Friday, May 31, 2013

351/365: The Queen of Unfinished Projects

"Man, Musician, Luthier" by Mila Bowman 2013
mixed media on wood panel and canvas boards: acrylic, ink, image transfer, found paper, 
shipping label, cardboard, light bulb, guitar strings and branding iron stamp

I have been dubbed the Queen of Unfinished Projects. 

I am a dreamer, an idea person. If I were a cartoon, there would constantly be light bulbs hovering above my head. My flights of fancy are part of my creative process. Usually one idea leads to another and another. It's a mosaic of thought that allows bigger connections to be made. I like this about my brain. I could spend days upon days brainstorming ideas and feeling very productive and content...until I realize that many of my plans don't manifest into tangible form. Most of my brilliant schemes get stunted at the idea gathering phase and never come to fruition. This is seriously crippling my creative output, I realize, and probably keeping me from feeling a sense of sweet fulfillment. It's a bummer, to say the least.

This vicious cycle of launching and abandoning creative endeavors has been a problem since I was a young girl. From paintings, to business ventures, to goals of personal growth, I get all revved up and then sputter out before I can reach my end goal. Usually, I am able to stay singularly focused on an idea in the beginning phases, and when it gets into the technical or challenging stages of having to figure stuff out and make decisions, I step away from the project. Before I know it, I am flooded with new ideas that seem more important in the moment and I'm off on my next creative adventure. I get completely distracted and try to head in too many directions, until I don't end up finishing any one thing. I leave a trail of partially completed projects in my wake. It's dreadfully frustrating.

I wonder if this is a normal problem for creative people. I know my husband has dealt with it in his wood shop too, but he seems to be resolving the issue by prioritizing and getting very clear on his most passionate and important work. Again, I am reminded how important focus is- and how difficult it is for me. Now that I've identified this as one of my greatest creative challenges, I must figure out a way to focus and see my ideas through to completion. There are so many brave ideas wanting to be born!

I started today by finishing one thing.
I began this mixed media piece for my husband's birthday (um, 3 years ago?). It was in homage to his first foray into guitar building. I lost my vision for the final collage-style frame construction and ended up giving it to him as a work in progress. He will be shocked (pleasantly I hope) to see it finished, as it's been a running joke among my other abandon pieces. When all was said and done, it wasn't that hard to complete once I picked it back up. Perhaps I needed some (extra long) time away to contemplate the final design. I stained the wooden support, added some old guitar strings, snuck Rodney's logo brand out of his wood shop, and glued it all together. It took all of an hour. But it's been nagging me for three years. Lesson learned.

And so the Queen of Unfinished Projects steps down from her throne.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

350/365: Fine Tuning Our Creative Dreams

Bowman Built Guitars
on exhibit June 8-July 4
Today's creativity included writing a bio for my husband to accompany his gorgeous handcrafted electric guitar to the woodworker's exhibit at the San Diego County Fair.

We dropped the guitar off tonight to be included in set-up and judging of the exhibit. This is just the beginning for him- his first guitar to be exhibited- other acoustics and electrics already in the works in his wood shop. I snapped photos like a proud mama tonight, of my beaming husband and his guitar, fitting right in and looking very official up against the glass display case. It's a milestone for him!

On the drive home, I contemplated my own creative journey and where it's taken me, or rather, where I've take it. I pondered how we come to have such proud milestones. This is where the distinction becomes very clear to me between those who manifest their dreams and those who don't. My husband can articulate what success means to him in his creative life and career. He has clarity on his goals and is able to focus his effort and energy to bringing his ideas to life. I have only a fuzzy idea that involves teaching creativity workshops, sharing my artwork and publishing my writing, but there is obviously a great deal of fine-tuning that needs to take place. Clarity, direction and focus are things that I constantly strive for as I try to define my creative goals, but this is where I keep getting stuck.

I now recognize that it has to be more than a hobby for me. It has to be a way of life. But how to make it happen? I keep reminding myself that I am on my path and I will make things happen in my own time. I think it's time I get clear on the big picture so I can focus on my direction.

Getting our creative dreams to play out the way we want them to requires some major fine-tuning, doesn't it?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

349/365: On Being a Maker

"I could use a hand with this." ...creepy, I know.
A remnant box at the Architectural Salvage shop.
I whole-heartedly declare myself a maker. A maker of things. My hands cannot resist creating. I’m even getting better at making meaning. But for me, being a maker is not just about making beautiful things. It is about making things happen- reinventing the circumstances in my life that aren't working for me, manifesting dreams, and creating happiness. 

Along with acknowledging my creative existence, I took on the duty of restructuring the very fabric of my life: my work, my relationships, my mental landscape. It has been an enormous overhaul. I've made gains and progress and learned a great deal, but I still have far to go. While I trust that the design and creation of my life is up to me, my confidence, focus and self-discipline often waver. My husband gently reminds me, I'm the one getting in my own way. I know he is right. The determination against resistance and the initiative to take action is my responsibility. I admit, I could use a hand with this.

