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.

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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.

2013 in review: Thank You

Three cheers and Happy New Year to my readers, followers, friends, and fellow artists and writers, creative types all! The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Check it out! I just had fun on the “Crunchy Numbers” page by clicking on the pictures and scrolling through them to find blog posts that way. Here’s to a great 2014!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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.