Saturday, September 4, 2010

Kooks and Creativity

Last week at a well known southern California surf spot, a new costume was draped on a local statue.  The statue called the Magic Carpet Ride is of a surfer, riding a wave.  The overnight prank was to build a papier mache shark’s mouth engulfing the surfer.  The statue is in a pose that is inimical for a good surfer and was originally mocked by locals.  Then, not long after being erected a few years ago a series of such pranks were perpetrated on this community landmark.  The statue, known locally as the Cardiff Kook ago, has been draped in a variety of costumes from clown to female stripper.  

Kook is surfer slang usually used as the ultimate put down.  Writer and surfer, Peter Heller wears that label proudly and states  “ Being a kook is a way of life. ..It’s about being willing to learn something new, to make a fool of yourself and just go for it.”   What I gleaned from the Cardiff Kook pranks is to be free to try on different personae and share them in public.  It regularly gets attention from local media with praise from passers by and surfers alike.  The dressed up statue is not viewed as a problem but entertaining and fun.  Viewing the kook is fun for the community. 

Some lessons about creativity can be gleaned from this oddity.  As a novice creative expresser (artist), I noted my tendency to resist trying the new, out of character activity.  Holding back or worse giving half effort short circuits the fun of creativity.   And as an older beginning artist it is easy for me to come up with excuses to not ‘go for it.’  My litany includes; the learning curve is too steep, I am not talented, and who cares if I do it?    Each of these cop outs are eschewed by the Cardiff Kook.  
·     Lesson #1: His kook-ness is proudly displayed and loved by the community. Being a beginner is not necessarily going to face public approbation. 
·     Lesson #2:  Recognizing his unskillful style the prankster gives the kook a variety of roles to try on.  Experiment with new and personal approaches to the new art.
·     Lesson #3:  Great public acclaim and interest accrue to the kook’s variety of personae.  Sometimes the different, unusual, and original are enjoyed by others.

        Creativity can and should be fun and the prankster and the Cardiff Kook are great exemplars of the courage it takes to actually do and practice creative expression.  Especially for those of us who were labeled at a young age that we couldn’t draw or sing or act or?  The clear cue is just do it, do your thing, express yourself.   The authenticity you bring to the art is more important than any talent you may think you don’t have.  Sure there may be a long period of skill development.   And yes, you may be seen as a ‘kook,’ but don’t let that stop you.  The community may be waiting for the kind of kookiness you share.   And who knows you may get to wear some fun costumes.