I have long rejected fatalism, the idea that man has no power to influence the future or his actions, that it is all decided by fate. This does not mesh with my independent path-paving spirit. In a fascinating book called Art & Fear, David Bayles presents a new view of fatalism as it may be interpreted by artists and all those who set out on a course of creation.
"...namely that [fatalism] is a species of fear--the fear that your fate is in your own hands, but that your hands are weak." 
Bingo. This fear has crept in often since beginning on the path to take control of my life. Some days, I celebrate the knowledge that it's all up to me, and feel liberated and empowered at the thought. More consistent days like this could do wonders for me productivity, but the doubts always find a way to creep in. I worry that it's all up to me, and I might not actually be able to hack it. I worry that I'll take on too much and find myself resenting the work, or that I'll put my time, energy and soul into something only to find that it doesn't suit me after all. (That has happened a time or two.) These worries alone are enough to send me hightailing it back to a place and time when things were decided for me and I made "safe" choices that were in my "future best interest." But I don't really want to go back there. I want to be a maker and I want to make progress.

I am still trying to get at the true source of this fear, to identify it by name and to respond to it with a brave voice and unwavering faith. That's the plan, anyway. I can't very well avoid progress for fear of what might happen, right? That is no way to live. FDR said it best: "There is nothing to fear, but fear itself."

Our hands, after all, are only as strong as our will and our mindset. Our hands will be more ready to take on the work of designing our happiness when our minds are clear of the limiting beliefs we impose on ourselves. We are all makers. We can make things and we can make things happen. Our power lies in our ability to make use of this understanding. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

348/365: Through Her Lens

The Mr.'s photo of me taking a photo.
The bike I was riding is lying on the sidewalk out of frame,
wheels still spinning. I always stop for photo opps.

Since I was a little girl, when asked which super power I would want given the choice, I always said, "To be able to snap a photo with my eyes and send it to my friend's brain, so they can see what I see, the way I see it. It was all about freezing time to capture a moment and relaying the memory to someone else. These days, digital photography and photo sharing sites and apps have brought us all a little closer to my dream super power. Photography allows us to share our life stories through pictures, to present the significance of everyday life the way we see it individually. We could all look through the same lens and see things very differently.

I fell in love with photography in high school, where I loaded black and white film into my dad's old 35mm camera, learned to use the manual settings, and studied the way light and composition affected my subjects. I learned how to develop the film and spent hours in the dark room watching the images come to life.

I occasionally still pull out my 35mm camera, but with no dark room, it's lost a bit of the appeal. I'm slowly making the transition into the digital world. I say slowly because I have yet to acquire a nice camera or learn photo processing programs. For now it's just me and the camera phone in my pocket, and a couple smart phone photo apps if I feel like tweaking some things. I am very much an amateur, but a serious one. Anything and everything is worthy of a look through my lens. Not many days go by without my finger on the shutter. 

This year, I have turned the camera on myself more often. Self portraits from unique points of view often capture the mood of the moment and make for great art journaling. I've also developed a keen eye for the extraordinary in my ordinary. Why use a generic image in my mixed media collages when I can make my own from my daily travels? My creative process has also greatly benefited from the idea of using my digital camera as a tool for capturing snapshots of inspiration that I come across in my environment. My photography feeds the rest of my art. 

As a means of pure creative expression, photography feels as natural and easy for me as writing. I suspect this is because I can snap several "drafts" of an image until I'm happy with the result. I am a shutter bug in play mode, discovering the mood of an object, composing a scene or highlighting design elements in the environment that may go unnoticed. I find peace in the symmetry of flowers and in the horizontal lines and blocks of color in a landscape. I love candid photos of people living out a moment of their lives. I adore detail shots of the everyday objects that make up my days.

For me, photography is a practice in being more observant, more present in the moment, and in documenting my ordinary extraordinary life.

Monday, May 27, 2013

347/365: Counting My Creative Blessings

Today I met with my art partner in crime. We began planning my 365 Days of Creative  celebration- an art anniversary party. We got some fun ideas and she helped me feel better about the whole thing. Event planning gets my creative juices flowing. I am grateful for my friend's support.

I also chatted with another close friend, who had some encouraging words that helped me create a little more self confidence for the last leg of my journey. I'm so grateful to have someone who knows exactly what I'm going through in the balancing of family, work and a creative life. Thanks for the tough love, Casey! I needed it.

I spent the afternoon writing and revising some of my messy journal entries from the past few weeks. I created some order in the chaos. I don't mind a little chaos now and then, but peace of mind is nice right now. I didn't get as far off track with my project as I thought. Thank goodness for quiet time to think.

