Finally, Someone Who Understands! Thank you Misha

Mikhail-BaryshnikovNo longer will I feel guilty when I don’t want to talk with someone while I’m creating art in a community artists’ studio.

No longer will I feel ashamed that I don’t know Suzy Q, Barbi X., or John Z. when asked, “Why don’t you know them, they go there all the time?”

No longer will I apologize for getting snippy to my family when they interrupt me while I’m trying to choose which monoprint to submit to an exhibit, while reviewing art prints at our kitchen table.

Now I can proudly proclaim, “Don’t you know art is a very slow and fragile process? Dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov told me so!”

While exercising this morning I heard on NPR about Baryshnikov’s Art Center in NYC, marking its 10th anniversary. Hearing Baryshnikov simply state the obvious changed my day, my week, and my world. He says that art is a fragile process and artists need privacy and space to create. I know that! Thinking back to when I had a separate studio space I remember those as the glory artist days. But I wanted more in life and co-created a multi-faceted, multi-use home and life. Yes, I adore our teenage son, but can’t a girl dream about “space, and light, and privacy?” That is just what Baryshnikov created for artists in New York City, an environment in which artists of all kinds can go and create to their heart’s content. Well done Misha!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Even if your kitchen table is filled with college tour brochures, applications, and forms, keep your vision of space, light, and privacy on the horizon.

Creative Gifts: Respond to What’s Inside You

drumming manEnjoying Japanese food and a glass of Chardonnay last night with a friend, I listened as she told me about joining a local artist’s collective. She is renting studio space, outside of her home. My friend was so happy to be back in the nest of like-minded creative souls. I was so lucky to be able to rejoice with her.

She said, “I haven’t painted, I mean really painted in 20 years.” I nodded, “I understand.”

Her longing, that she turned into bliss, reminds me of a quote from Joy Harjo’s book Crazy Brave.

“If you do not answer the noise and urgency of your gifts, they will turn on you, or drag you down with their immense sadness at being abandoned.”

Creativity and wellness message: Start today by listening to your inner drum beat. Respond to the calling of your gifts.

Making Art Fun: Step 7 – Listen to Your Inner Voice

imagesArt + Time = Happiness. This equation sums up the two-day printmaking workshop my family gifted to me. I wrote about it in my last blog. Today’s tip on making art fun is about trusting that little voice inside you. I did that when I observed how excited I was as I anticipated the workshop. Gentle flutters erupted in my stomach each time I thought about it.

At the workshop, I decided to fly without a net. My intention was to enjoy the process of learning a new printmaking technique and not worry about the product or outcome. There I was in a sea of professional, exhibiting artists, all intent on creating pieces for their next exhibit. I chose to remind myself, again and again, I was at the workshop to have fun, explore and experiment. This attitude of abandon held me in a solid place of delight the entire weekend.

Yet, as my creative process neared completion, I had to know when my artwork was complete. Decades of serious art school training and real life experiences in meditation and trusting my intuition honed me well. Sometimes my inner voice was a simple exhalation. I knew when I’d exhaled there was a rightness to the color, texture, or composition. At other times, my inner voice was soft and literally spoke in my brain whispering the word, “Done.”

Click here to view my slide show from the workshop!

Creativity and  wellness message for today: Be adventurous. Listen to your inner voice in your mind, body, and spirit. Then follow through.

Making Art Fun: Step 2 – Use What You Have on Hand

Door_4_a_TeePee_copyright_Adair_Wilson_HeitmannIf you stay in the art business long enough you start to see patterns. I’ve been an exhibiting professional artist for decades and I enjoy tracking the methods of my artistic madness. In my last blog about making art fun I wrote about keeping it simple. Today I’ll share Step 2: Use What You Have on Hand.

Several years ago I was asked by the gallery owner of Bell Gallery, one of my, then, premier exhibition spaces, to create a work of art for herself and her boyfriend. They made a tipi to travel with and camp in during the summer. They planned to stitch the gallery artists’ paintings to their nomadic abode. Having very little time to focus on the task I used what was on hand. In my studio I found what I considered to be a scrap, a test cloth of photo-sensitized fabric. I quickly glued and sewed it onto a square of un-primed canvas, and drew directional lines to blend the borders. I then stamped fun symbols and wrote a short spontaneous sentiment with rubber letter stamps encircling the central image. Voilà! A work of art that was not premeditated, not drafted out, not sweated over. A work of art that seized what was on hand and let that momentum build the creative expression.

Darryl Norem, the gallery owner and Guenther Riess loved the painting. They were so happy with it that it never made it onto the tipi. They rigged it on two standing poles that flanked the door opening to their temporary home every time they put it up. Their actions surprised me at the time, because I thought I just threw the mixed-media artwork together. I was honored that they put my art in a place of recognition, yet I couldn’t see the value of it as much as they did. Looking back on the piece years later I now see the spunk and liveliness of the canvas. I appreciate what they saw then, a work of art with creativity, heart and soul. Something that delights and intrigues the viewer. This was a lesson for me. What I thought was just a quick creation was actually something of far greater worth than I realized.

Fast forward to 2012 and 2013, when I had fun with art and participated in the world tour of artists’ sketchbooks called The Sketchbook Project. In both years I followed Step #2, had a ball and completed the projects on deadline. The pattern is that when pressed for time, what I create right out of the gate by using what’s at hand, without my ego getting in the way, makes the best art.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Cage your inner critic and use something on hand to ignite your creative spark.

Just Do Something

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Showing up is half the battle.” Well, this morning I’m going to add, “Just doing something is better than nothing at all!”

