Monday, December 31, 2012

200/365: Where I've Been

Today I made:

a new album on Flickr...

I've collected a silly amount of photos of my feet. Honest, it's not a foot fetish. It all began the summer of 2010 when my mom and I traveled back to my birthplace, Poland. We stopped in Germany first to see relatives, and visited the historic city of Heidelberg, where I walked on the original cobble stone streets. It blew me away to think that I was walking where kings and queens had once stood. I was charmed by the history; I am a sucker for cobblestone streets.

Since then, I've been snapping shots of my footsies when I'm exploring new territory or even just moving through everyday life. These are no prize winning photos, but the series has become a symbol of feeling rooted and being present wherever I am on my path. I like this unique way of documenting the passing of time, the textures of the land beneath me, the colors of my clothes and any bit of whimsy that finds it's way into the frame. This odd version of self-portraiture allows me to document memories. I remember every one of these days. I plan to dig up the original photos that started the series a couple years ago (not from my iphone), to write captions for each photo, and add on to my series throughout the years.

As 2012 comes to an end, I thought this would be a fun way to look back on the year to see where I've been. This is what it's like to walk in my shoes:

Where I've Been...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

199/365: Lessons Learned in 2012

Today I made:

an art journal page about this year's learning...

The most meaningful "aha" moments of 2012 feel like more than just lessons learned. These are things that I believe with all my heart. The year's life experiences brought me to this place of understanding.

 mixed media art journal page: acrylic, ink, scrap paper, collaged paper
Couldn't bear to lose my new muse necklace to the journal, so I made a color photo copy.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

198/365: When Paintings Grow Wings

Today I made:
Wise Owl Holds the inspiration for "Lessons Learned 2012"
The necklace was a Christmas gift from my husband
and it's proving to be quite the little muse.

the beginning of an art journal page...

Sometimes when paintings begin to grow wings, I am inclined to stay up way past my bedtime with paint on my hands. 

(Love those nights.) 

As far as I'm concerned, the day is not over until I go to bed, so my work in progress is just a space saver for the rest of today's creation. :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

197/365: Twelve Epiphanies

art journaling my learning in 2011; mixed media on watercolor paper
Today I made:

time to revisit old lessons learned...

e.piph.a.ny  noun
 1. the manifestation of a divine being
2. a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence.

The time I spend making art, and reading and writing about creativity has been a time for  reflection and making sense of things. I have had some delightful epiphanies over the past couple years of this creative awakening of mine, just like the 2nd definition states. Some epiphanies come in the form of ideas that move me through the creative process while making art, and sometimes they come as a spark of understanding about something that I'm supposed to create in my life. Every once in a while, something clicks and informs my next action. At the end of last year, I began the tradition of journaling the year's "aha" moments that had the greatest impact on my life. 

The frustrating thing I'm finding about some of my epiphanies is that I often lose them soon after I gain them. Even when I’ve journaled about my insights (or made art about them), it often feels like the understanding is just out of reach when I most need to apply it. It's like trying to recall a great dream you had upon waking up, and you just catch broken glimpses of the feeling. How do I make the learning permanent in the face of doubts and fears that try to override what I was once so sure about?

As I read over my 2011 Lessons Learned, I find myself chuckling at how many of them have resurfaced as little struggles this year. It turns out that I'm still just learning to use the tools that I thought I had under my belt. It has all just been a practice. I am still an absolute beginner. Still I'm glad I documented last year's lessons, as it provides evidence that I've reached that level of insight once, and I'm confident I can do it again.  

I know from teaching that just because we "learned" a lesson doesn't mean we're going to know how to apply it when an authentic test in life comes our way. Life, I'm realizing, is just a series of lessons presented to us repeatedly under new circumstances. We must recognize the lessons we learned, decide on the strategy best suited to navigate the situation, and see it through despite doubt and frustration. So many things to remember! Maybe that is why I feel like I’m reliving the same dilemmas and having the same conflicting thoughts over and over again. It’s not that I wasn't paying attention or that I didn’t learn from my mistakes. It may simply be that I have yet to bring my own meaning to the situation in a way that allows me to internalize with true understanding. 

Having experienced the creative "flow" as an artist, I also believe that an epiphany is a little like the first definition. Art making is manifesting divine ideas, which makes it an ideal time for learning. When we surrender to our intuition during the creative process, we form a connection with a divine creative source that guides us on the path and makes us say, "Aha, that's the direction I need to go with this." Perhaps when we learn to trust our epiphanies in art, we become better at applying them in life.
Either way, we are constantly evolving as we create our mental and physical landscapes. This evolution is learning.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

196/365: The Art of List Making

"The Art of Brain Spilling" - a stamped and illustrated collage of sorts
Today I made:

my master to-do list and a picture of my brain spill...

Ah winter break- I'm blessed with a little extra time off from teaching and I'm going to use it to my advantage. As the year comes to a close, I'm feeling extra motivated to tackle my to-do list and set some goals for the new year. But there are so many things I'd like to do that I don't know where to start. So before the overwhelm and unproductive state sets in again, I've decided to make one of my epic to-do lists. I am an expert list maker you know...have I mentioned that before?

Today's list is an absolute brain spill (a very long one). It includes every little thing I want to take care of or set in motion, from the "do- nows" to the new year goals. Over the next few days, I will organize my list by categories: home, work, creative, personal, etc. I will prioritize the items, delegate those that others are better equipped to do, take on what's really important to me, and begin the process of scheduling goals and action steps into my weeks and months for the coming year. I know this all sounds like way more fun than a gal should be having during winter vacation, but in all seriousness, I really want to make some things happen for myself in 2013, and this is the best way I can think to manage all the brain clutter that keeps me from starting.

My husband thinks I make lists to procrastinate actually having to do the things that need to get done. Maybe that is a tiny bit true, but my list making is the most cathartic way I can think of to recall, organize and prioritize all the actions that need to happen to help me feel peaceful and productive. It helps me clarify my intentions, get a vision of the things I want to accomplish in a set amount of time and get those nagging to-dos out of my head. Once they're down on paper, I can tackle each item one at a time and break it down into doable itty bitty action steps.

