Improvisation and Spontaneous Art

Improvisation and Spontaneous Art

"The stage is a platform for adventure..." 
Bobby Mcferin_ 

Creating with Improvisation and Spontaneity might just be the most fun you can have with your art.

Regardless of your art, in some fashion and it at some point, your inspiration shows up at spontaneous moments which forces you to improvise. And as Bobby Mcferin, one of the masters of improvisation says... "The stage is a platform for adventure." Personally I seek those moments where I feel something compelling me to take a risk, and when I do it's always a moment of fun, bliss, and a memory I won't soon forget. The results are what they are when you spontaneously create because often you have limited resources or may even be going it alone. The important thing is you did it, and you are smarter for it.

Video by Maring Visuals
Created in a moment of spontaneity on the Lumix GH4

One of those moments...

On a recent trip to Jamaica, a place I had never spent more than a day, my wife and I met a Rastafari named Maji at our resort. Maji instructed yoga at the resort at sunrise and sunset overlooking the ocean. He also sold jewelry that his wife Jasazii made from their home in the hills above Ocho Rios. Upon a conversation or two, Maji also mentioned that the music we were listening to was his. A talented man indeed, and his wife's jewelry was spectacular as well. I knew that I was speaking to another artist, who also worked with his wife as I do. Although we are from two completely different places, our conversations had synergy. That's when I spoke up and said "we have a bunch of video gear with us, let's go do something fun with it", and mentioned the possibility of a music video. We agreed to sleep on the idea and talk the next day.

The next day came, and I stopped by and spoke with Maji and he asked if we would be willing to go up to their home. He shared with me a photograph of his wife, and explained to me that she was a sculptor. My first words made him laugh. "You are married to a genius", I said. Once again we agreed to meet, and that Saturday he and his wife came by in a pickup truck and picked us up. We loaded up the truck with about $15,000 worth of camera gear, and off we went up into the hills of Jamaica. I must admit that leaving the resort with people I didn't really know with that much gear made me a bit uneasy. But, my gut feeling being around these two new found friends was that we were in good safe hands.

We arrived at their home, and quickly got acquainted to their 12 dogs, and they took us on a tour of their home. Now to say their home was unique is an understatement. It was more like an artist studio that they live in. It quickly showed that they are creating constantly, and have a wide range of ideas flowing through them both. One room was dedicated to jewelry making, another dedicated to sculpture, and yet another dedicated to frame works in which Jasazzi makes giant sized mirror frames with driftwood and other found beachside items. 

These two were a husband and wife artist team living the Rastafari good life on the island of Jamaica. I am not saying they have it easy. Rather it was obvious that they work extremely hard, and put their heart and soul into their ideas and creations. Like myself and my wife Jennifer they are working artists making a life out of things they can create, which is all an artist can ask for at the end of the day.

I don't know sculpture, or how she makes what she does. But, I do know that her works were moving, and were unlike anything I have seen in my visits to galleries and museums around the world. Her vision, and attention to detail were simply remarkable, and yet being so far away from a major art market has not had the ability to take her work beyond Jamaica. If anyone that knows what they are seeing in this work, please reach out. Better yet, put her on the fast track because this is one remarkably interesting woman. 


A few moments later and a glass of lime juice we relaxed in a warm breeze on the upstairs terrace. Maji put in one of his CD's and started dancing and singing along with it. His voice is wonderful, but his smile and charisma is addictive. A moment later I picked up my Panasonic GH4 and two artists of different cultures, places, and genres were improvising and creating something with pure spontaneity. When the song ended I said "play it again", and picked up my Defy G5 Gimbal, also holding a GH4, and we repeated this in various places around the home.

The song we were playing was lyrically about food, with the idea being that Jah provides it all, and it is all good. So, we hopped in the truck and headed to market. The market was bustling, and the four of us, Maji, me, Jasazii, and my wife walked in like we owned it. "Rastafari"... We heard from several directions in the distance. Much respect, love, and blessings greeted us at each corner. It was beautiful to see a group of people giving respect, and celebrating, the peaceful meaning that follows the Rastafari culture.

Once in the market Maji set down his boom box, hit play and became the center of attention. His bravery, and spirit, was met with a blend of happiness, bewilderment, and surprise throughout the market. He was a living work of art interacting with people he didn't know, singing his music with passion, and playing the role with confidence. My wife and I were on such an adrenaline rush, that all we could do was follow his lead and film what was in front of us. We were following our hearts, and enjoying every moment.

After a few takes at the market we hoped in the truck and headed back to the resort. As we were dropped off we had no idea what we captured on film, all we knew was that we had just experienced Jamaica in a way that few get a chance to. Compared to all of the sunshine, sailing, great meals, and rum cocktails this was the part of the trip that would be the most remembered.

When I sat down to write this blog post I didn't plan to weave this story of meeting two artists in a foreign land into this story about spontaneity and improvisation. However, as with all creative things, the words took a direction of their own, and who am I to stop them from flowing out. Just writing them took me down memory lane in a great amount of detail, and as I bring this blog post to an end, I can't help but be smiling. If you haven't checked it out yet, watch the video above that we created one afternoon just for fun, and in one of those moments of spontaneity. You can learn more about Maji and Jasazii along with their works in art, music, and life on their website.

5 Tips for Creating Art of the Moment

  1. Fortune favors the prepared mind... _Louis Pasteur 
    Take a camera with you everywhere, and find a system that you can actually do that with. While I love my DSLR's I have invested in smaller Micro 4/3 cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix GH4 as well. The camera and three lenses weighs just over that of one DSLR and one lens. Because it's small and light, it travels well, and goes with me everywhere.

  2. The best camera is the one you have with you... 
    Chances are you have a smart phone with a camera, and a video camera built in. Now with Hyperlapse available from Instagram, you can do even more. Whip out that phone every time you see something cool, and put these tools to use. You can practice storytelling anywhere, any time.

  3. Approach People... 
    As a photographer or video artist it's too easy to hide behind your camera and be a fly on the wall. That's fun of course, but working with other artists or creative people is a bigger idea. Don't be afraid to ask interesting people if they are interested in creating alongside you.

  4. Give your time to other artists... 
    I don't have a ton a close photographer friends in the industry because I am always so embedded in my own work. But the ones I do hang with I offer my time and creative energy to often. There is something amazing about working on a project with an artist friend who's work and opinion you cherish. Create relationships with other artists you enjoy spending time with, and make an effort to be available to them at a moments notice when they need a hand. 

  5. Educate your instincts 
    Improvise often because learning to improvise is the difference between classical music and rock and roll. Just as you can learn to hear music, you can also learn to see light. The more you practice capturing improvisational in style the better filmmaker and photographer you will become. Being technical is important, and there is time to work on that, but placing yourself in a spontaneous situations often educates your instincts.

"I love improvisation. You can't blame it on the writers. You can't blame it on direction. You can't blame it on the camera guy... It's you. You're on. You've got to do it, and you either sink or swim with what you've got." 
_Jonathan Winters

Charles Maring is a photographer and filmmaker at Maring Visuals, and a co-host / creator of the Together In Style talk show.