Husband and I went for a jog in the May gray evening. We created energy. He is my solid path and my fresh air. I am so grateful that he keeps me going, in so many ways.

Then we came home to create a delicious meal of grilled veggies and red curry chicken over brown rice and mango papaya salsa. Yum, creative soul food! We are thankful for the blessings of family and home.

I didn't lift a paint brush, but I'm happy with this day of creating. I am grateful for having the clarity today to notice and appreciate the simple (yet so profound) gifts in my life. Gratitude allows us to create all the joy we need. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

346/365: The Day's Questions

Why do turkey sandwiches always taste different on a picnic, so smooshed and delicious?

Will we ever outgrow bare feet in the grass? (I don't think so.)

More uphill on this new bike path?

Who thought peanut butter would taste so good in an acai bowl?
(You have the best ideas.)

What is more lovely: the colors of the chairs at this quiet cafe, or the way the sun falls across the old wood floor?

If we lived this day all over again, would we have the same questions?

There is so much art in the noticing.
In that, there is no question.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

345/365: Eye on the Finish Line

Tonight I took some time to catch up with one of my oldest friends and closest confidants. I confided in her that the last few weeks of my 365 project are proving to be some of the most daunting. I've been returning to unfinished projects and the drafts of old blog posts that I haven't been able to keep up with while attending to family and work. On top of that, I am ready to begin work on a new project that I'm very excited about; the ideas keep flowing, so I must collect them. I am focusing too much on the past and future to find the energy I need to focus on my present creations. I'm feeling burned out. I hate that I'm having these thoughts of "I'm over it," so close to the finish line.

My friend's response was that perhaps I should just allow myself to be done, that if I learned what I needed to learn in 345 days then I can call it finished. She gently suggested that I shouldn't force it, that doing it out of obligation would be less meaningful. She made very good points and I know she meant well, but the more I think about it, it's so not what I needed to hear. I guess what I'm needing is support from my biggest fans, shouting their encouraging words and showing belief in me as I enter the tiring last leg of this journey.

I've come too far to quit now. There will be a natural ending, but this is not it. I'm trying very hard not to get worked up at the lack of interest, understanding and encouragement from most of my nearest and dearest. And I have to remind myself, it's important to me and that's what matters. I'm doing this for myself. I have to encourage myself to keep going. I have to find my own meaning in my own time. This is the time to muster up all my courage and intrinsic motivation. I will continue to find joy and meaning in every step left on my journey. I will cross the finish line, even if no one is watching. And then I will celebrate as if it's all 33 birthdays packed into one, for the opportunity of constant rebirth that I've given to myself.

Friday, May 24, 2013

344/365: Digital Inspiration Albums

I have been up to some creative color scheming and texture collecting this year! Tonight I took some time to sort through the goodies I've gathered. Color, texture, line, pattern...when these things catch my eye, I have to capture them. I snap photos on my iPhone and later scroll through my camera roll to get ideas for my art. It's a digital inspiration album. I use photo collage apps, like Pic Stitch, to work out new color schemes or create an eclectic design board for a project.

I haven't gone too deep into my study of design elements, but I know what I like. I know what stops me dead in my tracks to capture a "swatch" for use in my art. I know what inspires my mixed media collages. This has been such an integral part of my creative process.

My pup, Banjo, is a perfect photo walk partner and if it weren't for him I probably wouldn't have such a great collection of color swatches or texture and pattern samples. We are surrounded by inspiration in our environments, both in nature and in the man-made world. Paying attention to what draws us in can help us to develop an eye for design and our own artistic style.

Go for a walk today. Bring your camera and see what catches your eye!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

2,200 Steps: The Art of Procrastination

San Diego Convention Center Stairs by Marc_Smith
San Diego Convention Center Stairs, a photo by Marc_Smith on Flickr. 

Today is Day 343/365...

Earlier this evening I let my husband talk me in to running the stairs at the San Diego Convention Center for 30 minutes. Yes, you read that correctly. I willingly ran stairs- 2,200 of them to be exact. It was grueling- and pleasantly empowering, and even a little cathartic once I found my rhythm- but mostly grueling. I'd like to say I did it for my health, but to be honest, I was procrastinating. The thought of going home after work to play catch-up on two weeks worth of blog posts actually sounded less appealing than inducing intense pain in my thighs. 

Something is not right here.

If you follow my little blog, you probably think I've fallen off the wagon. I assure you I'm not about to let that happen with mere weeks left of my 365 project. I've been busy creating summer tutoring curriculum, trying out new recipes for the Mr.'s new health kick, and scrawling my creative musings on random bits of paper. My creative life seems to be in draft mode again, so I haven't been sharing in a timely manner. I've become a bit (O.K., a lot) overwhelmed with all the creative quandaries occupying my mind, and I'm finding it incredibly hard to focus and see things through to completion.

