Tuesday, April 30, 2013

320/365: Keyholes

photo taken at "Architectural Salvage" San Diego
So many keyholes, so few keys...

So many questions,
shiny and ornate,
lining the walls of my soul,
waiting to be unlocked.
I stand in awe
of all that I don't know.

May we learn to find the beauty in the questions,
and let them line our walls.
May we be patient
in our search for keys
that fit.

Monday, April 29, 2013

319/365: It's Like Riding a Bike

Today I documented family time and practiced the art of photographing while beach cruising.
Not sure if the family back home would believe we got Rodney's parents to ride bikes without this gem as evidence...

a perfect day on Sail Bay

Sunday, April 28, 2013

318/365: Water Lilies

Hotel rooms make me antsy, so I went exploring.

These water lilies floated across the entire pond. If I were a water sprite, I'd dance across them.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

317/365: Winged Creatures

Today we took my husband's parents to the swap meet where we sometimes like to spend a weekend afternoon hunting for treasures. They like antique finds, so we had to show them this San Diego attraction.

I was thrilled when my husband came across these old bird and butterfly field identification guides. I've been in search of such vintage goodies for collage and as reference for painting. They're not terribly old, but do contain the lovely illustrated pictures, rather than photographs, that I've been looking for.

Who knows, maybe I'll even take up bird watching, or write poetry inspired by the lovely names of butterflies- like the Blazing Star Skipper or Red Satyr.

These books will, no doubt, provide plenty of creative inspiration. I've always had a thing for winged creatures. Someday, I hope to be one.

Friday, April 26, 2013

316/365: Waxing and Waning

With close family in town, I am running around trying to be the perfect hostess. Leave it to those who care about you most to give you a gentle reminder...I make myself tired trying to live up to my own unreasonable expectations. They are right.

I am trying to learn, it is not about being perfect and having it all together. It's about being honest with ourselves and what we need in each moment. It's about simply doing our best and understanding that our best in one moment can look very different from what we are capable of or willing to do in another. And that is perfectly alright.

It is an ebb and flow. A waxing and waning.
For me it is a constant process of learning to let go of expectations and surrender to what is.

During my full moon howl last night, the moon gave me permission to feel full with all that I already am, to allow myself to slip gently into who I am becoming...in phases.

It is a slow waxing of my creative spirit.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

315/365: Howling at the Moon

acrylic on page of old book
a study of negative space
Celestial bodies

full belly,
full moon,
full heart,
splendid abundance

there is nothing left to do
but howl,

and so she does.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

313/365: Mic Check II

Last week at my friend's karaoke party, I reveled in the experience of singing with sheer freedom and joy because I knew no one could really hear me. An uninhibited release of spirit and energy...

My creative process here on the blog is much like that. As far as I know, most days, my microphone is off and no one is listening. The thought of this leaves me free to be myself, to be here for myself. I suspect that if I am allowed to do this work fully for myself, it will be more authentic. I will have more truth to share when I reach out to connect with others.

My posts often read like journal entries because they are. I let myself be imperfect and vulnerable because it's actually easier than pretending I have it all together. This is me figuring it out. It just happens to be accessible to the world. I understand it's not everyone's cup of tea and that even my supporters can't always keep up with my ramblings. I realize that most days, I am speaking to an empty room.

So what has possessed me to keep going? While my imagined audience has no doubt helped to keep me accountable, the responsibility is always to myself. It has been and will continue to be enough. I am proud to say I am self motivated after all! I'm motivated to learn and grow for the sake of learning and growing. I can commit to meaningful projects. I do believe in myself. I am well past the point of letting personal setbacks or lack of support from family and friends stop me. I am actually beginning to contemplate what's next. How much further can I take this process of self-discovery?!

Then I am reminded of my other goal with this blog. My bigger purpose is to share my learning and spread the message about the importance and joy of creativity. To encourage, motivate and inspire others who want to grow their creative lives. I can't do that sitting alone in my art studio or scrawling my thoughts in the pages of a private journal. My urge to connect and share is growing right along with the personal growth that is taking place. I think these two goals feed one another.

Actual singing aside, I ultimately do want my voice to be heard. Maybe I'm not ready to flip the mic on every day, but I've climbed onto the stage and am rehearsing my message.

Monday, April 22, 2013

312/365: What Do You Wake Up Believing?

mixed media journal page; quote form Alice in Wonderland
Today I'm pondering whether there is a balance between self-discipline and self-care.

I'm two weeks in to my new schedule and my morning creativity practice is not going at all like planned. I have yet to fall into a groove that leaves me feeling satisfied with how I use the extra time in my day. The time still seems to get swallowed up by other, (less important, but somehow more demanding) things.

My inner critic is smirking in the corner. "You must not want it badly enough," she taunts, "Or you'd take it seriously and make it happen. I knew you couldn't pull it off."

Truth or unnecessary roughness? I can't decide. I do know this about myself and my creativity: things flow more smoothly when I'm gentle with myself and give myself time and space. Having too high expectations (my dream morning list is feeling like this now) and beating myself up when I don't achieve them is so counterproductive to my growth.

