Creativity: Don’t Water It

photo(6)I’ve written in past blogs about fanning the flames of your creative spark. We’ve discussed how empowering it is to seize the moment in unexpected artistic endeavors. Today, I’m offering different thoughts.

As you know I wear many hats. I work full-time as the Director of Communications for a non-profit, plus I have two part-time jobs which are keeping my fine art and writing careers going. I also have a family, and volunteer in my community. I say this not to toot my own horn but to lay the ground work for what comes next.

I’ll paint the scene for you. It’s early November here in New England and it’s been unseasonably mild. A small, white window box hangs from the open-on-three sides front porch of my house. Each May, I plant annuals in this petite box. Every year I have fun choosing different flowering plants, based on their colors (they have to make me happy), my mood, and budget. I love mixing it up year after year.

This past May I planted red, yellow, gold, and blue flowers and enjoyed a summer of lovely emerging plants. Then a few weeks ago as I briefly looked back at my house while driving to work  I saw  a profusion of pink. Perplexed I used great will power not to stop and investigate. The following morning I made sure I had time to look into this situation. Unbeknownst to me, Mother Nature conspired to give me an autumn gift. Steadily growing and blooming were pink flowers that I must have planted at least five years ago, and they must have been perennials.

Once summer ended I haven’t been watering my window box regularly. The plants are completely root-bound, and all the vegetation just sits there during Connecticut’s freezing winter months. This little pink plant has been steadily chugging along, staying alive underground for years, until the conditions were just right for her to pop up.

The metaphor in this is that sometimes we have creativity inside us that is natural, pure and real. Even when we don’t tend it, it is there waiting, healthy and ready to come out when we  least expect it. The additional symbolism is that this past September I exhibited a clay monoprint in an English international art exhibition and in October sold two original fine art pieces. It’s as if my art career is like this pink perennial bursting to life after years of dormancy. For decades I didn’t have time to tend daily to my fine art, but the goods were always there, safe and sound, and waiting for me before they bloomed.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Trust that your imaginative glimmer is there. You don’t have to water it, just allow it to flourish.

Best Five Things to do When Submitting to International Juried Art Exhibitions

"It's Not My Fault" by © Adair W. Heitmann

“It’s Not My Fault” by © Adair W. Heitmann

Last summer I submitted an original fine art monoprint to an international exhibition. The experience has kept me on a creative high for months, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’ll share them with you here.

1. Become a member of an arts organization larger than your geographical area.
For example, I’m a member of The Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, CT. It’s the only cultural and educational center dedicated to the art of original printmaking from New York City to Boston. Because of its outreach CCP invited members to submit to an international print exhibition.

2. Have a variety of new work available at all times.
Exhibitions want recently completed artworks. Keep different sizes plus framed and unframed works on hand. You never know what the prospectus will require or how little time you may have before the deadline.

3. Stand out from the crowd with your submission.
Choose a piece that’s a little quirky or unusual. Take a chance with an international show. I did just that when I submitted my clay monoprint to the Pendle Print Fest in Lancashire, England. It was juried in the states then sent over. I felt like it had to pass muster twice since it was supported by the Arts Council England.

4. Don’t sweat over your selection — trust your instincts.
Frankly, I was nervous sending my work oversees. What of it got lost? Damaged? Once I let go of those fears I chose a piece I liked, one that fit the exhibition’s theme and prospectus. I remembered that if it sells I live without it anyway, I was happy with my decision.

5.  Stay connected to the exhibition using social media.
“Like” the gallery on Facebook, follow it on Twitter. Write engaging comments in the comment section, re-tweet their tweets. I did that with the Pendle Heritage Centre Gallery. It was fun to communicate online and I broadened my own professional relationships. Feeling a kinship to an exhibition across the pond made me a card-carrying member of a world-wide arts community.

For my global Creativity and Wellness blog followers, the exhibition from the U.S. will be at the Pendle Heritage Centre Gallery from September 6 – 28, 2014. Please go see it and let me know. Take a selfie if you wish and send it to me!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Create local, submit global, and expand your horizons, go from micro to macro.

The Power of Infinite Possibilities

1403563275jzrsnHave you had a chance to read Biz Stone’s Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind? Biz Stone is the co-founder of Twitter. It’s a quick read and if you are too busy revising your memoir, put it on your Goodreads list.

I used to say, “I learned everything I needed to know about working in the real world from art school.” At Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts I learned how to chunk down complex projects into efficient timelines. I mastered techniques and discovered the importance of creating something in a step-by-step manner. I experimented with new mediums and technologies, and maybe most important of all, I learned how to take constructive criticism.

After reading Stone’s book I’m now adding a second experience, working in the graphic design industry. He was a book cover designer in his former career and I’ve had a steady career in graphic design ever since my first job out of college. Stone says, “Graphic design is an excellent preparation for any profession because it teaches you that for any one problem, there are infinite potential solutions. Too often we hesitate to stray from the first idea, or from what we already know. But the solution isn’t necessarily what is in front of us, or what has worked in the past . . . My introduction to design challenged me to take a new approach today, and every day after that.”