Today during my workout, I had this thought...
My creative journey has been much like running the stairs:
thousands of baby steps, deep breaths, self pep talks at the bottom of steep inclines, overcoming overwhelm, proving to myself that I can do it...and praying like hell that I won't trip and fall flat on my face. 

Leave it to a perfectly timed metaphor to bring me back to my sharing place.

It is highly likely that I won't be able to walk for the next couple days, so I'll be here on my couch, finishing drafts of past posts, attempting to put the pieces together in a happy linear way. On the other side of overwhelm there is peace and clarity. I just have to get up that next set of stairs.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

342/365: Wabi-Sabi Inspiration

I've been looking through my old pieces of art and contemplating my artistic "voice." I've been contemplating the design elements that appeal to me in the art and decor I surround myself with and that which catches my eye in the world. My aesthetic is becoming more clear to me and it reflects my love of nature and all things old. Dripping, staining, smudging, peeling, cracking, tearing, sanding and general destruction of any pristine surface- that is how I interact with my art materials. The colors of nature, patina and rust are most present in my work. I love messy art journals with faded text, haphazard marks and built up layers. My home decor is a mixture of rustic and vintage. It is all coming together.

I recently came across an actual art form that perfectly captures my appreciation for natural simplicity and flawed beauty. It is called wabi-sabi. A centuries-old Japanese philosophy and aesthetic, it is derived from Buddhist teachings that revolve around the acceptance of the impermanence and imperfection of life, such as in natural life cycles.

In nature, wabi-sabi presents itself in many different ways: as rust and patina on metal, cracked and peeling paint, splintered or decaying wood, moss growing along a path, leaves turning colors and flowers fading and wilting. In my art it has presented itself as layers of color and texture peeking through to create a rough and aged surface. For me it adds an element of weathered intensity and a rustic aesthetic that has long appealed to me. I love to mimic the game that nature plays as it works through it's cycles or attempts to reclaim man-made surfaces.

Wabi-sabi textures and colors catch my eye in surprising places in my environment that most people pass by. I capture them with my camera phone to use as inspiration for my mixed media layered backgrounds, or I print the photos themselves and use them as collage elements. Today I sorted all of my wabi-sabi finds into an album on my camera phone. It turns out there are a great number of these "swatches" in my collection that I had forgotten about. It's gotten to the point where my nearest and dearest don't bat an eye when I stop mid-step to take a picture of a patina-colored sewer grate, cracked wood floor or rusted dumpster. "It's for art," I say, and that is enough explanation.

In ancient Buddhist teachings, wabi-sabi acknowledges the three realities that nothing is perfect, nothing is finished and nothing lasts. This adds a sense of peace and release to my mixed media explorations when I create to achieve a wabi-sabi effect. Experimentation and working with mistakes becomes a valuable part of my process. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

341/365: Learning to Learn

I am finding that the process of creative expression and the building of a creative life are very much like the process students go through when trying to learn something new. It's all about making meaning and getting the pieces to fit together for ourselves.

In the classroom, we value approximation. We use inventive spelling until we develop knowledge of spelling patterns. We learn text response strategies that help with comprehension. We study mentor texts to learn the traits of strong writing. We share our thinking and problem solving strategies in math, so we can apply the strategies in new problem solving situations. We ask questions and experiment in science. We find a way to be in the world by learning from those who came before us. This is hard work, undertaken with a sense of play and exploration. We are beginners with wobbly arms, ever aiming at a target, setting intentions, observing, interpreting clues, connecting, relating, finding significance, and not always getting it right, but creating meaning nonetheless.

This has been my journey throughout my 365 project as well, in the creation of my works of art and writing, in my authentic and spontaneous expressions, and in doing the work to transform my life. But despite all my experience with teaching and learning, and my understanding of what a learners goes through, I still beat myself up throughout the process when I don't get it right. I should know better; I am a teacher! Today this realization was my friendly slap in the face.

I am a kid cheerleader, a builder-upper, a big fan of effort, and a believer that students can accomplish anything they put their minds to. I would never dare say anything negative or discouraging to one of my blossoming students. Why in the world would I be so harsh with my own inner child?! I should be building her up, and instead, I let the inner critic tear her down. No wonder my inner child's voice is so tiny some days! No wonder my creativity feels so stifled at times! I must learn to nurture my own inner child just as I nurture and support my young students. After all, we are all beginners, learning to create meaning, in whatever new thing we try. We need to be our own gentle teachers.

Creativity, like a child (or any learner for that matter) doesn't respond well to fear and intimidation. Positive attention, praise and encouragement are key ingredients to a safe learning and creating environment. I'm finding this to be especially true for me now as I take a creative approach to life. I should be telling myself the same thing I tell my students when I see them meeting with frustration, feeling incapable or experiencing low self-concept:

- It's OK to not have the answer.
- It's OK to make mistakes and to experience failure.
- It's OK to take a break when you're feeling burned out. 
- It's OK to laugh at yourself when you fumble, or at the very least, know that fumbling and faltering are normal parts of the learning process.

