creativity

Finding the balance...

When I was in the music, the visual was my play.

Now I'm in the visual, and the music has become my play. Mostly, drums. But it's time to pull the guitar back out, dust off the fretboard, and rebuild those callouses.

2016 Is about balance. About the toggle between work and play. Rest and energy. Creating and discovering.

Returning to the guitar is a return to who I was, and who I still am. It's a return to an expression that has always held a sense of wonder and play.

What happens when you come visit the studio?

We just might make a little video! :) Tamela Buttrey, a beautiful giving soul who runs a catering business in order to support underprivileged children in Guatemala, came by my studio to share about being creative in the midst of parenting, how to interact with others' artwork, and the foundation of our friendship being the conversation of art. [embed]https://youtu.be/w__f8s4c53Q[/embed]

And part two, on mail art, the inspiration for my postcards, and the connection between the artist and collector? It's a fun one!!

[embed]https://youtu.be/T92mjPVoudI[/embed]

I'm so grateful for Tamela's support and influence on my art. True collectors don't know how significant they are to me, but I'm determined to change that. It takes a village to raise an artist and I can't do it without you.

Finding the brave ones...

Find Your Brave These paintings call it out of me -- courage, bravery, honesty, vulnerability. And they are calling it out of you. We are gathering and talking and growing together.

We are the brave ones, the ones who wake up. Who face the day. Who reach and stretch and run. Who are running and living as best they can. Who find their brave every day and find it again the next.

Here's to the brave ones. You, in turn, make me brave. You make me a better artist.

Because creativity is a lot like Fight Club

This whole creativity thing works like the Fight Club. There's a battle our own self-rejection and creative acrobatics. We have extensive inner dialogs, working out the intricacies of a good/bad idea. It's all mush. It can get ugly. But OH the glory that comes when something comes to life. OH the glory. This is why we are in the fight.

Brene, the one who is changing our culture, has much to say about creatives and the arena. If you love Brene Brown, creativity, or self-understanding, this is for you.

 

http://youtu.be/8-JXOnFOXQk

Be moved to wonder.

be moved to wonder

People are moved to wonder by mountain peaks, by vast waves of the sea, by broad waterfall on rivers, by the all-embracing extent of the ocean, by the revolutions of the stars. But in themselves they are uninterested. --St. Augustine

There is a deep place in my soul for those things that move me to wonder, that call out from a bigger Existence—the Greater Than. I've never truly felt that I had eyes to see or ears to hear, but I long for my senses to reach past the stillness and silence and detect a small whisper of a Something.

Do you know this feeling? This deep wanting, waiting, watching?

I can see It and hear It most clearly when I am taking in those mountain peaks and vast waves and broad waterfalls. These things speak such a strong language of Createdness to me. It all works. It all dances together. How else than by some Plan?

I'm not the only one drawn to such a wonder.

“The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark. Darkness is the ancient womb. Nighttime is womb- time. Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night.” ~John O'Donohue

The atmosphere, the earth, the water and the water cycle - those things are good gifts. The ecosystems, the ecosphere, those are good gifts. We have to regard them as gifts because we couldn't make them. We have to regard them as good gifts because we couldn't live without them. ~Wendell Berry

Some part of my soul relaxes when I see the “universe of nature”, and I’m reminded that it doesn’t need to be much, or for very long, or even very far before nature touches me. ~SARK

"Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." ~John Muir

"Whatever peace I know rests in the natural world." ~May Sarton

"The closer you get to real matter, rock air fire wood, boy, the more spiritual the world is."~ Jack Kerouac

This kind of seeing, hearing, and touching can only come from a stillness of heart. I am learning that. I am learning to quiet myself enough that my soul has a moment to wonder.

And in all that wonder, a light flicks on in me. A yearning to put that light into something that others can see and take in.

This is the call for you and for me: To receive what we've been given then pass it along, compelled by our own abundance and gratitude.

Have you "wondered" lately? Have you heard and seen and felt? Have you allowed yourself to sense some other Bigness? Have you taken in your abundance lately in order to share it, passing it along like loaves and fishes?

If not, I challenge you to be moved to wonder. To come to the place of open-heartedness and receive what the world has to give you. Take it all in, what is coming and what is already there. And then pass along as much as you can.

This is the call to life. This is the call to creativity. This is the call to stewardship.