Sound like a grand plan that will fall through mid January? I'll admit, it has happened before, but this time I have much more clarity of what I want to accomplish, better tools to make it happen and the determination to see it through. I've gotten a small taste of what I'm capable of and I want to see how far I can actually take my dreams. That is why I'm not setting a resolution this year. Instead, I will make an affirmation:

I am committed to myself and capable of taking control of my personal, financial, and creative well being in order to create the life of my dreams.

I feel lighter already.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

195/365: Art Desk Law

Today I made:
a clean start & new rule for my art space...

Since my big cleaning and organizing spree in my art space in September, things have stayed relatively user friendly, but with holidays, visitors and hectic schedules, there's just been a little more "stuff" to deal with lately. I do a decent job of tidying up between projects, but when the life clutter bomb hits, nothing gets done for days on end. It doesn't help that our house is itty bitty, so any clean surface doesn't stay that way for long in the process of this thing we do called living. But enough is enough! It's nearly the new year and I need a fresh start. So after the wrapping paper and dinner dishes from yesterday's festivities were cleaned up, I got to work in my bedroom/art studio.

In my constant effort to bring more space and time for art making into my world, there is absolutely no room for clutter and disaray in my tiny makeshift studio. On days when I have just a few minutes to make art, I need to be able to jump in and start, without having to dig my way in. There have been so many weary evenings when I may have had an ounce or two of creative output left in me (the painterly kind), but the thought of sorting through junk mail and stacks of randomness just to get to a clean, flat surface disuaded me from even starting. I often made do by bringing my sketchbook to the couch or by writing away at my lap top, but I am alway most plugged in to my creative source when I am in my happy little art making space surrounded by all my tools and inspirations. So today I made a promise to myself- no more stacks of mail, no more receipts, no more schoolwork. Even my piles of books and random bits of collected inspirations will have to find their homes elsewhere.

It is now law in my house:

Thou shall keep a clean space for creation.

If it is not an art tool that in some way contributes to my visual art output, then it is not permitted to rest on my art desk. (With the exception of one mug of tea, a candle and a vase of flowers, which are becoming kind of a ritual.)

Even my inner rebel warrior child agrees that this new rule is necessary and does not object. Thank goodness; she can be a feisty little beast.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

194/365: Toys for Artists

Today I made:

out like a bandit...

As a kid on Christmas, I couldn't wait to play with my new toys. Today I just want to love on my husband...and take pictures of my creative gift haul:

a fresh set of colored pencils and typography stickers for art journaling,

a vintage crafts book, (My friend knows me so well!)

two kinds of clay to experiment with, (My husband was listening when I came home raving about how much fun I had at the clay class in November.)

and the best surprise- a vintage typewriter from the 1930s! I've been looking for one of these for years. Oh the possibilities...

There's nothing like a few new creative toys and tools to get the juices flowing. Tomorrow I play. Today I snuggle my Santa.

Wishing everyone a beautiful Christmas filled with love and inspiration.

Monday, December 24, 2012

193/365: Christmas Eve Kitty

Varo looking studly at the "pet mixer"
Today we made:

Banjo interact with the kitties...

We spent a cozy evening with good friends and our dog and cat children. Chasing four animals around with an iPhone camera resulted in only one worthy photo.

I know it looks like kitty is about to roast his chestnuts on an open fire, but he's actually just posing behind some decorative branches near a floor lantern. I played around with Lo-Mob, one of my favorite camera apps, for this effect.

It made for some warm and fuzzy Christmas eve memories.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

192/365: Love Schematics Part II

Today I made:

his heart light up...

After yesterday's sorry attempt at the Flashing LED Sweetheart project,
I decided to wrap up the unassembled kit and give it to my husband as his ornament gift today. I got exactly the reaction I was hoping for: "This is cool! I wanna do it now!" (According to Rodney, this was an "easy" project because of the labeled circuit board. Duh.) Before I could even finish my coffee, he had the soldering iron plugged in. I felt a little bad about taking his new toy away from him, but we decided I would do most of the assembly work.

I got another lesson on electrolytic capacitors (which unfortunately are nothing like the flux capacitors that made time travel possible in Back to the Future). This time I paid attention. Rodney explained what all the parts were, showed me how to read the color coding on the resistors and how to determine polarity in the diagram. (Yeah I can throw around the lingo now. :)
I wondered why the manual didn't just explain it all like this. I suppose they assumed more than a beginner's level of understanding in electronics. Fair enough.

I also needed some soldering tips and then I was ready to tackle what just last night seemed like an impossible (for me) project. The kit was just tricky and time consuming enough to hold my attention through to completion. I must admit, all those small parts, the possibility of burning myself and the knowledge that I could mess things up beyond repair made my hands shake, but I felt very empowered by the end.  I'm not used to creating for a specific end product, and I had to push through even when I questioned whether it would work once all the components were in place. It helped to have my husband there  guiding and encouraging. When we popped on the 9 volt battery and the LEDs actually lit up, the sense of accomplishment after all the effort was huge!

Patience, perseverance, attention to detail, a delicate touch and faith that things will work out are all required in understanding the schematics of circuits...and the schematics of love. All good things came out of this. Rodney adores his 2012 ornament, we had the opportunity to bond over his interest and made a meaningful memory out of our ornament exchange tradition. Best of all, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone today and it felt good. "Mila learn," Rodney joked in his best caveman voice.

Mila learn.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

191/365: Love Schematics

Today I made:

a poor attempt at an electronics project...

Every year, around Christmastime, my husband and I surprise each other with a new ornament for the tree. The tradition started off with Hallmark ornaments and quickly grew into the handmade and creative variety. We try to make them meaningful to the year's experiences, accomplishments or inside jokes.