Old habits are hard to break. Old thought patterns are too. Maybe it's a simple matter of not believing that I can shift how I use my time. Perhaps I don't believe strongly enough in my own ability to create change. But haven't I been doing it all along?

We have family visiting from out of town for the next couple weeks, which I know will throw off my morning time. I will allow my best intentions to be just that for now, while I accept what each day brings with it and make adjustments until my morning practice suits me.

Tomorrow I will wake up believing, with all my might, that I can make tiny changes towards bigger progress. If we believe the impossible, will it become possible?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

311/365: Give Way to the Unfolding

Hoorahs and happy dancing! Today is the one year anniversary of the beginning of this blog! It would be a couple months before the idea for my 365 Days of Creative project would sprout and grow a life of it's own, but a year ago today, I mustered up my courage to begin this journey. I set the stage for good things to come into my creative life. I set the stage for this day and the experience that came with it.

mixed media art journal spread: acrylic, ink & scrap paper
I celebrated this day in the most joyful and affirming way possible, art journaling with Orly Avineri. It was my first time joining the group and I'm hooked! Surrounded by creative spirits, drenched in inspiration and encouragement, and guided by a wise and gifted teacher, my classmates and I art journaled together. We worked as a group, yet very much for ourselves.

The art I created today met a deep need to let go of the end product and revel in the process. It was born from the contributions of others. I not only mixed my media, but also the ideas of the artists around me. I released any plans and expectations and allowed my instincts (and my neighbors) to guide me. Shared materials, suggested techniques, snippets of overheard conversation, challenging prompts to keep me creating feverishly without my usual mental blocks- they all made their way into my art.

"always circling back to my truest self"
(from a prompt to include paper circles)
Now that I sit alone reflecting on my process, I find a bit of new meaning on the pages that touches my soul. One year after taking the initial leap to share more of myself with the world, I find I am "always circling back to my truest self." I am right back where I started, an absolute beginner seeking meaning. And I am so O.K. with that!

I have so much more to process, so much more to reflect upon. But I feel compelled to let the art speak for itself today, to allow it to be what it is, just another beginning- ideas still forming, excitement building, wide open possibility.

"I was born needing to create with a vulnerable heart"
(two snippets of conversation woven together)
This marks a turning point for me; an unexpected and welcome bend in the path I have been traveling. The experience has stirred something honest and real in me that has been struggling to make itself known.

I feel as if Orly has gently taken hold of my chin, turned it toward my art journal and said, "Look. This has been here all along. Now it is time to put yourself into it."

And so I open wide my heart and the   pages of my journal, and give way to the unfolding.

Thank you, Orly.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

310/365 Altered Books: The Not-So-Blank Page

Today I created a:
"delightful opportunity
to sit and dream"

Tomorrow I am taking a day-long mixed media art journaling workshop with, Orly Avineri, a visual journal artist and author whos work and spirit I very much admire. I am over-the-moon excited to play and learn with other creative souls in one of my most-loved art forms.

I spent the afternoon preparing the materials we have been asked to bring. Among them are my two favorite altered book art journals, both vintage cloth-covered hardbacks- one salvaged from a thrift store, the other from a cardboard box full of dollar books at a swap meet. One is an 8"x10" landscaping and gardening guide book from 1967, the other a 5"x7" wilderness survival handbook and journal from 1966.

Between them, they hold ten pages of my most playful mixed media creations in paint, photography, illustration and text (so far!). Ever since my first altered book explorations last summer, I have been diving deeper into the process of art journaling among the pages of these old books. Lately, I been spending more time here than in my blank art journals.

As part of my preparations today, I had to apply acrylic gesso (basically a white primer) to several pages of text so they would be ready for more mixed media layers tomorrow. I found it to be a very meditative and freeing experience. No thought involved, no decisions to make, no fear of messing up-  just me, my altered books and a cup of tea, sitting and dreaming of the possibilities on the freshly primed pages. I spread white paint and covered text and black and white images, working in reverse to create a somewhat blank canvas. During this process, I love to let the text peek through the paint as a graphic element and a layer of texture on the page. But I especially love the "delightful opportunities" for discovering the perfect snippets of found text. As always, they jumped out at me as my brush ran across the pages. We'll see if the words inspire my art journaling tomorrow.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

308/365: Creative Kitchen Concoctions

mixed media on plate:
sun dried tomatoes,
tofu, feta, spinach, rice & curry sauce
Today I concocted:
a new recipe...
With my hard-working husband crafting away in his wood shop and me home late from work, the night called for a quick and easy dinner. I opened the fridge to find a hodge podge of choices, so I made a hodge podge of a meal. The big portabella mushrooms and spinach needed to be used before they went bad. Microwave rice medley was easy. I added tofu for some protein because that's all we had, but any meat could be used. There was a random pack of sun dried tomatoes that would add a nice zing, and we put feta cheese in just about everything around here so that was a no-brainer. I chose curry as my adhesive for this collage masterpiece.