Creativity and wellness message for today:  Be inspired and fulfilled by your new ideas. Let them change you, your company, our nation, and the global community.

Creative Ideas: Inquire Within

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

I first discovered the painter, European modernist  Marc Chagall (1887 – 1985) when I was a wide-eyed, feisty young art student at Syracuse University. Chagall was a multi-faceted artist working in paint and stained glass, producing windows for the cathedrals of Rheims and Metz, windows for the UN, and the Jerusalem Windows in Israel. Chagall also created large-scale paintings, including part of the ceiling of the Paris Opéra. I also am a multi-faceted artist. His work showed me it was okay to explore in many different mediums.

In college, it was a printmaking professor, a substitute teacher for one day, who introduced me to Chagall’s paintings. Instead of instructing us on the techniques of intaglio or etching, my teacher told us to keep a dream journal – a log of our nighttime dreams. When asked why, she answered, “Marc Chagall used his dreams for subject matter.” I’ve been writing down my dreams ever since. Not only have I written them down, they’ve integrated themselves into my art, and I’ve relied on their wisdom to guide my waking life.

Years later, as a still feisty, veteran artist, I know art and dreams are cut from a similar fabric. They both involve surrender, trust, and insight.

“Art seems to me to be a state of soul more than anything else.”
-Marc Chagall

Creativity and wellness message for today: Find your own intersection of art and dreams.

Six Ways to Retinker Your Work

TEDxTinker (n): A person who can make all kinds of minor repairs.
Retinker (v): To make minor but highly effective repairs.

Yesterday, I spent my balmy Saturday morning, voluntarily tucked into a basement room with 100 other happy people. The Westport Library, held a TEDX event. TEDx is like the baby sister of the TED programs. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading”. TEDx is all that, but on a smaller community level.

The official title of the program was,  “Retinkering Libraries.” Eight presenters kept everyone in the palms of their hands. My take-aways however went far beyond the world of libraries. Artists, writers, teachers, entrepreneurs, consultants, non-profits, for-profits, everyone can learn to retinker themselves. In this age of extreme make-overs and radical career changes considering the power of retinkering is very freeing.

Six Ways to Retinker Your Work:
1.) Try stuff
I learned about some very cool emerging technology, Aurasma, from New Canaan high school librarian, Michelle Luhtala. I’m intrigued to see what I might do with it, both with promoting my own creative work and on my day job.

2.) Ownership of arranging space
Architect, Henry Myerberg, founder of HMA2, taught us that visibility + flexibility + density = ideal learning spaces. Consider making your work space more flexible, see where that leads you.

3.) Come up with the worst idea
When brainstorming about new possibilities, Jeanine Esposito of Spark! Consulting, encouraged us to come up with the worst idea then find two things about the “bad” idea that are good. Now that sounds promising!

4.) Read and be read to
The Director of the Yale University Press, John Donatich, didn’t have a PowerPoint presentation. Nor did his talk didn’t come by video. He read out loud to us. As he read his speech I was lulled into the comfort of being a child and full of wonder.

5.) Surprise and delight your customers
Marketing guru, Joseph Jaffe, reminded us that “Attention is a gift and a privilege, earn it every day.” With the fusion between communication, marketing and technology this reinforces my own motto: If I don’t have something to say, I don’t say/post/tweet/ it.

6.) Reconnect with your original vision
Founder of Yahoo Tech, David Pogue, reminded us about the “too many cooks spoiling the soup” syndrome. One person with vision can make great things. Stay true to yours, if it’s dimmed discover what needs tweaking or changing.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Discover the power of retinkering.

 

 

The Truth About Nighttime Dreams

IMG_1367I’ve been following the wisdom of my nighttime dreams for decades. Guidance from that knowledge has been like a tiller in my hand, helping me steer the sailboat of my life.

Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright, screenwriter, and novelist, Marsha Norman says:

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.”

So true!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Write down what was in your dream last night. Don’t edit, just write it down. Then be open to how that one act might help you set the course of your day (or your life.)

The Power of Sketchbooks

Kraft Sketch Book openWhen I was an art major in college I hated sketchbook assignments. Monotony overwhelmed me as I looked around my banal dorm room. How many times could I sketch my roommate Koko’s worn black socks draped over her sturdy shoes without throwing my charcoal stick out the window? I was the kind of artist who liked to invent what I created. That’s why I loved photography and printmaking. Those mediums allowed for serendipity, happy “accidents,” and magic.

Decades later, you won’t find me sketching my son’s white threadbare athletic socks draped over his running shoes. You will however hear me singing the praises of the act and art of keeping a sketchbook.