It is this taking off the pressure, releasing judgement, and making room for error and uncertainty that foster creative thinking and empowerment in my learners. And it works for me as well. I must simply continue to reflect on my experiences during this process of growing into my creative self. It is through gentle observation and reflection that most of my learning has taken place. Now I understand the frequent need for my creativity to come through in writing. Through my written reflections, I persevere toward meaning and wholeness. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

340/365: An Artist's Point of View

self portrait; point of view creating mood
Can you find the heart in this piece?
Preoccupied with my writing, my art, my inner world, I sometimes wonder if I'm giving enough attention to the other facets of my life. Am I attending to what's most important? Then I am reminded:

"There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view." ~Goethe

At different times in our lives, we focus our attention on our many realities: family and relationships, education and career, just to name a few. It really is all about point of view. We see things the way we choose to see things. We construct our own truths.

In photography, point of view refers to where the camera is in relation to the subject- the angle from which the subject is viewed. Creating work with a personal point of view is the job of the photographer, the artist, the writer. We must not forget that we are the artists of our lives. We create from our individual points of view.

"The artist deals in terms of his own, with images related to this contemporary life and its aspirations."
~ Paul Burlin

Since it is on our terms, we can choose where to focus our attention depending on what we choose to create. I choose to view my life at this time through the lens of self discovery and personal growth. I juggle my other realities as well and adjust my focus accordingly. As my husband is currently at a very similar place of personal development and discovery of his gifts, our focus on our relationship is taking place concurrently with living out our creative growth. I know that in the years to come, our focus will continue to shift. When babies are born, they will be our world. When we solidify our creative career dreams, we will invest more energy there.

I am so grateful to have this time to focus the lens on myself.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

339/365: Like No One is Watching

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."
~Friedrich Nietzsche

spinning the camera at our friend's wedding reception;
Congrats R&D!
The night was a blur of twinkling lights, the sound of laughter and music that brought back great memories. I needed it. In my slightly younger days, my girlfriends and I went dancing- a lot. Weekends were made for claiming dance floors and shakin' what our mamas gave us. Somewhere along the way, I think I lost my groove...or maybe I just stopped making room for it in my life. I wonder why I let such a joy slip away from me over the years as my life evolved.

After tonight's dance floor antics, I definitely can't say I've grown out of this favorite pastime. While priorities and interests have shifted, I'm thinking I could use more music and dancing in my life. I so miss this form of creative expression that livens up my spirit and helps me release the tightness in my body and the anxiety in my mind. I miss the effect that certain music has on me. I miss the ability to embody a space with complete freedom of movement. I miss dancing like no one is watching! 

For me, dancing my own dance is the equivalent of attacking a blank canvas with no plan in mind- pure self expression and creative release- without the cleanup. :) Today I vow to dance more, even if it's just in my living room, to the music in my own head. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

338/365: Art Heals

"Her Palette" art journal: acrylic and scrap paper

Last night's artistic tribute to my muse worked wonders to lure her in. Today I am a whirl of ideas- writing, planning, painting...

When I closed my eyes to visualize my painting tonight, I saw a paint palette- colors constructed of patterns. That is what I painted first. The self portrait came next, and the healing occurred with every brush stroke. Deep in the process, I forgot the things that stressed me out this week. It was a painting meditation, a release of pent up emotions. Now a sense of pride brings back my confidence. My soul is mended.

It is such a catch 22. Often, when we most need to express ourselves, out of stress, frustration, grief or loneliness, our creativity feels stifled by these very things. If we can find a way to dip our brush into our inspirations and trust in the process, the healing will flow naturally. That is my experience.

Come as you are. Engage in your own creative process, whatever it is. Your art will not judge.

Friday, May 17, 2013

337/365: Romancing My Muse

An ode to my ever-elusive muse...
In jewel-tone paints and papers, in charming sepia toned portrait,
And my plea to her- "Oh fire my soul and guide my hand!"- a found text verse from old choral music.

I'm happy to say, she has accepted the offerings and blessed me with her presence.
Probably because she feels doted upon. Imagine that- making art to coax your muse out of hiding!

art journal page: vintage image, acrylic, ink, found paper

Thursday, May 16, 2013

336/365: The Only Failure

Eeeeeeek!! Today we found out that the guitar my husband built was accepted into the Design in Wood exhibit at the Del Mar Fair! We have been waiting to hear about his submission for weeks. His first try and it's in! The fact that his instrument was chosen is a testament to his talents, but I'm just as proud of him for finishing the piece and submitting it.

Last summer, we visited the fair to eat deep fried randomness and to admire the art, photography and woodwork exhibits. We both left saying, "I can do that! I can create a piece to submit for show at the fair!" We both vowed we would enter this year, he a guitar for Design in Wood and me a piece of mixed media art. While my husband was busy designing, creating and learning from the process, I allowed the fair deadline to come and go without much thought. "I'm not in that place right now," I think I told myself.