Are you feeling like I am? Fraught with deadlines, responsibilities, too much work, and too little time? As the planets align today their particular position encourages us to focus on what is good and leave the rest. Writing to you in this blog is good, so I’m putting pen to paper, I mean fingers to keyboard and crafting a short blog post before I go to work.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Show up, contribute, leave. Trust that what you did is enough.

Staying Grounded Through Life’s Beginnings and Endings

This is a time of beginnings and endings. Are you feeling it? Big changes are happening. The planets and stars are lined up for seismic shifts. No one and nothing appears to be exempt.

Everyday there is a new change — personally, professionally, or with my loved ones. No organization or group is above the cataclysmic divides. There seems to be a gigantic cosmic eraser that is wiping out the old and making way for the new.

Henceforth, my mantra this summer is “Quiet Curiosity.” I’m curious where all these changes will lead. I’m hopeful, and to stay grounded I’m appreciating beauty where I find it. The photo of the blue hydrangea that you see here, I took it while I was on a 15 minute break from work yesterday.

Since I won’t be going away on an exotic long vacation this summer, I’m keeping a photographic sketchbook of “Pockets of Vacation-land.” Bits and pieces, trinkets and gems from my daily travels. A reminder that you really can find peace in your own backyard.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Be open to finding beauty when it presents itself to you.

Starting Where You Are

Spring is a time of change. Winter’s dreary dormancy gives way to daffodils delightfully swaying in bloom. Walking down a country road I realize that I can’t walk the same path twice. The smells, sights, sounds, all change at any given moment. The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus, said “You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you.” I remember a similar saying as an Alice Walker quote, “You can’t step in the same river twice.”

I’ve been stuck in a current situation of change and keep on trying to solve it by going back to old solutions. I haven’t been moving off square one. Then I realized on my walk that I need to invent a new set of solutions to the same challenge. I’m now inspired to think outside the box and create choices for myself that are fresh and untried.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Let the new waters that are flowing over you, steer you in the right direction.

Sharpening the Spirit

Rifling though my dog-eared manilla folder of good quotes today, this one by William Faulkner barked to be heard:

People need trouble — a little frustration to sharpen the spirit, toughen it. Artists do; I don’t mean you need to live in a rat hole or gutter, but you have to learn fortitude, endurance.

Creativity and wellness message for today:  Appreciate wisdom from unexpected sources.

Receiving

During my recent trip to the land of injury, surgery, and recovery, I’m reminded of how important it is to receive.

It’s taken me decades to learn how to ask for help, no wonder, considering my past. My dad was a WWll veteran. He was a P.O.W. and returned to his rural roots in the hollows of Kentucky with a Purple Heart pinned to his chest, but missing his right foot. As a decorated, amputated veteran he went on to ski the most beautiful slopes of New England, and to camp and hike along the Appalachian Trail. His chosen profession was of a minister. His business was marrying, burying, and baptizing, all done while standing on his feet. I have no recollection of him ever complaining.

My mother was from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virgina. Her blue eyes light up when she tells the story of growing up on the farm. “We didn’t see a doctor for 19 years,” she proclaims with a lilting voice.

Sadly, this resilience came at a cost. On one hand it fostered courage and fortitude, and it inspired good problem-solving skills. However when I was a child and sought assistance, when it didn’t come I learned to fend for myself. This became a lifetime habit.

This brings me to my recent situation. I’ve discovered the power of surrender and how humbling that can be. First I had to tell people what was happening. That was the hardest part, but I did it either in person, by phone or in a clear, upbeat email sent to a group of friends. I learned that asking for help not only helped me, the receiver, but as one friend told me, it nourished the giver too. The abundance of generosity residing within my circles of connections astounded me.

The result of my revealing vulnerabilities in a non-judgemental manner linked me to the rest of humanity, and when I asked for support, it came. I am grateful for it all — from delicious homemade soups to rides to physical therapy, from flowers to unselfish and humorous acts of kindness.

As with any new skill, learning to ask for help takes trial, error, and practice. Here’s my list of hints and tips:
1. Tell people ahead of time what happened and what your future needs may be. This way when you contact them you don’t have to tell the story of how you got here.
2. Make a list of people who you realistically think could help.
3. Have back-ups, so that one person doesn’t feel the brunt of all the requests.
4. Be specific in communicating your needs.
5. Think of who you are asking to do what. Is this something they can provide? If not, go down your list until you notice someone who fits the bill.
6. Ask with an open hand, if they say no, thank them and move on. No hard feelings.
7. Pay attention to the friend who is helping you. Ask them about their day or inquire about more details on something in their life that you know is important to them. They have already shown up to help you, don’t regale them with all your gory details.
8. Say thank you.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Receiving is an art and asking for help can be learned.

P.T. as Meditation

Today, it’s almost been two weeks since my knee surgery. Note to self, “Don’t stress the meniscus of right knee doing a StairMaster exercise routine, then carry laundry up the basement stairs.” Oh well, one complexly torn meniscus and arthroscopic surgery later, I’m onto the next hurdle which is Physical Therapy.

P.T. as I call it, has become a meditation on life. I have to slow down in order to do my knee bending exercises. I can’t rush the heel digs into the bed. I have to keep every repetition pure and simple, in order to strengthen the muscles, and increase flexibility. Like a meditation I have to be fully present with every flex, stretch, and bend.

Pain does occur during P.T. It’s a good pain though. I know it is necessary and actually part of the healing process. It’s like in life, I know that at some point I will hurt, but I can’t constrict my movements in order to coddle it. If I do, I won’t get the full benefit of P.T. or life. Discomfort comes, I just can’t predict when or why, yet sometimes I can control how long it stays. When a burning ache occurs or a wincing, piercing sting jolts me, I say, “Ouch” or I stop or pull back, and I lessen the stretch, bend, or push.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Sometimes lessening is part of life’s lesson.