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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Creative Gifts: Respond to What’s Inside You

drumming manEnjoying Japanese food and a glass of Chardonnay last night with a friend, I listened as she told me about joining a local artist’s collective. She is renting studio space, outside of her home. My friend was so happy to be back in the nest of like-minded creative souls. I was so lucky to be able to rejoice with her.

She said, “I haven’t painted, I mean really painted in 20 years.” I nodded, “I understand.”

Her longing, that she turned into bliss, reminds me of a quote from Joy Harjo’s book Crazy Brave.

“If you do not answer the noise and urgency of your gifts, they will turn on you, or drag you down with their immense sadness at being abandoned.”

Creativity and wellness message: Start today by listening to your inner drum beat. Respond to the calling of your gifts.

Making Art Fun: Step 4 – Lighten Up

We can all take ourselves too seriously, in life as well as in art. One of the secrets to happily navigating both is to lighten up. Recently I had a professional opportunity that required scanning a lot of my paintings, prints, photographs, mixed media collages, and graphic design projects. Work that had been completed over several decades. Once I viewed the images on my computer I was struck by the fact that what I thought to be my best original art didn’t represent that strongly in digital form. In a quandary, with a deadline looming what was I to do? Lighten up!

I put on completely new eyes. Gave myself an attitude adjustment and became enlightened. I surveyed my work from one perspective only “What graphically shows the best.” I made selections from that sole point of view. Boy, did it simplify the creative process! No longer did I take time remembering the success of that piece or reminisced about what collector bought it. No longer was I seduced by my own feelings of yummy art memories, lightening up became practical, efficient, oddly enjoyable, and freeing.

Artworks that I would have considered not so good, showed me their strengths in digital form. I was educated anew to the value of my work, it was like a refresher course. Once the project was complete I even had fun making a video out of some of the art and design, the different viewpoint sparked more creativity.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Be surprised at the increase in your rate of production when you lighten up.

Making Art Fun: Step 2 – Use What You Have on Hand

Door_4_a_TeePee_copyright_Adair_Wilson_HeitmannIf you stay in the art business long enough you start to see patterns. I’ve been an exhibiting professional artist for decades and I enjoy tracking the methods of my artistic madness. In my last blog about making art fun I wrote about keeping it simple. Today I’ll share Step 2: Use What You Have on Hand.

Several years ago I was asked by the gallery owner of Bell Gallery, one of my, then, premier exhibition spaces, to create a work of art for herself and her boyfriend. They made a tipi to travel with and camp in during the summer. They planned to stitch the gallery artists’ paintings to their nomadic abode. Having very little time to focus on the task I used what was on hand. In my studio I found what I considered to be a scrap, a test cloth of photo-sensitized fabric. I quickly glued and sewed it onto a square of un-primed canvas, and drew directional lines to blend the borders. I then stamped fun symbols and wrote a short spontaneous sentiment with rubber letter stamps encircling the central image. Voilà! A work of art that was not premeditated, not drafted out, not sweated over. A work of art that seized what was on hand and let that momentum build the creative expression.

Darryl Norem, the gallery owner and Guenther Riess loved the painting. They were so happy with it that it never made it onto the tipi. They rigged it on two standing poles that flanked the door opening to their temporary home every time they put it up. Their actions surprised me at the time, because I thought I just threw the mixed-media artwork together. I was honored that they put my art in a place of recognition, yet I couldn’t see the value of it as much as they did. Looking back on the piece years later I now see the spunk and liveliness of the canvas. I appreciate what they saw then, a work of art with creativity, heart and soul. Something that delights and intrigues the viewer. This was a lesson for me. What I thought was just a quick creation was actually something of far greater worth than I realized.

Fast forward to 2012 and 2013, when I had fun with art and participated in the world tour of artists’ sketchbooks called The Sketchbook Project. In both years I followed Step #2, had a ball and completed the projects on deadline. The pattern is that when pressed for time, what I create right out of the gate by using what’s at hand, without my ego getting in the way, makes the best art.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Cage your inner critic and use something on hand to ignite your creative spark.

How to Make Art Fun

2013_sketchbook_project_coverHappy Creative New Year everyone!

Well folks, I just finished my 2013 sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project. The deadline is 1/15/13 and I am way ahead of schedule. Art House Coop started this really cool project – “Together, thousands of creative people from around the world are forming a traveling library of artists’ books.” I participated last year and wrote about that experience in the Fairfield Writers Blog.

I love combining words and pictures. This year I used watercolor paintings juxtaposed with memoir in-the-moment-of-life writing. I had great fun making my book. Being a professional artist for so many decades has taught me a lot. Most importantly, enjoying myself is my barometer for making art. If it ain’t fun, I don’t do it. Listed below are hints for having fun with art (kind of like makin’ whoppee with life). Over the next several months I’ll write longer blogs about each one in more detail.

Adair’s List for Making Art Fun:
1. Keep it simple.
2. Use what you have on hand.
3. Don’t re-invent the wheel.
4. Lighten up.
5. Delete your inner critique (and delete again and again as needed).
6. Be playful.
7. Listen to your inner voice.
8. Allow for happy accidents.
9. Stop when done.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Ring in the new year with joyful artistic creations!