I love food that doubles as a bowl!
It was all very random (on purpose), rather healthy (by accident) and quite delicious (surprise!)

I call it the "Sssh, Don't Tell My Husband There's Tofu in This" Stuffed Mushroom.

To prepare, drizzle mushroom with olive oil and bake at 350 for
10 min. Saute spinach & tofu. Dice tomatoes. Combine all ingredients with a curry sauce (or others sauces or spices) to taste. Pile it all into the 'shroom & bake an additional 5-10 minutes.
Maintain secrecy of tofu ingredient and serve.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

307/365: Organic Carrots & Signs from the Universe

Today I invited joy back in.
After yesterday's mix of emotions, with questions still weighing heavily, I decided that getting away from my daily routine (and out of my own head) would be good for me.

I met up with some dear friends for a stroll through the farmer's market and a little lunch. There was soul food, color and cheerfulness everywhere I looked. I went camera phone snap happy as usual. The girls and I brainstormed a few creative gatherings for our Meet-up group and even began visualizing what my 365 Days of Creative celebration could look like this June. I'm feeling better about taking on the planning of that event, and it felt so good to have my friends' support.

Later in the day, on my way to tutoring, I saw this sign at the front of my old school. I have walked by this message board at least six times this month (yes I counted) and today I finally noticed what it said. How very appropriate for my April and my whole creative life. I like to think it was a little sign from the Universe reminding me to carry on with courage despite setbacks, like the one I talked myself into yesterday.

Everything on my path today was significant. A day of noticing and allowing was what I needed to make these conclusions: For me, joy and creativity are turning out to be one in the same. They are both an expression of my most authentic self. There is a place for them in my life, regardless of the turmoil that exists around me. I need not feel selfish for devoting energy to making myself happy. It's O.K. for me to live my truth. While I will still strive to find a broader purpose behind my creative calling, it's important for me to live it for myself as well.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

306/365: Seeking Purpose as an Artist

One of the greatest things I'm learning through my 365 challenge is to create joy inside of myself, regardless of what is happening outside of me. This is no easy task, but I've found that it helps to separate myself from things that are out of my control. I don't follow the news very closely anymore. I'm wary of media coverage of a world that makes little sense to me. It's not that I don't care about my community or my world enough to be up on current events. It's not that I turn a blind eye and pretend the horrible things aren't happening. Cutting myself off from it at this point on my journey has helped to release a lot of the anxiety and confusion. I've simply chosen to focus my attention on what I can control for now: on being a good person and meeting the most basic needs of those close to me.

But the news of school shootings, terrorist attacks, endless war and natural disasters find a way to seep in. My husband relayed the news of yesterday's Boston Marathon bombing. My Yahoo feed shows snippets of stories of the people affected, articles labeled "graphic photos." I cannot bear to open them. My heart aches for the innocent lives that are torn apart. I tune out and try to contemplate the color and composition of my latest piece of art, but nothing comes of it. My chest is tight and I feel sick to my stomach. My art seems so unimportant today. All I can think about is holding close to me those most precious and being grateful for the inumerable blessings I have in my life. I know so much art could come from this if I knew how to translate the emotion into visual forms. I know art could heal the anxious and unfocused feelings to some extent. But there is an undefined resistance to happy paint colors today, or any kind of paint colors for that matter. So instead I write.

I hear the news and I feel disappointed, numb, and strangely selfish. I tell myself it's nothing new, just a different population in a different location under different circumstances. The world has been this harsh since the beginning of time. I don't like this disconnected attitude, even thought it protects me. It does not sit well with my view of myself as an empathetic and compassionate person. I know one day it could hit much closer to home where I may have no choice of how to perceive things.

Today, it all makes me question my choice to see the world through rose-colored glasses and to carry on with endless optimism. To spread "whimsy" as if it matters. To busy myself with growing a more creative and joyful life while others suffer and have so few choices. What is it all for?

I feel called to find a greater purpose behind what I consider to be my "gifts to the world." I always have been. This is one reason I was so drawn to teaching, but now there is a new layer of myself that I must find a way to weave in. How can I use my voice to help? How can I use my art to heal? I know it is helping and healing me. My creative life holds significance for me, no question, but could I use it to contribute on a more profound scale?

I want to connect with humanity without connecting to all the unnecessary suffering that leaves me feeling numb and helpless. Is there a way to use the things that matter most in my life to make a difference in the lives of others? How can I use my gifts and talents to create more good?

Flower power got people's attention and affected the choices of an entire generation. Could sharing my thoughts, my art and my creative process be the equivalent of putting a daisy down the barrel of a rifle? Is a symbolic effort enough?

Today, along with all these questions, I am sending out my purpose-seeking missiles, my loving vibes and my faith in the greater good. It is all that I have.

Monday, April 15, 2013

305/365: Making Room for Mistakes

Today I made:
this mistake...
so close, yet so very far away...
Yep. Again.
This is what happens when you fail to renew your AAA membership. And allow the grace period to expire by 60 days.

