Finally, Someone Who Understands! Thank you Misha

Mikhail-BaryshnikovNo longer will I feel guilty when I don’t want to talk with someone while I’m creating art in a community artists’ studio.

No longer will I feel ashamed that I don’t know Suzy Q, Barbi X., or John Z. when asked, “Why don’t you know them, they go there all the time?”

No longer will I apologize for getting snippy to my family when they interrupt me while I’m trying to choose which monoprint to submit to an exhibit, while reviewing art prints at our kitchen table.

Now I can proudly proclaim, “Don’t you know art is a very slow and fragile process? Dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov told me so!”

While exercising this morning I heard on NPR about Baryshnikov’s Art Center in NYC, marking its 10th anniversary. Hearing Baryshnikov simply state the obvious changed my day, my week, and my world. He says that art is a fragile process and artists need privacy and space to create. I know that! Thinking back to when I had a separate studio space I remember those as the glory artist days. But I wanted more in life and co-created a multi-faceted, multi-use home and life. Yes, I adore our teenage son, but can’t a girl dream about “space, and light, and privacy?” That is just what Baryshnikov created for artists in New York City, an environment in which artists of all kinds can go and create to their heart’s content. Well done Misha!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Even if your kitchen table is filled with college tour brochures, applications, and forms, keep your vision of space, light, and privacy on the horizon.

The Power of Words

art-colorI recently visited The Nest in Bridgeport, CT. The Nest is an artist’s studio co-op housed in a weather-beaten, flat-topped, but freshly painted old warehouse, complete with a red door. Luckily a friend who has a second floor studio invited me and my artwork to participate in a group-rate photo shoot of my images.

Among other things, like taking a personal day from work to have an art day, I loved being immersed in color talk and hearing art jargon and nomenclature. It’s my first language! When I overheard the photographer say, “I’m seeing slight cyan issues,” I smiled to myself. Ahhhhhhh, I exhaled.  She isn’t talking about “issues” like anxiety, she was talking about color saturation to digitally match an artist’s fiber art. Sitting there,  I was in heaven just listening.

I grinned when I heard, “Every digital camera has its own color issues.” No, we aren’t talking about stereotyping. I was full and satisfied when I overheard, “It just needed magenta added back into the blues.” No, not a jazz song, not feeling depressed, color, color, color.

This orgy for my ears brought to mind a list of pure pigment names I read while ordering paints online last summer. I was delighted by how familiar they sounded on my tongue and looked to my eyes. Reminiscing about them instantly peeled off decades and I was right back in art school, young, powerful, and creative.

Hansa Yellow
Diatylide Yellow
Pyrrolle Orange
Perylen Vermillion (oh, how this one makes me shudder with joy)
Quinacridone Violet
Ultramarine Blue (brings me right back to the first art term I ever learned)
Phthalo Blue
Burnt Sienna (I can see the rich red-brown as I type)
Raw Umber
Van Dyke Brown
Jet Black
Carbon Black
Lamp Black (yes, we artists have many shades of black)

Words, simple words, they return me to my first life as a young artist. Positive memories spring up from my formative days, offering strength and excitement.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Revisit the language of your art and see where the journey takes you.

Pausing for the Mystery of Life

beach walkDuring this season of hustle and bustle, I cherish the times I make myself stop. It takes a conscious effort to slow down, pause, reflect. The media, in words, tempo, and pictures challenges me to hurry up and shop, buy, wrap, bake, blah, blah, blah.

Instead, I rebel. Sometimes I reach for a quote. That proactive process helps my voice lower, my stride lengthen, and my attitude ease. At other times, I compliment myself on the one online gift order I was able to accomplish before heading into work. Yes, it is the small things that can get us through our days.

I’m inspired by these words:

Walk Slowly
It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn’t a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line: that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.
– Dana Faulds

Creativity and wellness message for today: Slow down to discover the intangible gifts that are right in front of you.

A Song of an Artist’s Soul

Yesterday I was talking with a neighbor when tears briefly welled up in my eyes. We were talking about art and design. I felt sad that I wasn’t spending enough time for my artist’s soul. I realized I’m longing to put pen to paper in textured, tactile ways. Daily, I’m writing and designing, but it’s all online. I’m not feeling the tug and pull of a wet paint brush. I miss the salty smell of red carmine and the sulphur overtones of vermillion.

