Create When No One is Looking

(c) Adair Heitmann

One of my favorite authors, the Kentucky born Barbara Kingsolver says:

“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”

Creativity and Wellness message for today: Just do it! Write, create, paint, dance, just do it!

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The Power of Downshifting

1956_MGA_Rick_Feibusch_2012When I was a teenager I learned how to drive a stick shift on my father’s vintage 1950’s MGB convertible. He’d bought it from a neighbor for $1.00. Pulling a cord tucked into the inside of the car door, opened the door. I took the solid hard top off to cruise in style to high school and the plastic windows slid side-to-side. To slow the car down, without applying the brakes, I learned how to downshift. Using the clutch and gear shift I changed the manual transition to a lower gear to slow the car down.

This past spring, I metaphorically downshifted,  I slowed my activities down and simplified.  I had an abundance of good things but too little time. I needed to take several volunteer and professional responsibilities off my plate in order to open space for other priorities. You can read more about it in the essay I wrote for the Fairfield Writer’s Blog, A Writer’s Choice: My Seven Steps to Saying Goodbye to Something I Love. Wanting to have more time to be with my high school senior in the college looking and applying process, I felt sad letting all my volunteer work go, but I knew the benefits of a calmer Mom. The hardest activity for me to stop was one that I’d been leading for seven years. It was an on-going Writing Critique Group,

However, the previous winter, my boss asked me to lead a different kind of writing group on the Saturdays that I was already working. Agreeing to it I planned on leading both, totally different writing groups, in two different libraries. Now, as I prepare for the new group starting in September, I’m  reminded that the Universe works in mysterious ways. Last spring I downshifted to ease off and allow space, in doing so I let go of something I deeply enjoyed. Yet, I gained being more available to our son. More time means I can access my humor more often. Now that I’m developing my curriculum for the new Creative Writing Workshop that I’ll be leading on the third Saturday of every month starting September 19, 2015 at Pequot Library, I’m back in my inventive flow again.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Trust that when you let something go, you might be surprised at what the Universe puts in its place.

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.

Feeling Depleted? Reach for a Quote

quotation-marksOn this crisp Autumn morning, I yearn to take it easy. However, I’m up before dawn, not to milk the cows, but to make breakfast and lunch boxes for my family, and support them getting out the door for work and school. Then I’m upstairs to write something before my writing critique group meets in an hour. After that I’m off to work. No wonder I seem to be running on empty these days. The local coffee shop would recommend I run in and grab a cuppa Joe. Instead I reach for something deeper.

While in college I started keeping quotes. The first one I ever kept was by the choreographer Martha Graham. She advised to use your gift, because it is yours to give. There is only one unique you. My collection of quotes has grown over the years. Whenever I read something that pulls at my heart or makes me gasp, I jot it down and store it in a folder. Mine are currently in two places, tangible and at-the-ready. One is in my cobalt blue three-ring binder that holds ideas for this blog. The other is in a threadbare moss-green file folder in a drawer of my white Formica desk.

Allowing for serendipity plays a part in this enrichment practice. Today, the blue binder won out. This was on top:

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
– William Wordsworth

Creativity and wellness message for today: When your energy is low, reach for something bigger than yourself.

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.

Making Art Fun: Step 6 – Be Playful

playful2Hello world! I’ve been focused on saving my beloved library for the last several weeks and haven’t had a chance to write. Phew, I’m glad to be here with you today.

On January 1, 2013, I wrote to you about how to make art fun. Today’s entry is all about the value of being playful. Don’t get me wrong there have been days, months, and sometimes years when my art experiences were anything but joyous. Especially lean economic years when I supported myself as a fine artist and graphic designer. Through it all, I’ve learned what keeps me singing in the shower is lighthearted art making.

Case in point – I’ve been  too busy to even write this blog. I’m lucky if my contact lenses are in the correct eyes and my clothes are right-side-out when I leave the house in the morning. However, I’m taking a break from the maddening crowd in a few weeks, to be puckish with art.

My husband and son gave me a living, breathing gift for Mother’s Day. It’s not a dog. It’s a two-day printmaking workshop, at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking. I’ll be immersed in clay slabs, colorful clay, printmaking paper, and a rolling-pin. I can’t wait!

By taking a fun workshop, I’m not going to worry about technique or product or performance. I’m going to wear my jaunty “It’s an ART THING You Wouldn’t Understand” artist smock. The workshop is my light at the end of the tunnel during a stressful time. It’s cheering me up and lifting my spirits. Be impish with art.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Enjoy how vivacious you feel when you commit to curiosity and whimsy.

New Day, New Year, New Look

Hello everyone. I’ve been re-creating my professional website, and giving it a full makeover during the last several weeks. Sometimes the experience of doing it myself has been hair-raising, and other times absolutely joyful, like life itself.

You’ll see today that the look of my blog has changed too. I hope you like it. Stay tuned for the official re-designed website roll-out!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Changes happen, be glad to color along with them.