Wish I could say I figured out a creative way to break into my car, but mostly it was just a very inventive conversation with the AAA operator.
They took me back. Roadside assistance to the rescue!

perfection on four legs
Then I went home and took a two hour nap, snuggled my favorite boys and gave myself permission to let mistakes be a part of my creative practice. It's time to make more room for imperfection around here.

I am continually humbled by Mondays,
and my human imperfection.
Oh well...

Have a puppy.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

304/365: Timing is Everything, Part II

"Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin.
Beginning makes the conditions perfect.
" ~Alan Cohen
Today I pondered:
the art of beginning...

I am a serial procrastinator. And most often a perfectionist. Add to that my tendency to over-plan and over-prepare, and you've got yourself a girl who has a really difficult time getting started on anything. For years, I was just a great big ball of potential energy waiting for the optimal circumstances to begin rolling towards my creative dreams.

This quote struck me today, and was the perfect sequel to yesterday's musings.

Hesitation. I hear and see signs of it in so many of my relationships. People are waiting to begin until children are grown, until degrees are earned, until they have just the right partner, or job or more money, or the perfect studio space or hours of uninterrupted time. I have dealt with many of these deterrents as well. The truth is, the right time is whenever you choose to take up your craft. If you wait for the Goldilocks time, it may never happen. It's all a part of accepting that our lives are messy, unpredictable, surprising, spontaneous works of art. And the creations we produce can be as well.

I am finding that beginning is the part of the creative process we have the most control over. After that, we must surrender much of the control and allow our muse and materials to guide us. But showing up and starting, that's on us. It's the hardest part, and arguably the most important part. There is nothing without a beginning. After a beginning, there is nothing but possibility.

So pick up the pencil or paintbrush. Open the new document on your computer. Dig into that fabric drawer you've been meaning to organize. Clean out the garage to make space for a workbench. Organize a gathering of creative friends. Creative urges will tumble forward like dominoes.

There is magic in beginning.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

303/365: Timing is Everything

Today I planted a tree on my canvas...
1'x2' acrylic on wood panel, piece in progress
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. 
The next best time is now.” 
Chinese Proverb

The best time to develop our craft, the best time to start a new project, the best time to launch entrepreneurial efforts...Sure it would have been lovely to have had the brilliant ideas, resources and courage to begin our life's dream when we were fresh out of school. Some of us get to do just that. What about the rest of us? Is it too late to change direction? Is it too soon to give ourselves permission? Is it a wise time financially? We could go on like this forever...

When I first started on the creative path, almost four years ago, I had negative inner voices that would taunt me. "You're too late; it's already being done. You should have tried to develop your artistic talents in high school or college, when you first had the inkling that you wanted to be an artist. You're on a different path now and it would be a waste to veer. It's too late to change your mind about how you want your life to go." 

While the negative self-talk slowed me down (considerably), it didn't stop me. Little by little I learned to tune those voices out. I focused on expressing myself in whatever way brought me joy. I just worked at being creative for the sake of being creative. Creativity won me over and it no longer mattered if I thought I was talented enough or experienced enough, or if I thought it was a good use of my time. I just needed to make.

Eventually the whispers of growing my creative life got louder and louder. That's how I ended up where I am now, doing a 365 challenge, sharing my art and writing and actually learning from it. There is no turning back on this path. Now the creative life has won me over. And today, I can hear the whispers that ask, "What if you could somehow make a business being creative and doing what you love? What if you could share your art and your passion for the creative process with more people?"

The negative voices are there too. "Your family's financial security is at stake. No one will take you seriously. You're not making enough art. You don't have what it takes to be an entrepreneur." This is how it is in my head. Building myself up and talking myself down.

detail of paint carving
I frequently question the strength of my roots. Going out on a limb (pun intended) is scary. It was scary a year ago, it will be scary five years from now. I just keep remembering how it all went down a few years back. I didn't back away. I persevered. I made progress. Some might call it slow progress. Some might call me a late bloomer. But in the grand scheme of life, I'd like to hope that I'm blessed with plenty of time left to live my dreams. I am learning my lesson about letting fear slow me down, and I'm beginning to really truly believe that it's never too late.

What we have to be willing to acknowledge is that acting on our dreams now is very rarely going to bring them to fruition in the now. (Unless your dream is to go into your kitchen and get a bowl of ice cream, which is another thing I don't recommend putting off.) Acting on our dreams is just taking action towards our dreams, most likely in very small steps. Just like a tree, they will need a good deal of time to grow. Could the very thought of this be stalling us? What if we just acknowledged that it's going to be a long arduous process requiring patience and perseverance, and then stuck the shovel in the earth anyway?

If we continue to put off our dreams (for the hundreds of reasons we can name off the top of our heads), we will never be any closer to realizing them. Our dreams won't ever have a chance to take root. 

I know this now: If I want my tree to mature, to provide shade, to bear fruit in my lifetime, I better get to planting. Even if the growing takes years and years. 

Picture that place in your life where a dream could grow. Take a tiny step towards it. Let it win you over. And start shoveling dirt.

