The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. So when stories come to you, you must take good care of them, as well. Learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs your story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put our stories in each other’s memories. This is how people care for themselves.
The hallmark of creative people is their mental flexibility . . . Sometimes they are open and probing, at others they’re playful and off-the-wall. At still other times, they’re critical and fault-finding. And finally they’re doggedly persistent in striving to reach their goals.
-Roger von Oech
Creativity and wellness message for today: Honor all of your eight parts.
From Wikipedia: Roger von Oech (born Feb. 16, 1948) is an American speaker, conference organizer, author, and toy-maker whose focus has been on the study of creativity. In 1975, von Oech earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University in the self-created interdisciplinary program “History of Ideas.” Shortly afterwards, he began providing services in creativity consulting, working with companies such as Apple, IBM, Disney, Sony, and Intel.
In the 1980s, he created and produced the “Innovation in Industry” conference series in Palo Alto, which included Silicon Valley entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Bob Metcalfe, Charles Schwab, Alan Kay, and Nolan Bushnell of Atari.
Two years ago I wrote a blog about “happy accidents.” You can read it here. Currently I’m focused on other work and can only ponder my art from afar. However, inspirational quotes keep my creative sparks going. I hope they do the same for you.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. -Scott Adams
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.
I’ve finished reading Biz Stone’s book, Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind. Biz Stone is the co-founder of Twitter. His self-awareness has been inspiring.
Over the years my friends, family, co-workers, even clients and bosses have exclaimed to me, “How did you know that?” or “How in the world did you make that connection?” What used to feel like shame when my idea appeared to be poles apart from the crowd’s, has turned into appreciation for the way my mind works.
In Stone’s book he says, “Experience and curiosity drive us to make unexpected, offbeat connections. It is these nonlinear steps that often lead to the greatest work.”
What I’ve learned about myself is that my connections are organic. I couldn’t always explain them analytically and this caused some people to doubt their validity. In an instant my mind would grasp interrelationships, visual clues, and data. Or as Stone puts it, “unexpected, offbeat connections.” Does this happen for anyone else?
Creativity and wellness message for today: Ease off on being linear, let your mind associate what appears to be dissimilar information.
Have 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.
I’m reading Biz Stone’s Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind. Biz is the co-founder of Twitter. Why not read it along with me and let me know what you think?
He had me hooked in the introduction:
“This book is more than a rags-to-riches tale. It’s a story about making something out of nothing*, about merging your abilities with your ambitions, and about what you learn when you look at the world through a lens of infinite possibility. Plain hard work is good and important, but it is ideas that drive us, as individuals, companies, nations, and a global community. Creativity is what makes us unique, inspired, and fulfilled.”
*Making something out of nothing is what artists, composers, choreographers, and writers do all the time!
Creativity and wellness message for today: Read this book, be exhilarated, let me know what you think.
We 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.
Here’s my next post on how to make art fun. Today I’ll talk about trusting serendipity. As you know from my last posts, I recently had the pleasure of attending an inspiring printmaking workshop. Due to my busy schedule at work, it was weeks before I had the chance to unpack my sturdy, large, nicked, and scarred black-leather portfolio.
Strewn across my oak kitchen table were newsprint pages I used during the workshop to blot up pigment residue. They were not the actual prints themselves, but they were too interesting to throw out at the workshop. As I unpacked them I saw how fragile the pigments were; there was no way to save them. Quickly pulling my cell phone out of my back pocket, I snapped photographs of them, thinking I might use the photographs in an art show.
In the video of life, fast forward to me submitting to the art show, pause on me realizing that one of the images I knew I shot, was missing. I fumed for a few minutes. The concept for the artwork had been brewing in my mind. Then I allowed the fortunate mistake of the missing photo to adjust the image in my mind. Instead of two different images, I modified the design to more of a yin/yang type.
Problem solved, artist happy, artwork ready to submit.
Creativity and wellness message for today: Save time, energy, and your artistic sanity by inventing in the moment. Trust those happy accidents.