He came through for himself...and I found some excuse to not even try. The only failure is in not trying. Isn't that what they say? Well I have failed royally.

Probably because I know the work and passion that went into it, and because I adore the crap out of him and rejoice in his rejoicing, the prickly feelings aren't surfacing right away. It is easy to focus my attention on where it is really deserved, the man who has something to show for his efforts. But I suspect my inner critic will be dropping by soon to give me a good bashing. Or maybe I'll get lucky and  learn a lesson on creative commitment from my favorite teacher.

So tonight we toasted glasses and ate our dinner in the wood shop, right there at Rodney's work bench, in the company of his band saw and belt sander. It seemed appropriate. I'm smiling from ear to ear in admiration. He has discovered and acknowledged his talent, and committed to his focus. His will to create is stronger than I've ever known it to be. He's making things happen for himself.

I want to be like him when I grow up.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

335/365: Fresh Idea on a Stick

Before he got onto his health kick, my husband was eating insane amounts of fudgescicles and saving the sticks to make birdhouses. No joke- we have three very awesome handmade birdhouses (the sticks have been thoroughly washed) any birdie would love to call home. Rodney soon moved on to bigger and better wood shop projects, so what to do with all those popsicle sticks? Today I had just the plan for them!

As I wrap up the last month of my 365 Days of Creative, my mind is already a swirl of new ideas for my epic summer project (which I have yet to reveal). I'm having a hard time staying focused and putting energy towards unfinished projects. Haphazard daily creating has been wonderful, but I find myself craving a little more structure to explore the topics that are constantly floating around in my mind, vying for my attention right now. My inner critic, my muse and sources of inspiration, fear, teaching and learning and what brought me to my many favored art forms- these are things I want to explore more within the framework of my year of creating.

At the beginning of the year, I took the time to organize all of my scattered ideas into one place. I refer to my Idea Journal often, but not all of it feels relevant and important right now...not to mention that it's overwhelmingly huge. I needed something that was more visual, tactile, organize-able and easily within reach. Hooray for popsicle sticks! All of the creative ideas (many of them writing ideas) that my mind is most preoccupied by right now can go on a stick and can live in a cup on my art desk. In sight, in mind. Yes more organizing and planning. I can't help it. It's totally necessary brain purging that allows me to reach the clarity I need to proceed with one fresh idea at a time.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

334/365: Creative Space Rituals

“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.”
Joseph Campbell
Since Art Desk Law was passed in December, I'm proud to say the mess has been of the creative variety. I could go as far as to say it's a "mess mosaic" or "clutter collage" of sorts. It is evidence that I have been present and playing in my happy space. Well at least until our two week family tour ;). Now I'm finding it hard to just jump right in after being away for some time. I feel the need to regroup and start fresh. Art studio spring cleaning was in effect today. 

While I'm at it, I thought I'd share my creative space ritual, which makes for a fresh start to any day of creating. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to create any place and time, no elaborate ceremony required. But if you have the space and the time, this is a familiar and comforting way to ease into your creative play. For me it's like sending signals to my brain to get the creative juices flowing. I perform these simple acts in just about the same order every time. It helps make my art feel like more of a spiritual practice.

- First I make myself a cup of green tea in my favorite mug and let it steep while I ready my art space. Green tea is my warm soul cleansing. 
- Next I open the bedroom window to let fresh air in. 
- I turn on the lamps above my art desk and light a candle or some incense. 
Citrus scents energize me. 
- I help my short-legged pup onto the bed. He's my little studio companion; 
he snores while I create. 
- I turn off my cell phone so I have no interruptions. This was hard at first, but I had to remind myself that there once was a time when I wasn't so attached to my phone and I got by just fine. 
- If I'm feeling groovy, I play some favorite tunes on my iPod through the little amp my husband made me. Sometimes I just create in silence. 
- Next, I don my art apron in case things get messy.
- For an extra special feel, I put on the owl key necklace my husband gave me. It's been known to unlock some deep wisdom during my creative process ;)
- Then I ring my muse bell, the hanging hearts ornament from India that my dear friend gave me. This wakes up my muse in case she's napping.  
- Finally, I close my eyes, do some relaxation breathing and visualize myself deep in the process- paint on my hands, canvas a swirl of color. Sometimes I get snippets of images in my mind that inspire my art. Most often, it's just a way to focus and center myself so I am more fully present. 

I can't say I perform this ritual every time; sometimes ideas are brewing and I'm ready to dive in. But on the days that I really need it, this routine helps me connect with my creative spirit a little more freely. I so value that sacred connection.

 Do you have a ritual that activates your creative mind and let's your muse know you're ready to play? 