The best time to act on your dreams is now.

Friday, April 12, 2013

302/365: One Traveler's Advice from the Creative Path

Hello fellow travelers,

I am not far down my path, but it's never too soon to share learning.

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”
~ Joseph Campbell

If and when, friends...
If and when we decide to veer off a path that no longer feels like our own, and we choose to create (out of hope and heart and purpose), we take on the creation of our lives. Do reflect on the double meaning, and know this:

Those first steps off the beaten path won't be easy. Your shoes will get dirty. You may find yourself knee-deep in muck (such as fear and self-doubt). You will stumble for some time before you find your footing. That comes with embarking on unknown territory. Your path may not be neatly manicured, but that's because your dreams have been growing there, wild and free. You will notice, however, the way is more tender underfoot. That's because you're following your bliss. Bliss is tender, you know. Even when the road gets rough (and I promise it will), you will want to keep pushing on because the way is yours. Your passion will be a torch to light your course. You will step right into your courage as you carry bravely on. Your senses will be awakened to the marvels all around. Colors will be more vivid. You will find words you didn't know you had to express what is inside you. You will get goosebumps. Often. That is just the chill of magic and myth forming around you. That is just the thrill of learning. You will suddenly understand what you've heard all these years, that it's about the journey, not the destination. Your creative life is a journey and creating your life is a journey. Allow the line to blur. Allow the adventure to come into focus.

Create your own path,
One foot in front of the other.
Say "Yes!" to your adventure.
Be the hero of your own epic journey.
Enjoy every step.

That is my advice to you.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

301/365: Wearable Whimsy

Today I
spread whimsy...

I have springtime allergies or a cold coming on, so I loaded up on vitamin C and a whole lot of whimsy today. I'm feeling better already.

This is handwritten text scarf #3 for a friend. I really enjoy making them, although snagging fabric, hiccuping paint pens and my mysterious inability to spell when I'm writing BIG can make it a little frustrating. It is a very personalized gift form the heart though. The three I've made so far have all been unique. This time, my friend asked me to surprise her with something whimsical.

I have a huge collection of whimsical quotes and sayings, so it was just a matter of choosing the perfect ones to make my friend smile. I fit nine happy phrases, some quotes, some just thoughts I've had dancing in my head. After compiling and writing these words, I couldn't help but smile myself. I hope they bring a dose of hope and sweetness to your day as well.

Remember that "nothing is worth more than this day." ~ Goethe
"Delight in the little things." ~Rudyard Kipling
"Dwell in possibility." ~Emily Dickinson
Step into your courage.
"Follow your bliss." ~Joseph Campbell
Believe in daydreams.
Spread whimsy.
Remember that magic is something you make. 
Trust in the happy ending. 

Find instructions for a DIY Script Scarf and learn more about my wordy inspirations in these old posts.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

300/365: Nurturing a Dream Garden

Today I discovered:
a metaphor in my garden...
(You know how this girl loves metaphors.)

This is our third spring growing a vegetable and herb garden. We've had a couple successful harvests and we're learning what it takes to reap a bounty. This year we found a better sunny spot in our yard. We built a garden box to lift it up from the ground a bit to protect the young plants from unwelcome visitors that sabotage our efforts. We prepared the soil for good things to grow by pulling the weeds. We planted the seeds and tiny plants. (Not everything was from scratch.) Now it is time to nurture the garden and watch it flourish.

I'll admit, my husband is always better about regular watering, weed pulling and checking for invaders. I mostly get very excited to pick the ripe veggies. I vow to put more energy into the efforts this year.

This morning I stood admiring our little plant nursery. What a joyful creative act to cultivate a garden! The energy of all those green things trying to grow out of the earth, strengthening their roots, pushing up their shoots, turning their leaves to the sun. It's inspiring. If they can do it, so can I.

Water, light and air (or nourishment and love) are required by all living things. If we want to bring our dreams to life, a very similar kind of cultivation is required. Just as a garden needs tending to, we must put our attention and energy into our growing dreams if we want to reap a harvest.

Recently a creative seed was planted in me. I haven't shared about it here yet (it hasn't fully sprouted, you see). I'm still preparing the soil and pulling some weeds (those unwelcome doubts, fears and self-critical voices that talk me out of growth), but I can feel the seed coat splitting on my dream. The roots are beginning to take hold of their growing place as the idea strengthens in my mind. I'm nourishing it with attention and waiting patiently for the dream to form strong enough to push up and out into view. Once it does, I will need to nurture it nearly every day, supporting it's growth with baby steps. It's very much a creative process, like cultivating plants.
All the while, I must remember:

"Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

If we expose our dreams to positive energy, they will grow and thrive. There are no insurmountable obstacles standing in the way of my sun. It's mostly my own limiting beliefs that cast shadows on what I think I'm capable of. This is a lesson in getting out of my own way. 

Tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, peppers, chives, basil, cilantro, parsley...and big dreams.
That's what's in my garden this spring.