This year, my husband has been teaching himself electronics and creating miniature amps out of cigar boxes and other reused containers. He has all kinds of fun soldering circuitry components and making impressive projects that make me say, "Wow, you made that?!"

I went to Radio Shack in search of circuit boards that I could artify (yes, that is a made-up word) and turn into an ornament to symbolize his new hobby. I was delighted to find an actual kit called the "Flashing LED Sweetheart" that runs on a 9 volt battery. I decided it was a great DIY project for me. Silly, silly me.

I really should have known better when I saw that the front of the box said "manual inside." I am admittedly challenged at assembling things from manuals. My right brain wretches at the thought, but the kit is just too perfect and Rodney would be so proud that I took on such a project. These are no ordinary assembly instructions, however.  When I brought it home and realized that the project requires the ability to read schematics and has all sorts of tiny thingamajigs that need to be soldered, my own little heart sank. Now I'm feeling totally inept and realizing that this is way over my head. It might as well be open heart surgery. Luckily no lives are at stake, but my perfect ornament may not come to be so easily. I'm wishing I'd paid better attention and not let my eyes glaze over at the mention of transistors and electrolytic capacitors.

Rodney has been given the blog spoiler alert while I attempt to figure this thing out. I may give it another honest go in the next couple days once I get over the fear of breaking it. Or I may just give the kit itself as a gift and ask the pro to guide me through it. That might make a fun team project. Stay tuned to see how I do with those tricky love schematics.

Friday, December 21, 2012

190/365: The End of the World As We Know It

Today I made:

a photograph (one of many more to come)...

"It's the end of the world as we know it, (and I feel fine.") ~R.E.M.

May the paradigm shift commence!

Sail Bay ~ Pacific Beach, San Diego
Not bad for an end of the world sunset. No photo editing! Those are the real deal winter solstice colors!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

189/365: Mixed Media Christmas

young artist's piece in progress
Today I made:

an art play space...

I had so much fun making art with the kids at school yesterday that I decided to create an art play date for one of my tutoring students tonight. She's my little art apprentice and has picked up some good techniques for her fourth mixed media collage.

We listened to Christmas music, I learned some lessons that only a teenager can teach you and she created her little heart out. I love watching young artists create. They are so much less inhibited and self-doubting. They create from a place of joy and take pride in their efforts.
The reminder to practice that kind of creation was the best Christmas gift she could have given me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

188/365: Little Hands, Big Ideas

Today I made:

kids smile...

Our classroom Christmas art was a messy success. Oh the cuteness! The third graders agreed with me- You're never too old for finger painting! They had so much fun turning their hand prints into creative holiday images. Santas, reindeer, snowmen, angels and doves decorated the classroom. The kids even added sweet sentiments to their cards and posters, and began coming up with writing ideas to extend the art projects. I adore creating with kids!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

187/365: Classroom Christmas Crafts

Today I made:

sneak peek Santa & tree
plans for holiday art...

I'm subbing for a friend tomorrow and she asked me to bring an art project to do with her class. (That is certainly brave of her!) I'm sure you can imagine my excitement! My mind was swirling with possibilities all day, so it was probably better that I had little time to prep and virtually no budget.

I decided we would break the old school paints out, get creative and have some good messy fun. So tonight I prepped some samples and had my own messy fun. I'll share the kids' finished projects tomorrow.

Monday, December 17, 2012

186/365: There Are No Words

a merry Christmas, Rodney style (Yes, that is his mustache.)
Today we made:

our Christmas cards...

OK, maybe there are some words, mostly to explain to you how this project came to be. The other day my husband asked me to take this photo of him. "It's for a t-shirt," he explained. I laughed and agreed it would make a great Christmas shirt for work, the dorkier the better. My husband has no trouble being a dork.

When I came home tonight, he was busy doing some photo editing to achieve just the right result. At that point, we both agreed that our store-bought Christmas cards (which we had yet to send out) were no match for this hilarity. I credit him for the design, and I'm the lucky one who gets to print, cut, sign, address and mail the goods. It's a team effort here at the Bowman workshop.

The greeting is a surprise. Feel free to add your own caption. Hopefully our friends and family will get a good laugh. If not, at least we did. We're not parents yet, but I know the quintessential family photo holiday cards are in our future. We're obviously trying to live it up until then. ;)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

185/365: Perfectly Random

Today we made:
it to eleven years!!

And we celebrated with:

A rainy walk on the pier,
A white rainbow over the ocean!
Fish tacos and hot cocoa,
And laughter at the things we found
at the swap meet and antique store.

The lonely old 'R' block caught my eye at the outdoor market. Your letter and your color called to me- a perfect little totem for my art space.

One more antique shop after dinner, and there was my 'K'. How perfectly random, this happy little serendipitous event. We found our match.

Happy anniversary of the day we found each other, my sweetest man!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

184/365: Eleven Years of Love Letters

Today I made:
altered card by American Greetings, wisecracks by me

a love letter...

Tomorrow, Rodney and I are celebrating the 11 year anniversary of the day we met. Eleven years! That is 1/3 of my life! We lived in different states for the first four years of our relationship, so cards and letters by snail mail helped keep our long-distance love going. I miss those days of pouring our hearts into the words and making each other laugh with silly cards.

At the drugstore the other day, while looking for an anniversary card for some friends of ours, I found a little card that had some down-right perfect sentiments in it for the two of us- well, almost. I bought it with the intention of altering it a bit to make it a little more personal (and comical) and adding my own note to the back. Just sharing a peek's priiiiiivate! ;)

After my greeting card graffiti, I dug out my sketchbook and we had a staring contest. I think I feel some doodles coming on.

Friday, December 14, 2012

183/365: She Believed She Could

Today I made:

{it} halfway to 365 days of creative!!!
and some happy art...

"She Believed She Could"
gesso, oil pastel, ink & collaged heart on paper
copyright Mila Bowman 2012
Wow, this day snuck up on me! It's actually also the one year anniversary of my very first itty bitty art show. That's what really got the ball rolling for me with the sharing of my art and documenting of my process. I'm getting excited to look back on this last year of creativity and to make plans for the year to come. Happy creative half-birthday to me :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

182/365: Christmas Traditions

Today we made:

holiday memories...