Monday, May 13, 2013

333/365: How We Do Things Around Here

a little kitchen sign I crafted a couple years ago... alphabet ink stamps on scrapbook paper background

My husband is a brave man.
I announced tonight that I was "experimenting" with home made pizzas for dinner, and he showed up at the table despite seeing the random ingredients on the counter.

We've been eager to use fresh garden goodies, but the veggies are just beginning to flower, so I made do with fresh basil and cilantro.

I played it safe with one pizza, topping it with marinara sauce, garlic, basil, feta, fresh-grated Parmesan and tomatoes.

I got creative with the second one using what I could find in the fridge. Hello tofu crumble with peanut sauce, cilantro, onions, bell peppers and pepper jack cheese! It was my vegetarian spin on BBQ chicken pizza. Not bad, actually. The cilantro and peanut sauce went well together.

All of the toppings sat on whole wheat Mediterranean flat bread, so the pizzas were healthy, filling and husband approved!

There are chopped herbs and little piles of cheese all over my kitchen.
Wild, wild abandon, I tell ya ;)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

332/365: The Happiest Talent

As an adult, I am learning to play all over again. My inner child remembers well how it is done. When I turn off the grown-up noises in my mind and listen to that happy little voice, I remember too.

This afternoon I attempted to catch up on the things that fell to the wayside while family was visiting. But bills, e-mails and unfinished blog posts wouldn't hold my attention for long with the gorgeous spring day whispering to me through the open window. So when my favorite fella invited me out for a bike ride in the sun and some lunch at a great beach spots, my inner kid and I were ready in a heartbeat.

Home from our play date, I resurrected this old art journal page, begun in the summer of 2011 when I was first discovering the joyful play of art journaling for the first time. There is something very familiar about it as I add outlines and details today. I am back at this place and needed to remember:

mixed media art journal page: old family photo, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, chalk, stickers, ribbon, scrap paper
"It is a happy talent to know how to play." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The border text reads:
eyes wide open - take in the world - explore - discover - delight - know joy - make meaning - let go of expectations - just be in the moment - do what excites you - make your inner child

We made a day of all of this. And it was good.

Our creative spirits and imaginations thrive on play. When we are young and when we have grown, play is essential to our creativity. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

330/365: The Wolves Within

gray wolf pendant by Erin Scully
As a little girl, I used to collect charms and trinkets that held what I believed to be magical powers. Some were just "for pretends" and some were tried-and-true good luck tokens that brought me strength during times of shyness and insecurity. I never quite grew out of my interest in charmed objects, perhaps mostly for the feelings such symbols conjure.

A few weeks ago, this unique pendant came in the mail for me. It has become one of my favorite charmed objects. It was made by my darling friend, Erin Scully, who is a metalsmith and jewelry designer. Among other designs, she deconstructs vintage furs and up-cycles them into unique, one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. Vistit Aeryn Kae, her Etsy shop, to view more of Erin's lovely work.

The pendant is made of recycled gray wolf fur, a guinea hen feather, vintage yarn and nylon cord. Knowing Erin, I have a feeling she puts her good juju into every piece she hand crafts. As soon as I put this necklace on, an old story flooded into my memory...

"The Wolves Within" a Cherokee legend:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil- he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego." 
He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

So Erin's wolf pendant has become a talisman of sorts, giving me strength in knowing that I have the power to choose where I focus my energy. I've been grateful for the reminder these days, as I battle feelings of guilt and self-doubt, and strive to let faith and joy overcome.

We always have a choice. 
Which wolf are you feeding?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

329/365: My Safe Place

Too many days away from my art space and a lack of solo time to think is leaving me feeling disconnected from my creative spirit. I wonder why I find it so unnatural at times like this to dive back in, to pick up a paintbrush rather than a pen, or to sit at my art easel rather than my keyboard.

Writing takes me to my safe place. This I know. It's the creative space I go to in my mind to work through challenges. It's what I turn to when stale emotions need coaxing out. It is my spiritual practice. I treasure my ability to visit this place on a whim, to be able to express myself explicitly, almost every time I try. Writing is my therapy and my vehicle for personal understanding.

And sometimes it feels like the easy way out.

I feel I'm not pushing myself enough to grow as an artist when I'm unwilling to work outside of my comfort zone. I think I often hide behind my words, my over-explaining, my analytical left brain, so much in my head, always thinking. Dare I call it my creative cop out? I do not mean to discount writing as a creative act and valuable form of self-expression, but I so badly want to feel comfortable with other forms. I want to live from a heart space, not just a head space. Most days that is the greatest challenge. I want to learn to recognize my instinct when it stirs in me and to trust it. Fully. I want the emotions to come out in line and and shape and texture. I want paint to color my message the way strong adjectives do. I want to face the blank canvas unafraid, as I do the blank page.