How does your garden grow these days? Do you have seeds stirring beneath the surface? 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

299/365: Thinking Outside the Box

The shadow does not do my biceps justice, honest. ;)
Today we built:
a garden box...

My creative moments have been filled with paint and the written word lately, just how I like it. Today, however, brought something completely different.

While at the plant nursery shopping for our garden veggies, my husband decided we needed a garden box this year to keep Banjo out. (Little stinker likes to pee on my basil plants!) Being the handy man that he is, he had a plan and supplies at my feet before I could calculate whether we had enough soil.

Then he informed me that I would be helping. He did the sawing, I did the construction. Yes, that's me conquering the drill. A girl's gotta learn. I stripped a few screws and got a lesson in geometry and patience. I always feel so wonderfully empowered when I step out of my comfort zone with such projects. What else can I drill?! How can I use this in my art? Hello homemade box canvases and frames!

A year ago, I would have written this off as a home improvement project. I wouldn't have recognized this simple, yet useful construction as an act of creativity. I hadn't yet learned to think "outside the box" with my creativity. To bring something into existence, whether a wood shop project, a delicious meal, a painting or an idea, that is creating. If we can learn to value all creations in our lives, it empowers us to recognize that we really are creating all the time. Does this make it less special? Just the opposite! When we acknowledge that we are born creators, we begin to ask, "Now what do I really want to be creating?"

And that, my friends, is the greatest question. It is what led me to my art and writing, and it is what will lead you to what you most deeply need to express.

Go ahead. Ask the question.

Monday, April 8, 2013

298/365: Beginning a Morning Creativity Practice

"Stop trying to fit creativity into your days and start building your days around creativity." 

I read this quote (or some version of it) a while back and can't seem to find the author now, but it's been echoing in my mind ever since. If we have the freedom to do this, we owe it to ourselves to make an effort. I am breaking ground as of today. My days are under construction. (Hard hats are encouraged.)

I explored the idea of a morning creativity practice months ago, but at that point, my work schedule was just not conducive. Sleep won.

But now I'm blessed (and so grateful for it) with a little more flexibility in my morning schedule at least 3-4 days during the work week. Throw in my two weekend days and I think I can officially call it a "practice." Consistency is key for me. I don't know how long this new schedule will last, so I'm determined to give it a go while I have the chance. My inner critic is even less of a morning person than I am, so if I can get a jump on her, this could be a very good thing for my creative output.

It's not going to be easy though.

I can not think of many things that I loath more on this planet than alarm clocks. They say "rise" and I say "f*** ***" from under my pillow. I have learned to high-five the snooze button while still half- asleep with my head under the covers. If there isn't a classroom of children waiting for me, or the promise of a delicious made-for-me breakfast, there's not much that will tempt me out of bed in the morning. I blame it on insomnia half the time, but if I'm very honest with myself, I will admit to being just a little bit undisciplined. O.K. a lot a bit.

So how will I build my mornings around creativity? My ideal morning would look something like this:
(leaving out the boring housekeeping and personal stuff)

Stretch/Yoga - to get the blood flowing straight out of bed
Meditation - I've been wanting to practice this for ages, even just 15 minutes at a time. It would be such a good way to center before moving into the day.
Journaling or writing for the blog - I do some of my most honest, playful and prolific writing fresh out of dream state.
Visual Art - (muse willing) art journaling, painting/mixed media, sketching; I would so love to get some creative play in before moving into the rest of my day.
Inspiration and photo walk - The dog needs a walk, and I need fresh air, inspiration from nature and my photography fix. This could also be a beach walk or bike ride if I need a change of scenery.
Working on something towards my growth as an artist - I have business ideas and a few big creative projects up my sleeve. I need to start taking baby steps to make them happen!

Sounds like an incredible way to start the day, right? Well these are among my "six impossible things before breakfast." At least it feels that way from my bed in the morning. At the same time, it seems like a luxury to have this time and these opportunities to explore. But in the past, I've always made excuses. Why don't I feel entitled to this very special me time? What progress am I missing out on because of it? I'm so not used to having mornings to myself to be creatively productive, but people do it all the time. It's time to break some unproductive habits and revise my mental clock.

I don't want to set myself up for failure, so I'm going to start with stretching and see where that leads me, and I'll give myself until noon before my work day begins. Realistically, I have time for it all and one creative/spiritual practice should flow nicely into the other. I BELIEVE I CAN DO THIS...

if I don't get in my own way.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

297/365: You and Me, Kid

Today I made:
a prediction...

"You & Me, Kid...We're Going Places" altered book art journal spread:
acrylic, water soluble oil pastels, vintage children's book images, scrap paper, and original photo.
Found & composed text reads:
"Stalking the Good Life: using our inner resources to create soul-shaking changes in all this learning by doing."

I consider myself pretty lucky to live with my greatest hero. It's been especially awesome watching him grow into his own skin over the past few years. I'm so proud of my husband. He is not only fine tuning his talents and developing his craft, he is learning to get out of his own way and to create his life around his passions- guitar building and music. It's such an inspiration to witness his creative process. He's teaching me (without even realizing it) to work through resistance and develop the right attitude about doing work that I love.

