Stubborn Creative Unknown Practice: Inspired by Enrique Martinez Celaya’s Thoughts

Graphite on vellum and the digital world

Still of Day 245

The Creative Meanderings #4: A Case for Stubbornness

Soon I learned that art needs stubbornness to survive, by survive I mean change and improve, and maybe even last.

Since birth, I have been a stubborn person, adhered to thinking and questioning and challenging. Stubbornness served me well. All the thinking and questioning and challenging also led me to be open, to change and exploration.

My whole life I’ve walked in a balance between certainty and questions. Within this balance, I found art. With art I could create something that didn’t exist before, I could experiment, question, and find comfort. With art, I could look at the worlds around and within me, disassemble and translate those worlds until I could begin to express their complexity.

Soon I learned that stubbornness was at the root of my art: I would stick with something until completion or let it fall away into the past. Soon I learned that art needs stubbornness to survive, by survive I mean change and improve, and maybe even last. 

245 days ago art ingrained itself in my daily experience. And after a while, I found I had a constant companion, one that challenged me just as much as it gave me comfort. 

And being strong-willed a little bit every day ushered in discipline, and the discipline led to practice. And the practice led to courage, courage to finish, courage to question myself, courage to move forward. 

In 2017, I was introduced to the work of contemporary artist and philosopher Enrique Martinez Celaya. Celaya studied physics, patented inventions then left the world of science and academia for the world of art. 

The On Being podcast’s episode “Enrique Martinez Celaya the Whisper of the Order of Things” introduced me to Celaya’s story and philosophy of art and creativity. When I first heard his voice and listened to his words I felt an inexplicable feeling, I can only compare it to inspiration.

My creative stubbornness found some of its courage from Enrique Martinez Celaya’s insight. In his collection of notes On Art and Mindfulness, in the section “Towards a Practice, his thoughts are both vast and practical. Here are a few that guide me:

“Many people tend to associate creativity with freedom and move laterally across a field of possibilities; in fact, creativity is frequently a response to limits and it usually demands a vertical, deeper incursion into the material.”

—On Art and Mindfulness page 85

“Let doubt be a source of growth rather than a debilitating force. If you want to maintain your integrity, question yourself often.”

—On Art and Mindfulness page 85

“You must be a student of your work, but never an expert. Leave room for the unknown, for the surprise.”

—On Art and Mindfulness page 93

My artistic practice has shown a light on how my stubbornness turned to discipline and how my discipline turned to practice and practice became courage. 

And I think the process of creative stubbornness I’ve experienced can be applied to people too. If we listen, our stubbornness may be asking us for time and practice and discipline, questions and doubt and courage. And if we listen, perhaps, we can transform the worlds within and around us one day, one piece of art, one moment at a time.

Side by side of day 245 and Enrique Martinez Celaya

Creative prompt: Turn Your Stubbornness into Creativity

  1. Name your stubbornness. Is it a habit, belief, behavior?
  2. Turn your stubbornness into art, visually represent a symbol of your stubbornness. Then ask yourself how could this symbol be translated to something else?
  3. Or, if you prefer writing, express your stubbornness in five words then rearrange them until they say something completely different.
  4. Repeat the process again the next day, shifting one word, or one color. How did your work change?
  5. Share your discovery. If you share via Instagram or other social media sites use the hashtag #cogneyezant.