Inspiration and Perseverance in the New Year

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Nature Mobile by Adair Heitmann

Recently, a beloved mobile, one I made while I was in college, was accidentally broken by someone other than me. The mobile was special and sentimental. I constructed it late one night in my college studio apartment in Syracuse, NY. The hanging sculpture was of delicate, transparent shells and two pieces of elegant driftwood. I’d found the objects in nature while dreamily beach-combing and camping on Sanibel Island, FL. I fancy myself a good artist in two dimensional works, 3D however has never been my forte. Add to that the subject of balance, I was out of my element. Mind you, I can balance a checkbook and I strive to live a balanced life, but creating actual poise, stability, and equilibrium using fishing nylon, lightweight shells and small pieces of graceful wood was a challenge.

I hadn’t taken a class in weights and measures, nor was I a mathematician or scientist who could assess, evaluate, and compare sizes and weights to calculate stability. I was an artist! I remember vividly the night I spontaneously made the original mobile. It was my very first mobile and I ventured into unknown and nervous territory to even consider making it. Yet, I was inspired to do so. The creative process was hands-on and immediate. I felt my way through the act of gauging the position and stability of the little objects. I was more of a creator and the act of tinkering was new to me. Yet, I knew I needed to keep going, persevere, make adjustments, adapt angles and lengths, and I trusted the balance would present itself. When it was finished I loved its simplicity, it was Zen-like. I hung it in my tiny apartment and upon college graduation the mobile came with me, survived being packed and unpacked during seven of my moves, and always found a place on view in my home. The mobile was never a center-stage type of artwork, but every time I saw it, I felt proud of myself for trying something new and constructing something outside my comfort zone.

You can imagine how I felt when I found it, decades later laying flat on my desk. The supporting strings made of fishing nylon were old and weak. I could not blame the accidental mishap that caused it to break. I put it aside until I had time to fix it, I knew the persistent process I would have to undertake and I knew I’d go into an anxious tinkering approach in order to fix it. I made the original mobile spontaneously, using trial and error kinesthetic experiments. I had to go back into that same state of mind and hands-on method to fix it. It also was important to me that I fix it myself. I live with the mobile king and could have very easily asked him to repair it. But it felt imperative for me to restore the damage.

Our college-age son watched my process and progress. Over the winter break he was home and on his computer at the kitchen table while I was fiddling and messing with the mobile two feet away. He saw and heard my frustrations, he witnessed my starting over again and again. He observed, all while working on his own projects, my searching for spools of different invisible threads from my multi-compartment Norwegian wooden sewing box with six trays. He didn’t say a word, we were in parallel productive modes, but, as a parent I knew it was a teaching moment. If he saw me get annoyed and stop, it would teach him to give up too soon on his own endeavors. If I got angry at myself for failure, remember, equalizing weights isn’t my strong suit, I would be teaching him by example to let disappointment get the best of him.

I hung in there, remembered my former college self in my solo, small, second floor apartment and kept tinkering. Slowly a solution appeared and I mended the broken mobile. Is it exactly like the original? No. Is it good enough? Yes!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Hang in there and use the art of hands-on tinkering to create your next solution.

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.

Making Art Fun: Step 9 – Stop When Done

stop-signHello to all my amazing followers! Thank you for joining me on this creativity and wellness journey. Participating in the 2013 Sketchbook Project inspired me to write down my 9 steps in making art fun and in keeping your creative spirits going. As a seasoned artist, I’ve had my ups and downs in the art world.

Like fine wine, as I age, perspective seeps in. I notice the challenges of working, raising a family, and sustaining a multi-decade, long-term and committed relationship. Keeping up with family, friends, volunteering, and still claiming time for my professional art and writing is a steep order. Yet, I find happiness in inspiring endeavors. Seizing the day keeps my inventive juices ripe and flowing.

Like in baking a cake, you have to know when it is done. Some people use their sense of smell, others, set a timer, or stick a toothpick in the center. We all have our techniques. It’s the same in any innovative project.

Today, I’ll finish this series of posts about making art fun. I’m done! I know it because I’ve said everything I want to, about this specific topic. Being able to share what I’ve learned with you, has been a pleasure. Now I’m satisfied about wrapping this series up, and I am anticipating what I’ll write about next time, here, on my blog.

You can click on each link below to read the last 8 posts in sequence. To recap my barometer on making art fun, and to reiterate, “if it ain’t fun, don’t do it:”
1. Keep it simple
2. Use what you have on hand
3. Don’t reinvent the wheel
4. Lighten up
5. Delete your inner critique
6. Be playful
7. Listen to your inner voice
8. Allow for happy accidents
9. Stop when done

Ding! Ding! My cake’s done!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Trust your own sense of timing. Then share a slice of what you’ve made with others.

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.