It was Christmas tree trimming night at our house. That meant pulling out the delightfully mismatched- yet memorable- ornaments, putting on our Santa hats, drinking eggnog and listening to Alabama Christmas (that's a throwback to Rodney's childhood). Our tiny house is filled with the smell of pine. I love this night of the year and all the traditions that come with it, no matter how cheesy.

Each year we gift each other with a new ornament, sometimes store bought, sometimes home made, always something meaningful from the year. Last year, my thoughtful husband got crafty in his wood shop and cut out a little wooden paint palette, then decorated it with acrylics and a paint brush. It's one of my favorites and it really captures the spirit of my artful 2011. I'm still contemplating what ornament to make him this year and am excited for my surprise. It's fun to look back on the years of Christmas memories hanging from the branches.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

181/365: Creativity Branches Out

Today I made:

plans for little writers...

My creativity has revolved around lesson planning for my tutoring students these days. Making our learning time relevant, meaningful and student-centered is always my goal. While I don't have my own classroom to work my magic on this year, I'm glad to find that I still get excited about creating lessons. It's always been high up there on my list of why I love teaching. It feels good to be able to support my tutoring students in making breakthroughs that help them in classroom life and in the big wide world of learning. It feels good to make even a tiny difference.

My biggest project lately is trying to figure out how to bring a writing workshop structure to my once-a-week meetings with one of my little writers. I've been perusing the web for ideas on organizing his writer's notebook in a way that would allow him to use it and benefit from it beyond our short lessons. I'm finding such great ideas on teachers' blogs (which I'd love to share once I get it all organized). I'm actually getting the itch to start another blog or website for my tutoring. Teaching, documenting, sharing...creativity branches out!

Happy 12-12-12!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

180/365: The Itch We Can't Scratch

Today I made:

time to write... (on purpose)

I had a couple happy realizations today while catching up on my blog posts from my creative acts this weekend. The accountability that documenting on my blog has provided has been very good for me and it's starting to stick. Even on the days that I'm too busy to post my creative act, I'm still getting it done in the real world where it truly matters. I'm holding myself to it every day, and it's feeling more natural. I'm following the same rule I ask of my students- do your best even when no one is watching. That feels good because it means I'm committed to myself.

I also pinpointed a place in my life where I can be a little more gentle with myself. It has to do with allowing myself the time to write when I have the urge to write. (Imagine that!) Over the past several months, I have been rather hard on myself on the nights when I spent my creative time "blogging" rather than playing with my art supplies. While the ultimate goal is to make more visual art, I am still expressing myself and connecting with my creative spirit on the days when I choose to write. Just like a short session of doodling adds to my work as an artist, all the little journal sessions make me a stronger writer and allow me to honor the fact that writing is a force of creative good in my life! Through writing, I'm making sense of my learning and making new connections that ultimately benefit all my creative goals. On busy days when it's hard to make studio time and all I want to do is work stuff out in my brain, writing has been my saving grace.

The creative urge sometimes feels like an itch we can't scratch. We have to find the tool that's going to get the job done. Some days that's a paint brush or a sewing machine. Other days it's an instrument or favorite song and make-shift dance floor. Many days, for me, it is the blank page and my full brain that allow me to get at that creative itch.

Which tools of creativity can you acknowledge in your life? They. All. Matter.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

177/365: For the Love of Leg Warmers

Today I made:

a "totally rad" costume...

A friend of ours is turning the big 4-0 this week and we are celebrating tomorrow by helping him relive some of the memories of his youth, complete with a reunion of his old band. We're going to pretend (for a day) that we're not too old to do one of those costume pub crawls that my hometown is so well known for. Our group costume theme is the 80s.

My husband is the king of costumes, so there's no way he was going to let me get away with not going all out. I was only in elementary school in the 1980s, but I rocked my fair share of stone wash denim, side ponytails, friendship bracelets, stirrup pants and jelly shoes. I could have gone so many ways with this, but in the end I decided to embody the "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" spirit. So I spent the afternoon putting together my version of an outfit from the age of excess. Think leg warmers, fingerless gloves, petticoats, huge earrings and neon.

Embarrassing photos coming soon.

Friday, December 7, 2012

176/365: The Trees and I

Today I made:

a happy color find...

I know everyone is gearing up for the winter holidays, but I'm still stuck in Fall and so are most of the trees in my San Diego beach neighborhood. I swear winter comes later and later each year. (I'm OK with that.) The trees and I believe that it's much more fun to sport colorful leaves than it is to be a bare branch. They provide me with color inspiration late into the season and I take their pictures (which I'm quite sure is like giving them a hug).

This tall lovely tree showed off it's golden yellows, oranges, pinks, reds, maroons and purples for me today.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

175/365: The Author & the Editor

Today I made:
my point about spell check...

I helped my young friend finish her novel tonight. She crafted quite the story over the last month and it was time to revise and edit- 15 pages worth, complete with clever dialogue, suspenseful scenes and plot twists. This was so NOT a one day task, but because of our schedules, we had to pull a late night work session. The spelling and grammar check on the computer got a workout for a good hour. Then we reread and reread some more, going through with a fine-tooth comb, proving that our brains are smarter than the spell check. There is a part of me that enjoys this meticulous, detail-oriented task, but after five hours my eyes were crossing. (Apparently, the period key had been missing from her keyboard during much of the writing of the draft.) It was funny to see how many different versions of the story came through with missing or misplaced punctuation. We had a good laugh, and hopefully she learned something.

Written language conventions are still taught in high school, right? I can't remember at what point during my school career I bought into the idea that revision and editing are a crucial part of the writing process, but I teach it to the youngest of writers. If we want to gift the world with our creative stories and brilliant ideas (or function in the workplace) we need to make sure our writing is readable. It is part of the craft of writing. I wonder how many professional writers write a novel with no periods and hand it over for their editor to decipher. ;)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

174/365: All the Little Sketches

Today I made:
a sleepy sketch...