Your creative process needs a Routine Machine.

routine machine Do you set aside creative time, to then spend half of it wondering what in the heck you're going to do? You sit down at your piano or in your studio or with your art journal and you don't know where to start? If this is a constant struggle for you, maybe it is time to whip you creative process into shape. It is time to stop flailing around aimlessly in your creative time and start flying!

How can you take control of your creative process? You use a streamlined, customized just-for-you creative routine that maximizes your creativity. Your creative process can go from flailing to flying in just one day, using a Routine Machine. The good news is that building a creative "Routine Machine" is easier than you think!Darwin info

And how does it work? It is built using creative triggers: A specific workspace? Tea? A walk outside? A quick sketch or sprint of writing? Morning pages? Putting on your smock and stepping into your studio? Pandora?  ...Think Pavlov, but for ideas.

An enlightening 99U article gives us the characteristics that make a creative routine work:

1. Uniqueness – it should be something (or a combination of things) you don’t associate with other activities, otherwise the effect will be diluted.

2. Emotional intensity – the kind you experience when you’re really immersed in creative work.

3. Repetition – the more times you experience the unique trigger in association with the emotions, the stronger the association becomes.

Your creative triggers can be anything used exclusively to tell your brain "it's go time" whether it's idea generation or get-it-done mode. Your brain will learn to respond to the triggers. Yes it's slightly animalistic, but use this fact to your benefit. Train your brain, y'all. Train your brain.

Austin Kleon, who is a master at making creativity look easy, explains how his daily routine and creative space work for him: "hopefully get out to the garage by 10AM or so. Then I’m out there until around 5 or so. I try to adhere to John Waters’ routine: make stuff up in the morning and sell it in the afternoon." Why does his creativity look so effortless? Because the man created his own custom built Routine Machine!

And how do I use my own Routine Machine? This is in constant flux, depending on the season and needs. I wake around 5:30. My morning journal/coffee/breakfast time can include meditation, reading, drawing, working on my "Big Three" (more on that soon), ideating, etc. My mornings are creatively focused (in the studio, churning out written content, working on some of my publishing projects). And my afternoons are for admin/marketing stuff. Then it's family time which rolls right into a restful evening. This ends with an evening "wind down." It often includes soft lighting, reading, and my favorite blanket. This wind down is essential, like a Pavlovian lullaby for my brain. Without it, I often have a hard time falling asleep.

My Routine Machine gives me the predictability and security I need in order to channel my "what's next" creative energies towards projects and paintings, instead of responding to disorganization. This routine is SO important that it's included in my creativity manifesto:

To maintain a level of creativity, I rely on new inspirations and old routines. I always find novel ways to create, whether it be through new tools of creating, or new mediums. Predictability and routine provide the best environments for my soul to have the energy to create. If life demands adaptation and change (both being very creative endeavors) then I will be depleted of my inner creativity.

Now, for that thing about the Big Three. One of the smallest and most useful cogs in my Routine Machine comes from Todd Henry, author of Accidental Creative. He says to keep your "BIG THREE" list in a prominent place in your organizational system. I keep in mine on little cards in my LifeBook system. The "Big Three" can come from projects or challenges that you're chewing on and working through, and you want to keep in the forefront of your attention. "You cannot concentrate on everything at once, so you need to regularly refine your list of critical creative priorities so that you train your mind to be on the lookout for solutions. " There's more from Todd in this Forbes Article on Creativity in the workplace.

Now, let's work on your Routine Machine to maximize your creative process and watch your creativity soar. Here are some useful resources that you can dig into to begin to think through your own Routine Machine!

You can scroll through an entire website, turned book, to help us learn from the daily routines of creative people.

Want others' daily routines in an infographic from InfoWeTrust? (Like Darwin's above.)Owaves

Want to make your day look like Darwin's? YES THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT, called Owaves (screenshot at the right).

OR, you can start with something less complex. In fact, I use the Lift App to create habits of the things I want to accomplish everyday. It's like a daily checklist, with stats!

So think it through—build a Routine Machine that works for you or adapt the one you already have! What does your creativity need? What would your ideal daily/weekly routine look like? What elements would it have? And what would you want to accomplish with it?

Want more? Sign up for Freebies from Mandyland And get free copy of The Pace Book: Finding and Setting Your Creative Pace, as well as other adventures in creative play and inspiration! [nm-mc-form fid="1"]

Everyone Needs Creative Play

Play Yields Apparently, play is not just for children. I keep seeing it everywhere. My "paper mentors" seem like people who just play all day and out pop good ideas. Creativity just bubbles to the surface (read: burps) as they skip along all the merry fun activities they have planned. Yes, I know they work hard. I know they get stuff done. But gosh they make it look like fun. And I keep hearing them point towards play as a part of the restful, rich, creative life.