Even as I write this and reach deeper understanding through WORDS, I long to express myself some other way. Not because writing is not enough- I'm finding, it's very much enough- but simply because I know it's in me, scratching to come out. I must find a way to move past the fear and resistance. I can only hope that through writing, I will be better able to name that fear and resistance. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

328/365: The Quiet Voice

Note to self...
and to my brave friend, Melissa, who's courage and strength astounds me.

mixed media art journal page: acrylic, ink, scrap paper
quote by Mary Anne Radmacher

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

327/365: Dear Mama,

I laughed so hard this week
At your quirky humor,
And smiled so much
At the carefree spirit
You bring on your visits.

You told more stories this time
Than ever before.
I know you better now.
I understand!

You helped me exist in each moment
More fully, more joyfully.
I crave more of this connection,
This friendship
Between a girl and her first love.

There's a part of me tonight
That recognizes a space
That needs filling
When you are there
And I am here.

There's a part of me tonight
That feels very small
And just needs her mama
To be close.

All that's left to do is eat all the fruit
that we bought at the farmer's market,
To pick up stray threads
From our sewing projects,
To wash the sand off the seashells
That you forgot to pack,

And to share these words, dear Mama.

Monday, May 6, 2013

326/365: Mama's Birthday Brunch

Happy birthday to my sweet, beautiful mama!

She wouldn't be thrilled that I'm posting a picture of her in her bathrobe with morning hair, but it's too cute not to share.


The birthday girl was treated to a home made 
brunch of California eggs benedict (with turkey
and farmer's market avocado) and a little Polish style "open face" swiss, basil and tomato sandwich (her favorite). Her daughter finally mastered the art of poaching an egg with a little help from these handy dandy "Poach Pods".

Every last bite was eaten up. Cooking success and a happy mama- not bad for the day's creative. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

325/365: Pier Paintings

Mama and I went for a beach walk today. We took shelter under Crystal Pier for a bit when the rain came. I was delighted to find beautiful abstract paintings there, like only nature herself could have created.

To reinforce the foundation, each post under the deck wears a concrete-filled canvas bag like a big sock. Being exposed to the salt water and sea air for years, the fabric is stained in colors of rust and moss and even cornflower blue. I'm so drawn to these colors and the weathered, sea-blistered look. I snapped some photos as reference for my own painting experiments. Once my mama caught on to what I was doing, she pointed out her favorite weathered bits too. Love that lady.

nature on canvas

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

323/365: Say "Ah"

Mama and I walked the rows at the garden store today, picking out flowers for my yard. The insides of these blooms remind me of the tongues of sick cartoon characters. Ahhhhh....

Thursday, May 2, 2013

322/365: Welcome Each Moment

Welcome home mama.
It's time we slow down-
walk barefoot,
and talk about the flowers.

Let us be present in each moment
Of each other's company.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

321/365: Embracing Solitude

During this past year of my 365 challenge, I've spent a great deal of time alone- thinking, journaling, painting, creating. I've lived inside of my head more than ever before. It's been a rather solitary existence, but I needed it. One benefit of my solitude has been the gift of time. It's amazing how many hours can be reclaimed by turning inward rather than tuning in to social media and filling my schedule with social events. My desire for company and my need to go and do has been replaced by my craving for time alone, staying home and just being. I love to have nothing to do for long blocks of time so I can access the parts of my creative mind that are only reached in quiet patient moments of contemplation.

Solitude has its pros and cons, of course. Some days, I find myself in solitary confinement with my comically neurotic mind. Other days, I enjoy the sweet quiet bliss where poems are born and brave independent thoughts are formed. Just like any other close relationship, I occasionally get on my own nerves, and other times I am my most understanding and supportive friend. There are days when I crave connection and a supportive creative community. I feel as if I am needing that more as time passes, but the time alone was important, even if it did make me out to be a bit of a hermit.

The greatest gift of all has been a deeper self knowing, an understanding of the workings of my mind and the yearnings of my spirit. I've built an intimacy between my art and myself. It is much like my younger days, before my brothers were born- hours alone in my own imaginary worlds, drawing, writing, playing games of pretend. I was never bored. I am still never bored. There is so much exploring to do in this inner landscape. My writing, photography and art have been the ideal ways of documenting and expressing my findings. 

I notice it more, having family in town the last week and with more on the way, my time alone has been missed. I am feeling disconnected from myself and therefore, somewhat disconnected from my creativity. I see now how valuable solitude is to my creative output. The quiet time to process all the visual and emotional stimuli in my world is what brings on the spark of great ideas and allows me to bring the ideas to life.

I have visions of living alone in the woods, like Henry David Thoreau on Walden Pond. My husband would have a cabin down the road and we would have regular picnics and slumber parties, each retreating back to our own quiet spaces during our most creative hours, to work on our art and our selves.

We must not be afraid to be alone with ourselves. It is such a crucial part of self-discovery.