He has many creative projects in the works and I get so much joy from seeing his excitement when he gets his next brilliant idea. Most recently, he's been working on his first electric guitar (it's incredible!) and is getting ready to enter it into the woodworker's competition at the fair. This weekend, he began a Facebook page for his business, Bowman Built Guitars. Next it will be a website and the sharing of his art with the world.

His courage to take control of his creative life and put himself out there inspired my art today. I snapped a photo of these pink and blue beach cruisers on one of my walks because they reminded me of us. The spread began with the photo and perfect found text, and developed from there. We are kids at heart, always looking for our next adventure. I love that our creative journeys are evolving so synchronistically. We are on parallel paths, that crazy kid and I.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

296/365: Left-Brain Love for Right-Brained People

This past week, the insomnia began again and I'm up at all hours of the night, my brain on a hamster wheel, deliberating over new ideas. My Midnight Idea Journal is just not cutting it. My notes are usually illegible come daylight, and really, I'd rather be sleeping. I think I need another massive to-do list brain spill to clean out the ol' mental file.

In January I made the mother of all idea lists. It was a great way to organize my thoughts and has proven very useful, but since it's on my lap top, it's not quite as accessible as I'd like it to be. I still find myself jotting new ideas down in phone notes, lesson plan books and random scraps of paper when I'm on the go. So I'm right back where I started with the scattered schemes. Inspiration is everywhere, but I have too many disheveled ideas to know where to start.

Oh here I go again with the lists and organizing...but at last I think I've found a real solution. Last week I sat in on a webinar offered by Jess Green of Seek Your Course (which, by the way is the most incredible source for art workshops, retreats, conferences and all experiences to grow your creative soul or business. Jess, you're brilliant!) Jess offers a series of classes called Creative Ease. She suggests a systems approach to "getting things done while maintaining creative energy and sanity." Think of your organized and analytical left-brain doing a sexy tango with your inspired and creative right brain! Oh yes, that's the sweet spot for me!

Through the webinar, I learned about some great free apps (that sync to your smart phone and desktop computer) to help you get and stay on top of all those creative ideas and projects. It's helping me whip my creative life into shape, finally!

So this evening I've been applying my left-brain skills to set up the fabulous Evernote app. Evernote allows you to capture and organize the flow of ideas into your own personal, searchable library. Tomorrow it's on to organizing action steps and to-do lists for my latest creative projects with the Trello  app, and creating a blog publishing calendar with Google Calendar.

I wouldn't consider myself incredibly tech-savvy, so it's good to know that Jess's classes are there if I get in over my head with these new toys. Do check out her Creative Ease site for a more thorough description of how these and several other left-brain tools can benefit creative right-brainers.

These new tools are totally helping me embrace my left-brain tendencies and making them work for me as an artist. Yes, left-brain, I love you too and you deserve the credit for helping me plan, organize and accomplish many of my creative projects with baby steps.

I have 70 days left in my 365 Days of Creative project, and while there's plenty of room for new inspiration, spontaneous projects and creative whims, I want to make sure to share the golden nuggets I've been digging up. I want to use the time that's left to explore the topics that have been on my mind, the questions that have come up along the journey and the projects that are itching to come to the surface.

I feel like I can see it all more clearly, and it's totally manageable. I feel like I have more focus and intention. Cheers to left-brain loveliness!

Friday, April 5, 2013

295/365: Try Something New

On any given Friday night, Banjo would rather be doing this...

and I would rather be doing this...

I painted on bare wood today. {{Swoon}}
It sounds so simple, I know, but somehow the idea has managed to escape me all this time.
Aside from my encaustic wax and plaster painting experiments, which usually take place on wood panels, my other work has never made it off the canvas, paper or fabric.

Light washes of acrylic running together in subtle clouds and streaks, the pigments seeping into the natural grain- I like where this is going.

I like to try new things as much as Banjo likes napping.
And that is a wholeheckofalot!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

294/365: Wild Beautiful Life

Acrylic on 16"x20" canvas
Mila Bowman 2013
Today we let go of what we had planned and made room for something even better.

For me this happened on and off the canvas.

After two last-minute location changes to this evening's
Mixed Media Spring Fling Meet-up, one of our lovely event hosts opened her home to the group.

It turned out to be an intimate gathering of exuberant, creative women. Everyone brought their own flavor of awesome to the party and I am so grateful for the mingling of souls.

Art supplies and stories were shared. Strategies were offered and experimentation encouraged.
Paint was spilled, (but we were very careful not to spill the wine ;)

We came together from many different stages of the life journey. From just stepping into womanhood, to adapting to motherhood; from career changes to brave leaps into soul searching stages- we were brought together by a common thread. We are all transitioning into more creative lives, evolving as women and as creative beings.

I actually like to think we get more than one spin, but this time around...

whichever part of the path you're on, whatever challenges or joys lie ahead,
Remember: every day you are creating your wild, beautiful life.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

293/365: Greater Than, Less Than

Today I made:
myself feel bad...