Being a fine artist is all about the touch, smell, sight and sound of making art, not just the end product. It’s about getting messy and making happy mistakes. It’s about hearing the calligraphy nib on a hand-tooled wooden pen scratching toothed paper. Give me the sweet smell of amber in gum arabic and the sharp bite of black touche on a Bavarian limestone.

Drench me in the crisp scent of tautly stretched canvas. Let me run my fingers along the deckled edge of handmade paper. Lie me down with solid Sumi brushes and let me listen to bright white paper as it wicks up watery midnight-colored ink.

Creating this ode to the senses of art refreshes me. I’m now pleasantly anticipating my next artistic sojourn.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Sing the song of your own artist’s soul.

Receiving

During my recent trip to the land of injury, surgery, and recovery, I’m reminded of how important it is to receive.

It’s taken me decades to learn how to ask for help, no wonder, considering my past. My dad was a WWll veteran. He was a P.O.W. and returned to his rural roots in the hollows of Kentucky with a Purple Heart pinned to his chest, but missing his right foot. As a decorated, amputated veteran he went on to ski the most beautiful slopes of New England, and to camp and hike along the Appalachian Trail. His chosen profession was of a minister. His business was marrying, burying, and baptizing, all done while standing on his feet. I have no recollection of him ever complaining.

My mother was from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virgina. Her blue eyes light up when she tells the story of growing up on the farm. “We didn’t see a doctor for 19 years,” she proclaims with a lilting voice.

Sadly, this resilience came at a cost. On one hand it fostered courage and fortitude, and it inspired good problem-solving skills. However when I was a child and sought assistance, when it didn’t come I learned to fend for myself. This became a lifetime habit.

This brings me to my recent situation. I’ve discovered the power of surrender and how humbling that can be. First I had to tell people what was happening. That was the hardest part, but I did it either in person, by phone or in a clear, upbeat email sent to a group of friends. I learned that asking for help not only helped me, the receiver, but as one friend told me, it nourished the giver too. The abundance of generosity residing within my circles of connections astounded me.

The result of my revealing vulnerabilities in a non-judgemental manner linked me to the rest of humanity, and when I asked for support, it came. I am grateful for it all — from delicious homemade soups to rides to physical therapy, from flowers to unselfish and humorous acts of kindness.

As with any new skill, learning to ask for help takes trial, error, and practice. Here’s my list of hints and tips:
1. Tell people ahead of time what happened and what your future needs may be. This way when you contact them you don’t have to tell the story of how you got here.
2. Make a list of people who you realistically think could help.
3. Have back-ups, so that one person doesn’t feel the brunt of all the requests.
4. Be specific in communicating your needs.
5. Think of who you are asking to do what. Is this something they can provide? If not, go down your list until you notice someone who fits the bill.
6. Ask with an open hand, if they say no, thank them and move on. No hard feelings.
7. Pay attention to the friend who is helping you. Ask them about their day or inquire about more details on something in their life that you know is important to them. They have already shown up to help you, don’t regale them with all your gory details.
8. Say thank you.

Creativity and wellness message for today: Receiving is an art and asking for help can be learned.

So(u)l Space

In a world of over-achievers I am a flag bearer. Time and time again I am reminded, by a wise voice inside me, to slow down, relax, take it easy. Today I’m in my same boat of feeling overwhelmed. While I love my work and my other responsibilities bring me great joy, I periodically need to take something off my plate for me to re-balance.

After contemplating this for a few weeks, I’ve decided to take a summer break from creating this blog. I’m claiming some So(u)l Space. Thinking of Sol, the ancient sun god, I’m looking forward to some much needed breathing space this summer. I hope you will find ways to enjoy your own times in the sun, and I’ll see you in September!

Creativity and wellness message for today: Sit, close your eyes, exhale and consider what you might take off your list–for today, this week, month, season or year. You can always put it back on later. For now . . . free up some soul space, just for yourself.