As an artist, writer, and a journal keeper, I group sketchbooks and journals into the same category. They all chronicle our lives, just use different ways of expressing it.

Last year, I met a sculptor in his studio/gallery in Northampton, MA. Samuel Rowlett made these cool, life-size stretched canvases. He attached them to his back and made self-portrait photographs in remote natural environments. As he and I chatted I remember him saying that sketchbooks saved his live. I recall he had been a new dad, an at-home house husband and father. He was used to creating big 3-D projects, but was limited to a small, two-dimensional notebook in his new role. Sketching was his saving grace.

I’ve experienced similar rapture, not from sketching what is I front of my face, but from writing in my nighttime dream journal, or participating in an international sketchbook project. The top shelf of my closet holds year’s worth of journals in all sizes, colors, textures, and shapes. My journals and sketchbooks aren’t the diary type. They don’t list the weather or what I had for dinner. They document transition times in my life. My hopes, fears, wishes, loves, passions, mistakes, and yearnings. My entries are self-portraits from a moment in time. The act and art of putting something down, in an intimate, hand-held form, that I can refer back to, is validating, instructive, and profound.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Brush off your old journal or start a new sketchbook. You never know where it may lead you.

Navigating Times of Change

autumn_leavesHearing dry autumn leaves crunch beneath my sneakers, I’m reminded of the seamless process of evolution. As artists, writers, parents, friends, lovers, and grownups we are expected to weather change fearlessly. However, if we watch nature closely, conversions happen slowly over a long period of time.

In this season of gratitude, of closing windows and hunkering down for the winter, I appreciate the following quote. It inspires me to allow for shifts to happen at their own pace.

“Transition is the natural process of disorientation and reorientation that marks the points of the path of growth. Throughout nature, growth involves periodic accelerations and transformations: Things go slowly for a time and nothing seems to change — until suddenly the eggshell cracks, the branch blossoms, the tadpole’s tail shrinks away, the leaf falls, the bird molts, the hibernation begins. With us it is the same although the signs are less clear than in the world of feather and leaf, the functions of transition times are the same. They are the key times in the natural process of self-renewal.”
– William Bridges

Creativity and wellness message: For this season, allow transition to be the way in which your life unfolds.

Artistic Endeavors: The Dirty Work

IMG_20130506_074956We are used to seeing the end result of artistic pursuits: listening in a concert hall as the orchestra plays the finale; mesmerized by viewing a painting in a still, quiet museum; or watching the curtain drop at the end of a play. The other day, however, I found myself immersed in the polar opposite of the finished product. I was in the dirty work in the middle of creation.

At 6:00am I was standing on the cold cement floor of my dank basement, in my pajamas, doing the messy part of creativity. Since taking a Clay Matrix Printmaking workshop I’ve been so excited to begin using my newly discovered art technique. Part of the process is keeping the clay matrix I use as my printing plate, moist.

Gathering supplies for the last few months has kept me focused on making sure I had everything ready. I also made sure the clay matrix was damp at all times. My teacher taught us to spray water on a synthetic towel, keep the slab in a clean plastic garbage bag, and check it every two weeks.

I’ve mail-ordered supplies such as a pizza roller (used as a brayer when making the prints). Stencils were found either in nature or I spotted them in everyday kitchen and household goods stores. Utensils like spatulas and fly swatters will be used to create unusual textures. Where to order clay and pigments was next on my list. All these tasks have been clean ones, and every two weeks, just like my teacher taught me, I wet a towel draped over the clay. Over the last few months I looked repeatedly for a synthetic towel, not finding one, I thought a cotton towel would do. An old, red, frayed cotton one.

Not  having a dedicated art studio, my slab is sitting on top of a pile of cardboard boxes, next to my laundry baskets, in my unfinished basement. Watching the second-hand tick on my watch, knowing I still needed to walk up two flights of stairs, shower and then drive to work, I was determined to stay in the basement. Because the clay matrix has to be kept damp, I’d quickly opened the plastic bag that morning, after switching a load of laundry. To my surprise, I found black, spotty, growing mold. My art slab was in jeopardy because of an old, red, frayed cotton towel.

Using the top of my washing machine as a make-shift studio table, I scraped dark mold and mildew off the wooden matrix frame. My thumbnail became my steadiest tool. Gently flicking mold off the clay itself became a sort of meditation. I had to do it slowly or else I would gouge the clay. After my labor of love, my matrix salvaged, I was satisfied and determined to find a synthetic towel that would eliminate the molding problem. If I was able to create prints and use the matrix daily or weekly (in my dreams!) the mold would not have had time to grow.

However, I did return upstairs, from the underground studio, elated. I was happy because, before going to work, I claimed time for my artist self. I also knew I had to find that synthetic towel. Soon I would have a new monoprint to hang on my walls.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Like a pig in mud, wallow in the dirty work, the behind-the-scenes of creativity.