Today is February 18 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “what is your creative process?’ Identifying a creative process is often critical to navigating the chaos. Jasper Johns provides such an example.
Born in 1930 in Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Johns grew up in rural South Carolina and lived with his paternal grandparents after his parents divorced when he was only a toddler. The paintings of his deceased grandmother, hung in his grandfather's house where he lived until the age of nine, provided his only exposure to art in his childhood. Johns began drawing at a very young age, with a vague intention of wanting to become an artist.
After high school, Johns spent three semesters at the University of South Carolina. Urged by his teachers to study in New York, he moved north and spent one semester at the Parsons School of Design in 1948. However, Parsons was not the ideal fit for Johns, and he left the school, rendering him eligible for the draft. In 1951, he was drafted into the army and spent two years in service during the Korean War at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and in Sendai, Japan.
After his discharge from the U.S. Army in May 1953, Johns headed to New York. As curator Carolyn Lanchner relays in her 2009 book Jasper Johns, it was time, according to the painter, “to stop becoming and to be an artist.” He destroyed all his previous pieces and held down jobs in the city to fund his progress, shifting as a night clerk at Marboro, a bookstore near Carnegie Hall.
Teaming up with fellow artist Robert Rauschenberg, he also designed department store window displays for Tiffany & Co. In 1954, he was hit by one of the most famous inspiration dreams in art history, and Flag (1954–55). Over the next six decades he would make extraordinary contributions as an American painter, sculptor and printmaker associated with Abstract expressionism, Neo-Dada, and Pop art. For his achievements, President Obama awarded Johns the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 2011.
Johns summed up his approach to art when he said “It's simple, you just take something and do something to it, and then do something else to it. Keep doing this, and pretty soon you've got something.” Are you doing something; then doing something else to it? If not, what is preventing you from doing something?