These gestures and lines keep coming out of me. Not sure why I'm stuck on the girlie faces. Trying not to judge, just letting them flow. Using my sketchbook again feels good. Maybe they're practice for bigger works. All the little sketches add up.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

173/365: To Stand Before Beginnings

Today I made:

a fresh start in a new journal...

finding a friend in old words and a younger Mila...
excerpt from Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, December 3, 2012

172/365: Pockets of Time

Today I made:
the most of my lunch break...

This morning I decided to throw my old journal and sketchbook into my purse again, and I was so glad I did when the ideas began flowing mid work day. Thirty minutes for lunch and a quiet classroom were just the creative time and space I needed this afternoon. My poor paper journal has been getting slighted for months with all the writing I do here. I must admit I miss the private comfort of those pages, not to mention the space for doodling.

These little pockets of free time on busy days are especially precious to my creative commitment. I don't always have long stretches of time to work in my art space, but that shouldn't be an excuse. Integrating creativity into the natural flow of our days can mean pulling out the old moleskin while waiting for an appointment or on a quick break at work. Even a ten minute sketch or doodle session is enough to leave your mark on the day.

What pockets of time can you reclaim for creativity each day?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

171/365: What a Peaceful Feeling

Today I made:

a free verse poem (for my husband)...

My Dear,
I wrote you a poem this morning
To thank you
For our night jog on the bay.
All indigo sky
Reflecting on the water,
The boats with their sails
Tucked in for the night,
A hint of fog settling over
The world in soft focus.
The sound of your feet,
My feet,
Your breath,
My breath.

On the walk back
You took my hand.
Then your left arm and my right
Found their rightful places
Around each other's shoulders.
I leaned into you
And closed my eyes
For a long time on the path.
I didn't need to tell you-
I just knew you would guide me.
We were quiet, walking in the damp night air.
What a peaceful feeling
To let go of control
And trust that I am moving
In the right direction.

~KMB 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

170/365: She Decided to Get Out of Her Own Way

close-up of found text
Today I made:

an art journal page 
& affirmations...

I am my own worst enemy.
I can't think of a single person in my life who would stand in the way of me persuing my dreams...except for me. Something's gotta give.

I am young, healthy, able-bodied, educated, resourceful, creative and passionate. I have the support and encouragement of my family and friends (and sometimes even perfect strangers).
I have a loving, commited relationship with a man who inspires me and supports my every whim. I have the freedom of a flexible job, food on the table, a roof over my head, a comfortable home. I make enough to get by just fine. We don't have children yet, so I have plenty of time for myself. My focus on my dreams is beginning to develop. My motivation and self-discipline are improving, as is my ability to manage time.

The things that are stopping me are my own mental constructs: fears, self-doubt, limiting beliefs, and my nasty inner critic. I am relieved to find that this list is so much shorter! Why do I let it rule me? Am I really afraid of my own puny self?

Listen here, self!
I have no room for excuses.
I can create anything I want.
My power lies in my ability to decide...

mixed media on altered book page: photo, found image, collage papers,
acrylic, ink & colored pencil
copyright Mila Bowman 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

169/365: The Greatest Creation

a sketch by the's been stuck to my inspiration board
for months, reminding me that love blooms.
Today I made...

the happiest happy dance...

As far as creative spontaneous dance parties go, this one takes the cake!

Thirty minutes ago, I found out that two of our greatest friends got engaged today. He proposed on top of a volcano in Hawaii! I am dying to hear the details. Rodney and I are beyond thrilled, and reminded of the beautiful feeling that comes over a couple when they commit to a life together. It's an incredible thing when two people find each other. It's even more amazing when those people are a brilliant example of true love to everyone around them. My heart wants to pop out of my chest! Congratulations to our best man and our "sista from another mista."

I'm dancing and laughing and crying all at once! Love is the greatest creation!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

168/365: Writers Need to Daydream

Today I made:

a mental note to think like a child...

It's been a week of writing with young people. This is one of my very favorite things.
I began with a new tutoring student this afternoon. This fourth grade boy talked to me earnestly about where ideas come from. He described (in perfect fourth grade language) how writers can find inspiration in the tiniest nuances of our environment, like for instance, the ants that have infiltrated his classroom and the story he was inspired to weave around them. How very Walden-esk of him! By recounting his observations, he reminded me that writers need to daydream! Letting our attention drift once in a while can lead to discoveries of entire little worlds that would go unnoticed otherwise. I reminded him that the places we go to in our daydreams make for great story ideas to return to when we are stuck.

I've also been helping my ninth grade student this week with the completion of her first novel. She is participating in National Novel Writing Month with her English class. How cool is that?! I recently learned about this yearly challenge to write a novel in the month of November. I love this idea (maybe for myself in the future) and am delighted to find that high school teachers are using it as a project. It's been absolutely incredible watching my little friend go from having a staring contest with the blank page to creating elaborate characters and scenes out of her imagination. I've mostly been asking lots of questions and talking through the many choices writers can make. Together, we are learning to keep our audience in mind and to give our characters as much voice and personality as the characters in our lives have.

I can't think of many things more satisfying than teaching and learning about the creative process by writing with kids. Empowering a child to realize that they are creating something where there once was nothing with their own brilliant mind gives me the greatest warm fuzzies!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

167/365: Haikus & Yoga

Today I made:
four haikus on yoga...

