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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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.