ‘sane’ audience then pick up what to classify as what and what to throw out of the game.
The ‘Sane’ audience refers to the set of people who consume art with knowledge of what it is, some people don’t. A sane audience consumes art with all their senses; they see, smell, touch, taste and hear it. They have a clear ability to define the essence, message and derive meanings out of the hidden illusions and representations, they live inside the sheer imagination an artist had while creating a piece. This has to be clear, because some artists do have a mistaken purpose in their determination to be artists.
The purpose of creating a piece for popular appeal to achieve quick fame especially through catching the attention of the millennials. That to me creates a big difference in the classes of creative sanity. Art to me as I guess is to other sane audience is a tool of social revolution, it speaks for a change for the better, away from that, it becomes another thing.
Creativity and longevity
Creative burnouts define artists whose creativity went off and they still force themselves in the game if not they give up and exit the industry, fading without any notice and then they go completely silent. The dynamics of time wipes them out of the industry. Creative dormancy defines artists whose creativity is sustained but not dynamic; they don’t give anything new, a reason why some people say some musicians sound the same, painters whose work look similar but the difference is just shades of paints. Designers whose designs are just same over time and they get to be known just by that.
Creative versatility, on the other hand, defines artists who have mastered the charm in creative development, they are versatile in form, style and genre. They stay relevant, they stay contemporary and they are ever giving the audience newer creative releases. Beyoncé is well known for being in the last category, she has evolved from the time of Destiny Child to the release of the highly acclaimed Lemonade album and the celebrated collaborative album: Everything is Love with her husband Jay-Z as the Carters, which has the most hyped song Apeshit whose video was shot at the Louvre Museum giving a glimpse to the historic classical art including the famous Monalisa.
Personally, I learned to look within the weaknesses of the society and got the inspiration to give statements of strength. I have since come to realize that this decision has been so critical in building the spheres of my creative work, the main intention being to give a statement that will make something or someone better.
A year after I had worked with choreographers and cinematographers, I took a risk of trying something I had been doing to others and let it happen to myself. I walked out of my ego of waiting to be invited to personally requesting to stage a performance at a high school where there was a mental health sensitization event. I wrote the poems and a script that included a synchronized interpretive dance and live illusions. I titled it ‘A Display of Innocence and Everything you asked’ I paid credits at the start of the performance that it had been inspired by Lady Gaga’s message on mental illness that the victims need to tell their need for help not just relying on showing that need.
However much this performance gave me so many nightmares before the performance day, it gave me the realization that I could do something different. I felt it taking so much away from me and at the end, the reviews I got for it gave me so much hope that in the near future, I could do even much greater things. I realized people loved poetry and those who didn’t love it started having an interest. I was asked by so many if I had written any poetry book, I haven’t. But I sold all the copies I had of my first book, I had to pose for so many selfies and talk to many people about creativity and mental illness.
But it was until that evening when I walked into my house so tired when I realized I wasn’t still in the league of artists who still felt they haven’t done a thing. I felt my own evolution, I felt having crossed a bridge that opened me up to a world of much more possibilities than I had ever thought. And I knew right then that there was no going back.
Here are some very artistic creative releases that will never fade in my mind; Chimamanda Adichie’s novel ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. Kinyanjui Kombani’s book trailer of his novel ‘Of Pawns and Players.’ Troye Sivan’s musical trilogy titled ‘Neighborhood’, the directors’ cut of Solange Knowles’ album ‘When I Get Home’, Janelle Monae’s ‘Dirty Computer’, Beyoncé Knowles’ ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Homecoming’, Lupita Nyong’o’s book soundtrack for ‘Sulwe’ and Cynthia Erivo’s performance of ‘Masterpiece (Monalisa)’.
These and many others opened to me the realization of the enduring journey of artistry and strive for longevity. The sacrifice of having your work take much from you with the desire of bringing out the possibilities of newness and giving statements the world will never forget.
From consuming these productions, you can feel how far an artists had to go within themselves to bring out the works. Artistry is not in giving people what can’t be relatable, creativity is not in giving people technical art that cannot be understood, essence does not attach itself to an artistic work. Artists give their work its own essence. They write, speak and display statements that come back to give them and their work a label of legacy. These are the kinds of work I consume to find the motivation to give my audience something newer.
I took a break from releasing single pieces shortly after I realized how new it would feel for my audience to consume my ideas as a single body of works. Thus, I wrote and released my second book ‘The Game of Writing’ published by African Writers Development Trust, it did well, I guess it is because it presented my work in a newer way that the audience yearned to consume.
Every time I am writing, I tend to judge my own efforts and time in preparing a piece by asking the following questions; what kind of a piece am I preparing? What kind of essence does it have to carry? What kind of statement will it be labelled with to give me the proof that it actually was consumed well by the audience.
To achieve all these things, I have learned that with time, I need to work better, to write with purpose, perform with passion and release my works with caution. The reason why I am known for doing surprise releases and performance. However, this doesn’t work in every situation, I am learning to build pre-release productions: like short profile and project documentaries, trailers, sneak peek releases, book cover, art and design name reveals before the major release.
By renewing your approach, inspiration and determination, I guess we get sustained.
The writer is an author, creative artist, designer and editor. Longlisted for the 2019 African Writers Awards-Children’s literature Category and shortlisted for the inaugural Wakini Kuria Award for African Literature 2019. He lives in Kenya where he works as a professional Geographer.