These poems came to me during "final surrender," Shavasana pose.

ink & acrylic on watercolor paper
copyright Mila Bowman 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

166/365: Prickly Feelings May Come Up

Today I made:
art & journaling in response to a quote...
"Prickly Feelings May Come Up" art journal page;
watercolor & India ink on watercolor paper: Mila Bowman 2012
I've heard it said that artists are a moody bunch. Our keen senses trigger emotions. We feel deeply. We dive into the pits of despair and climb back up to elation in a matter of moments. Lately, this has been the case for me, but I don't believe this is exclusive to "artists." Anyone who is in a creative state of change will come up against a mix of prickly feelings. Whenever we step out of our comfort zone to take more control of creating authentic lives that will make us happy, we make ourselves vulnerable to feelings of fear, self-doubt, confusion, overwhelm, anxiety, loneliness, and more of the prickly stuff. Whether we're trying to design or redesign our lives to accommodate new family members, a move, a change of career, or the building of a dream, these are feelings we must face. At this point in my life and my creative journey, I can't help but acknowledge that I brought this all on myself. I invited these feelings into my life.

But who's to say these feelings are bad and should be avoided at all costs? Aren't they all a part of this wild ride we're on? We would all have to face challenges one way or another. If I take some of them on willingly (like when I veer off my prescribed path in search of bigger happiness), I may get some good practice for overcoming other big challenges. Sparring with our self-imposed fears and doubts can prepare us for other struggles in life.

The fantastic news is, there is a flip side to these feelings! We find that sunny side by facing the dark stuff head-on. On the other side of fear there is courage. If we toy with self-doubt, we are forced to overcome by learning to build faith and trust. If we take on anxiety, we will eventually learn to find peace. Our vulnerability opens us to a deep truth that may inspire others. It's part of our hero's journey. It's all ours to work out and overcome.

So is it worth it?
It is for me. The creative process can be a rough road at times, but it is a road that inevitably leads me back to the best parts of myself. The introspective parts, the brave parts, the honest, tender, compassionate, patient, determined, inspired and curious parts-- they are all on the other side of those uncomfortable feelings that may come up when we take on this journey.

So yes, I am moody and isolated at times. I mope and fret and rehash my mistakes, but it's because I'm preparing for a stealthy ninja-like attack on the negative feelings. I'm excited to feel what's on the flip side.

Monday, November 26, 2012

165/365: The Leaning Tower of Portabella

Today I made:
this stack of goodness...

Feeling creative in the kitchen tonight. I concocted this one myself! It's my version of a stuffed mushroom. This tall stack of goodness is a portabella mushroom stuffed with turkey bolognese and topped with a slice of pepper jack cheese (mozzarella would be good too), spaghetti squash and some cheesy marinara. Oh yeah, it's scrumptious!

After removing the stems, I drizzled the mushrooms with olive oil, garlic powder, basil, thyme and a little salt and pepper, then baked at 350 for 20 minutes. All other ingredients were cooked separately and stacked on after the mushrooms were done. Super easy!

While the mushrooms were baking, I cooked the spaghetti squash in the microwave by poking some holes in the side with a fork and rotating every 3 minutes for a total of 12 minutes. Spaghetti squash is a favorite at our house as it's a healthy and tasty alternative to pasta. See details here

Because I like to make the "I'd rather be painting" quick version of things, I used a pre-made turkey bolognese (ground turkey, onion, marinara and spices) from Trader Joe's (love that place!) It would be easy enough to whip up a batch, time provided. You could also use beef bolognese or try a veggie version and stuff with spinach. I'm trying that next.

My husband gives this recipe a thumbs up. It gets two from me for being quick, easy and delicious.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

164/365: Someday-Home Dreaming

Today I made:
a picture in my mind...

We took a drive up to Julian today- the second part of my birthday surprise. Julian is a mountain community about an hour outside of San Diego. The trees are all golden  this time if year and the air is crisp. It's the best place to go for apple pie, and in our case, for calamari steak and someday-home dreaming.

Rodney found a property for sale there with an incredible view of Lake Cuyamaca. It's a bit of a fixer-upper, but it has potential. I might consider trading in my beach and bay for a lake and four seasons. That is if I could work from home as an artist and teach creativity workshops to the locals. :) Could we leave city life for a peaceful mountain dwelling? It may not be a possibility now, but I adore my husband for helping me paint a picture in my mind of the life that is ours to create.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

163/365: Running Toward the Idea High

Today I made:
good use of my running shoes...

When I was a little Mila, I loved to run. I ran barefoot laps in our big backyard. I ran down the street to my friend's house so we had more time to play. I challenged my brothers to races. I had reoccurring dreams of running so fast that my strides turned into great leaps and before I knew it I was flying.
Running was a way of life back when I had the energy to support it.

Sometime during my growing-up phase, running became a "work-out" and my brain did its best to reject the idea. But my body still had urges every now and then to burst into a sprint. When we moved to San Diego three years ago, the bay path by our house coaxed me out again. Then my husband and I began jogging, sporadically, together. We keep dropping the habit and picking it back up. Every time, I am reminded of the strength of my will and the eagerness of my body to work for me when I ask it to. My thighs scream "Fowl!" but my mind screams "Yes yes yes! Remember how you love this? Remember how much it recharges you creatively?"

We don't always have the energy to begin a workout, but the workout gives us energy. (Darn those silly catch 22s!) It's like showing up in your art space without the slightest idea of what to make. Trust that showing up and making the gestures will result in energy and inspiration, in exercise and in art.

So this afternoon, with my favorite coach and workout buddy cheering me on, I made my legs and arms go through the motions until my heart was drumming in my chest, my lungs were bathing in fresh air and my veins were filled with delicious oxygenated blood. It didn't take long before my mind was solely focused on catching my breath and pushing through the pain. The rush of oxygen and endorphins to the brain made for happy and brave thoughts. I reached a place of possibility. Ideas flooded through and interesting connections were made.

It's probably my brain's way of shutting out the physical struggle by busying itself with far-out ideas and inspired whimsy. Whatever- I'll take it! Aside from getting a great workout, it is good for me to reach this happy place of letting my mind float on possibility. Running is becoming a spiritual practice for me, like a moving meditation, and the "idea high" lasts well into the day. I need to remember all this next time I'm groaning about putting on my running shoes.

Friday, November 23, 2012

162/365: Birthday Bliss

Today I made:

a blissful day of it...