I had other plans for my daily creative today, but it doesn't seem as important right now. In an effort to get these thoughts out of my head before bedtime (ah journal therapy) and in the spirit of speaking my truth (even the ugly truth), I share with you fresh from this prickly place on the path where I've found myself.

The marine layer that settled over our sunny beach town today had no intention of burning off, and neither did my headache. I'm on day three with no coffee. (What was I thinking?!) Thankfully I was blessed with a quiet day at home and so I wouldn't jostle myself, I spent most of the day snuggling my lap top.

It's rare that I let myself get so distracted on the Internet. I don't usually have the time for this guilty pleasure, but today after a bit of productive research, I fell down the rabbit hole. Lost in link land with no real motive, I found myself hopping around to blogs beyond my familiar favorites.

Blog hops can be very much fun. Finding inspiration, learning, connecting with others- this is normally what happens when I allow myself to go wandering. But every once in a while, things take a dark turn, and I start to compare myself to others. Professional looking photographs, clean designs, their way with words, their keen understanding of this platform of self-expression- all of a sudden what I'm putting out there seems so juvenile.

I've heard it called "blog envy." I don't actually resent anyone for putting their awesome out into the world. I'm thrilled that people are discovering and sharing their gifts and I know deep down there's room for me to share mine in my own way, but I can't help feeling inadequate sometimes. I turn inward and begin to find my faults and shortcomings. I completely lose sight of my accomplishments and proud moments in the light of what other artists are doing. I feel like I will never measure up.

As my husband would say, "Congratulations, you're human."
I am not immune to these feelings, even though I talk a big game when it comes to courage. This is where the yuck gets even thicker people! It's hard to encourage in earnest when you feel discouraged, which makes me feel like a fraud- and on and on the horrible feelings spiral.

So late into the evening and so deep into my negative thoughts,  I have a hard time conceiving that the sun will come up on this self-doubt of mine. I know I know, it's part of the process. But this part is no fun. Here I sit, lacking confidence, completely distracted from my goals. And I brought it all on myself. Awesome.

I will allow myself to acknowledge that at least I'm treating this like the journal that it really is.

In my someday blogging life, I'm going to have the brilliant response to this post. The "I should know better than to let this silliness get me down" self will provide a complete list of tried and true get you out of comparison mode tactics. But can I just sit with these feelings for a bit so I can find my own way out? OK, thanks.

For now friends, I leave you with the brilliant quotes of a man who's obviously done some thinking on the topic. I will be repeating these lines to myself as I drift off to sleep.

"Other people's success is not an indication of your failure."

"Never compare your beginning to somebody else's middle."   ~ John Acuff

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

292/365: Learning Curves

Today I  created:

space for new learning...

I'm sending my head-achy self to bed, but more thoughts on my creative learning adventures coming soon.

Monday, April 1, 2013

291/365: The Power of Pause

Today I made:
time to stop and smell the flowers...
the best smelling street on the block...
I am always rushing. Rushing for work, rushing between appointments, rushing to finish up my household chores so I can have more time for art. Even during my week off for spring break, I feel the pressure of all the things I want to accomplish during my free time. This morning I thought, "Must take the dog for a quick walk so I can get to my list of to-dos."

With my mind racing ahead into parts of the day that hadn't even happened, we briskly walked from tree to tree while Banjo did his doggy business and "checked his messages." A few blocks from the house, I was overwhelmed by the most heavenly scent. It literally made me stop in my tracks. I looked around for a moment trying to find the bush or tree that was emitting the air born sweetness. Then I just closed my eyes and inhaled.

I stood there for a while, feet planted firmly on the sidewalk, eyes closed to traffic. My pup eventually caught on and stopped tugging at the leash. For the first time since we left the house, I noticed how warm the sun actually felt despite the rapid breeze. I noticed how comfortable my new running shoes were. I noticed how there's a tight spot in my chest where the inhale gets stuck. Right then I decided, when I got home, the piles of dishes, bills and laundry would wait.

Instead I did yoga and stretched out the tight space. I made lunch for my husband and myself to enjoy on the deck. I jotted down a list of sweet-smelling flowering shrubs to look for at the garden store. I journaled about my learning. I simply revised my to-do list to include small moments of joy and peace in my day.

Too often we get caught up in what needs doing and we forget to just be. To be in the present, to enjoy what this moment has to offer. Where did we learn this hectic pace? How can we learn to slow down and take it all in? It is a lesson I seem to face again and again as life tumbles forward.

I am learning this: There is power in the pause. It is possible to fine tune our awareness to the blessings that are present in everyday moments. We can train our senses to alert us when it's time to pay attention, not just to notice, but to take the time to appreciate, even if just for a few deep breaths. Being in nature and honoring it through art and writing helps me grow this awareness.

Ten years from now, I won't remember how productive I was with my chores this first day of April, but I will be able to recall the way I felt when the collection of sweet moments brought me peace.