In the opening morning of a recent seminar, Sasha spoke of three pillars of success that apply to any artistic endeavor, including dog grooming. These are: imagination, mindset and skills.
Attendees are fascinated by this discussion. And when afternoon comes and they create a composition, either on a model dog or their own live dog, they have the chance to put their new understanding in motion.
We use the term composition here purposefully. Because we believe in dog grooming as a composition. Done properly, a groom is like music or any other art form. While the canvas and medium shift according to the artist’s work, the concept is the same.
Today’s post breaks down a key part of the process, using musical composition as an example.
Idea and Intention
Let’s start with terminology. Imagination (one of Sasha’s pillars of success) provides the impulsion, or forward movement needed to begin. Any type of composition starts with an idea. Something has to form in the mind before the composer can execute it.
After that, the artist has to work with intention, drawing on the knowledge, skills and techniques they have already learned. The structure of their work is built from the deep understanding, theories and acquired technical skills of the composer.
That’s important. It means your skills must be in place before you start.
Let’s take a musical example to illustrate this point. When composer Henry Mancini was asked to create a theme song for the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” he wasn’t someone who would need a Circle of 5ths handbook open on his piano. No, by then, he would have acquired all the technical skills needed to do his work. What he needed was an idea.
This is the same in grooming. Groomers need to acquire and continually update their technical skills, and then have faith that those skills will be there to draw on.
As Sasha likes to say in his seminars, “By the time you take the scissors in your hand, it is too late to learn to use them.”
Okay, so let’s assume your skills are in place. How then to get an idea…?
To reiterate, what composer Mancini would have needed to learn in order to launch his movie theme project was not skills. Those, he could rely on. What he needed to understand was the situation. Thus, his process would have been to study the script and character background until a musical idea formed in his mind.
We have to do exactly the same thing in grooming, but the idea will relate to shape and form on the dog’s coat.
A source of pet groomer frustration is not having an idea to execute beyond photographic images of show dogs in perfect trim. As we all know, show dogs are very special animals that are never going to end up on our table. And we have breed mixes to contend with. Since this is the reality that groomers work in, we need other ways to generate ideas.
Let’s continue our musical example for help…
What does Mancini discover about the film’s central character, Holly Golightly? He learns that she is a Southern girl in New York City trying to make her way. She appears to be a glamorous party girl, but in reality is scared, orphaned, desiring protection at all costs. Holly yearns for a better life, but doesn’t know how to achieve it. Despite her artifice and pretense, she clings to optimism and a sense of self. (Hence, after a night of working as a call girl, she motivates herself by staring into the window of Tiffany’s.)
By now, Mancini understands everything he needs in order to form the composition that will ultimately become the American standard, Moon River. He knows that it should yearn without being sappy. It should reach upward. It should show an acceptance of life, with optimism, not resignation, i.e., Southern but not bluesy. (Holly doesn’t cry the blues; she simply puts on her best outfit, fixes her mind on luxury, and keeps moving.)
Once he has the idea for the theme, expressed in those famous opening phrases, Mancini would have relied on his already developed knowledge of scales, chords, and keys to build out the structure and its many variations.
In other words, he would have worked with intention, based on an idea in his mind that was formed through research, understanding and his own imagination.
We offer this example, because many groomers find themselves at a loss when it comes to knowing what they want to do before they take clippers or scissors in hand.
This often happens because they haven’t been trained in the creative process as a process. Most grooming schools focus primarily on the technical skills needed to perform a task, and to other necessities such as animal handling and salon safety.
But to be an artist requires training in other disciplines.
To become better at grooming takes more than watching a renowned groomer demonstrate a technique on a perfect dog. It requires more than practice at home or in the shop, because without applying the other pillars of success, practice can fix us more firmly in a rut than we were before.
To move forward in both career and art, a groomer needs to learn (and learn to apply) the creative process.
At Sasha Riess Academy, we teach an extensive curriculum on this subject. For now, take with you the important concepts of idea and intention. Know that you must prepare yourself to have an idea. Then and only then can you execute it with intention, based on skills you’ve already honed.
To find out more about how our programs and philosophy can help you succeed, enroll now in Sasha Riess Free Flow of Excellence