This birthday began as they always do in our household, with my husband's morning serenade, "Happy birthday cake-in-bed to you..." (Love that guy!) The cake is always tiramisu (our favorite) and it comes complete with candles for wishing on. I managed to forget it was coming this year, so it was a sweet surprise at dawn.

I had the day to myself while Rodney worked, and I decided to spend it pampering myself with some of my favorite relaxing activities. My body was in need of a good stretch, so as the sun streamed in the bay window I managed to breath through a whole session of yoga. Next I treated myself to a massage. I'm pretty sure I melted right into the table. A visit to my favorite sea cliffs and a walk on the beach helped clear my mind. A peaceful bike ride home on the bay made it complete. Somehow I managed to turn off my busy brain for the entire day. I'm thankful for the much needed rest. I'm saving my energy (and a clean art space) for that spurt of post-birthday motivation that should be coming aaaaany minute now.

The night is young. There are birthday outfits to don, Spanish tapas to be shared and a bottle of our favorite wine to toast with. Happy birthday to me.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

161/365: The End of an Age

Today I made {it} to 33...

As my husband snoozed beside me in the passenger seat, belly full of Thanksgiving dinner, I drove the two hours home. We had decided last minute to take a quick day trip to L.A. to spend the holiday with dear friends. The day passed far too quickly and before I knew it, we were back on the road, but the company was worth it.

Wide awake and grateful for a bit of solitude in the dark and fog, I counted my blessings and welcomed the next year of my life. Then, with my favorite playlist to keep me company, I got my last 32 year-old groove on. There was something almost thrilling about moving at 70 MPH away from one age on to the next one. Not a bad way to begin my celebration of becoming older and (fingers crossed) wiser.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

160/365: When in Doubt, Take Child's Pose

Today I made:

friends with my yoga mat...

I am a yoga class drop out. Some time this past summer I got a great Groupon deal for twenty sessions of yoga at a studio bike-riding distance from my house. I was thrilled at the thought of taking my inconsistent living room yoga practice into a real studio, getting some guidance and making it a regular habit.

I have since attended one session. One!!

That's just embarrassing. It's not even a fair go, I realize. "Beginner's" yoga beat my butt and then I made excuse after excuse. My Groupon expires in a month and I'm trying to figure out how to convince my busy mind to buy into what my spirit knows is good for me. Words of wisdom and experience are welcome.

From the little I've done at home over the past few years, I've gotten a glimpse of yoga as a spiritual practice and tool for observation. I often find myself holding my breath and clenching my jaw through the poses. It's ridiculous how much my mind wanders even when I try to focus on my breathing. I know it's called a "practice" for a reason. It's not going to be peaceful and easy at first. It takes time and commitment to integrate into one's lifestyle. The thing is, I know it would help me immensely with managing stress, relieving tension, being more present and quieting my mind to allow more positive things to come through, if I practiced regularly. I fully believe in all the benefits, but I haven't found a way to make it a priority in my life.

This evening, after sending my husband off to his man cave, I put in the Beginner's Vinyasa Flow DVD and unrolled my mat. Banjo always sees this as an invitation to play, so he promptly retrieved his chew toy. (It's hard to breathe through downward facing dog pose while receiving doggy kisses.) Letting my mind do it's thing, I found myself thinking about what a friend said to me about making yoga my own practice. I thought about my favorite poses: child's pose, hero's pose and shavasana, the final pose. These are my happy resting poses and they don't require much effort beyond lying still. They are the easiest for me to breathe through and quiet my mind during. (I suspect the lack of both grunting and required use of muscle may have something to do with it.) Then on an inhale, during one of my less favorite poses, I had an epiphany. If I want to find a way to make yoga work for me as my own practice, so I can integrate it into my daily life, maybe I simply need to commit to doing my three favorite poses each day! You can bet I will look forward to yoga while sitting in traffic on my way home from work. Maybe it will even get me out of bed a few minutes early each morning. I'm hoping it will lead to a more consistent practice, and yes, an appreciation of other poses. For now though, I will rest in child's pose, observe the workings of my monkey mind and learn to breathe like my life depends on it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

159/365: Know Joy

Today I made:
a joy list...
Yesterday's journal therapy about Refilling Your Tank did me some good. I decided to take it a step further by making a list of things I love to do, things that bring me joy that I can draw from to refill my tank when my source is getting depleted. The idea is to replenish our energy, to recharge and renew by allowing ourselves time for self-care and engaging in activities that make us smile on the inside. We owe it to ourselves and to the people we care about to recognize when our tank is low and to refill it so we can be more present for all the demands of life. Even ten minutes a day of a uniquely-yours-joy-filled experience can bring you back to a better place. These are the little things that bring big fulfillment.

My list turned into an art journal spread in an altered book that I'm making to document my creative process and journey. The photo is a recent one from my trip to Zion- a joyful roll in the leaves. The bits of text that spoke to me from the page found me, as they always do, when I go in search of answers through art.

I believe that we have the power to create our happy lives by choosing to make time for the things we enjoy. In the midst of all the chaos, we can know joy.
What is on your Joy List?

Found text: "Remember, you are creating. Plan to live and enjoy. Knowing takes time. All this is part of making a happy life. Know joy."

Monday, November 19, 2012

158/365: Refilling Your Tank

Today I made:

time to refill my tank...
I feel as if the last month of my life has gone by in a blur. Between juggling jobs, business-building endeavors, classes, visits from friends and family, travel, special events, and creative commitments, "me time" has been scarce. As rich with learning, connection and celebration as my life has been lately, I am beginning to feel the effects of an empty tank. Stress and overwhelm are manifesting in ugly ways. I feel so mentally exhausted that I lack the focus and energy for just about everything I take on. "I don't wanna!" has been my lament for days and days. I zone out during conversations with people I care about. I am short tempered with my students at school. I cut corners where I know I should be giving 100%. I lose touch with friends. Small to-dos get put off until they unnecessarily add to the overwhelm. There is so much storming around in my head that I feel unable to deal with the tiniest stressors. I am beginning to feel the scary physical symptoms of what I think must be anxiety. I feel completely over-stimulated, as if I'm constantly going and doing instead of just being. I know I am trying to give more of myself than I have to give. I have obviously over-packed my schedule and run myself ragged trying to keep up with my ambitious well-to-do efforts.

While a part of me wants to bury my head under a pillow and cry and feel sorry for myself, I have to remind myself that this is not failure and that it is part of the territory. This is normal wear and tear on the road of life and there is something we can do about it. Yes, we need to be very honest with ourselves about how much we can really take on, but since that is not always within our control, we need to focus on refilling our tanks- on a regular basis. Work, relationships, commitments...despite the joy and fulfillment we may get from these parts of our lives, the energy we invest there inevitably drains from our source until we don't have much left to give to ourselves or of ourselves.

When my tank begins to drain, I crave quiet, solitude, time to think, to write, to create, to reassess. But for some reason, I resist. Times like these when I feel spread thin with so much left to do, I have a hard time justifying taking the time to relax, unwind and refill. And that is how I manage to get myself into this stranded-feeling state, over and over again, by ignoring the warning signs.

No matter how surprising and uncomfortable our physical and emotional reactions to stress and overwhelm are, like speed bumps, they are there to remind us of something. The choice to slow down is ours to make every day. We must find a way to justify it in the haste of our daily lives. Maybe you're one of the clever ones who slows down to refill your tank before the indicator light turns on and you're running on empty. Some of us (yours truly) feel the need to keep pushing the gas pedal, long after the fuel has run dry, until we're stuck with our wheels spinning in the mud and muck. I seem to be reliving this hard lesson on a daily basis and I feel like I've been doing it for years. This must be one of my lessons in life. My need to share it with others is really just a big fat note to self/ tie a ribbon 'round your finger/ for goodness sakes don't forget again!!!

Thankfully, I am finally beginning to see that the things I do to refill my tank are not selfish acts of luxury, but nurturing acts of necessity. We cannot be our best and give our best if we are not our best to ourselves. Whether refilling our cup means listening to and caring for your body, relaxing the mind with journaling or a good book, reconnecting with nature or decompressing through conversation with a close friend, we can choose these simple acts of refilling every day. We can't afford not to.

So this afternoon, after bidding the relatives farewell and beginning my Thanksgiving break from school, I slowed down and checked my gage. There is much to do, as always, but instead of plowing ahead, I chose to refill my tank with a photo walk and some journal therapy. After so much depletion it may take a while to fill my tank, but I'm paying better attention to the indicator light.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

157/365: Merry Merry

Today I made:

Handmade Holiday art...

fabric decoupage ornament

I got to slow down a bit today and ease into the holiday season with another En{COURAGE} Creative Meet-up. Some of the lovely ladies chose to create mixed media ornaments or gift boxes while others chose to express themselves on canvas.

I stepped back from the teacher role this time and was delighted to hear the group members encouraging and guiding each other through the projects. I am loving the supportive creative community that is growing from this group. It is so much bigger than the projects we work on.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

156/365: Stitches & Christmas Stories

Today I made:

friends with the blanket stitch...

I spent the day playing tourist with my hilarious aunt and uncle who are visiting from Germany.
A quiet evening at home with my mama was just what I needed afterwards. We worked on a pattern and samples for the hand-stitched birdie ornaments for tomorrow's Handmade Holiday art meet-up. Mama taught me how to use a "blanket stitch" to finish the edges of my project. She filled the night with stories of her childhood Christmas memories and the handmade ornaments she always made with her brother and sister. I remember these Polish folk art ornaments from my childhood. Someday I will teach my kids how to make them. I love that my family history is filled with creative traditions.

Friday, November 16, 2012

155/365: Shut Eye

Practicing creative ways to keep my eyes open when I am very very tired...not so successful.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

154/365: The Art of Make Believe

Today I made:

myself believe that I can...

I received another tutoring request at one of my schools today. I was out of my regular teaching business cards so I offered the mom a business card from my art Meet-up group just so she'd have my contact info. She actually said that she was really interested in getting some creative enrichment for her artistic daughter!

With art programs getting wiped out in California public schools, there is such a need for this. I've toyed around with the idea of offering creative workshops through my tutoring before, but I kept talking myself out of it, thinking I'm not "certified" to teach art to kids.

Oh, the stories we tell ourselves out of fear of failure! My passion for art, teaching, empowering and inspiring is leading me to believe that this could be a good direction for me after all. The pieces are coming together naturally just as I was told they would. The path seems almost too obvious to be true. There is magic in making ourselves believe that we can.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

153/365: Make More Art

Today I made:

some tweaks to my work schedule...

I had an aha moment today when working on my substitute teaching and tutoring schedule. If I want to develop a skill, I need to spend time practicing it. It's taken me a while to recognize that my art is worthy of that time just as much as my teaching work is.

It's grade reporting time for many schools, so tutoring requests are beginning to trickle in. I get excited about this because I love the one and one connection with my students and the challenge of planning creative individualized curriculum based on a learners' strengths and needs. It also means I get to be more creative with my work schedule. It's looking like I may be able to set aside an afternoon or two each week just for tutoring, which means I can plan on scheduling in some regular morning time for art making beyond the short spontaneous creative acts that I'm usually able to fit in during my work week.

While my random daily creative acts are keeping me connected to my creative spirit, I am still struggling with finding my voice as an artist. According to my husband, the answer is simple: I need to make more art. Not just read or write about making art, but actually make it. Imagine that! I need to set aside time and energy for my art just like I set aside time to work with my students. I need to schedule in time each week to work with my tools in my studio just like I would schedule any other appointment. Carving out special time for my art each week will acknowledge its importance in my life. It will get me making more art, which- fingers crossed- will allow my style to develop. I've been working hard and waiting patiently for this breathing room in my work schedule. It's not official yet, but I'm seeing the possibility and I'm going to pounce on it.