Leonie Dawson calls creative play Brain Holidays, insisting that "Your creative + spiritual + emotional selves all need energy + time too." Julia Cameron calls creative play artist dates; she can't say it better than this: "Artist dates are assigned play." Keri Smith has a box for readers to draw on her very own website. And I would bet money that Sark's favorite word is probably "fun."

These people are SERIOUS about play, y'all.

And when we understand the mechanics of creativity, we will take creative play more seriously.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, why should we "waste time?" Well, according to Scientific American "cerebral congestion," that tired sluggish mental state, has a cure and the cure sparks creativity! And WHO can argue with those experts?! Seriously. Haven't you experienced it? You're working on a project, hit a wall, then push and push and push. Finally you decide to give up—go do something else. And within 24hrs the wall just disappears. The solution to your problem shows up without your beckoning.

Seriously, the brain-science types say "a-ha moments" are a legit benefit of mental downtime. More from Scientific American: "Related research suggests that the default mode network is more active than is typical in especially creative people, and some studies have demonstrated that the mind obliquely solves tough problems while daydreaming—an experience many people have had while taking a shower. Epiphanies may seem to come out of nowhere, but they are often the product of unconscious mental activity during downtime."

Read the article. It is incredible. You might hear angels sing. And it will lead you to this conclusion: Every person SHOULD take time out for creative play because it is a tried and true means of idea generation.

How can we say no to this? Well, our schedule usually gets in the way, right? Those pesky little responsibilities that take up our time... Okayyyy... So, what we need are some quick and effortless ways to engage in downtime:

  • Go on a picnic in your back yard.
  • Take your creativity for a walk.
  • Make mud pies.
  • Go shopping for a fun new creative toy.
  • Grab the frisbee and get some space to roam.
  • Hike. Bike. Climb.
  • Take a joy-ride, windows down, music up.
  • Roam Pinterest and call it "research."
  • Eat slowly at your favorite restaurant or cafe.
  • People watch. <--- This is a good one.
  • Spend some time journaling.
  • Try fingerprinting again!

What do I do? I get outside however I can. Or I take a nap, which is very restful play! Or I ride bikes with my girls. Or I do "research" on Pinterest!

So, JUST PLAY. Find ways to play play play. Plan a time for creative play at some point in the next two weeks. Or think about a daily moment of creative play. Let your creativity loose. Let it run wild for no objective reason. Goal-less play! Play yields Exploration which yields Discovery which yields Solutions.

How do you play? Where? When? Or do you need someone to remind you how to play?

Want more FREE Creative Resources?

Sign up for Greetings from Mandyland! [nm-mc-form fid="1"]

How to hunt and gather inspiration.

hunt The earliest artists were hunter-gatherers, and seriously? So are we.

They moved from meadow to meadow, terrain to terrain. Their pace followed the seasons, a different practice in the summer than in the winter. They stored up for times of hunger, adjusted as fields became fallow and as fruit became scarce. They understood drought, moving as water and weather took them.

Like them, we can't grow our own creative sustenance—those things that inspire and drive us. We have to go after it, gather it, and store it. We have always been and will always be hunter-gatherers. Thomas Merton said, "The imagination needs time to browse." So give yourself permission to browse, to wander around for the creative fodder you need.

To maximize your creativity, you must rely on a variety of sources:

  • Go on creative inner-pilgrimages to foreign artists' styles, or use foreign writing prompts.
  • Chase down the wildest color schemes or hunt down the secret to the golden mean in photography.
  • Look for inspiring input in "remote" places you've never visited: different books, galleries, forms of poetry.
  • Brave the unfamiliar terrain of new tools and techniques: software, plot style, composition techniques, etc.
  • Try new foods: take a course, read a new textbook, enroll in a class.
  • Explore your curiosities and questions! "[The artist] opens himself up to all influences—everything nourishes him. Everything is gravy to him, including what he does not understand—particularly what he does not understand." Henry Miller

I'd also recommend considering a seasonal or monthly (or moon-cycle) approach to gathering inspiration:

  • Which seasons yield the most inspiration? (Winter is beautifully introspective for me, summer is too busy.)
  • Focus on a certain creative input for a month then cycle to a fresh field of fodder the next month.
  • Choose themes or color schemes based on the weather and the season, letting nature guide you.
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo or participate in a similar challenge for visual artists.
  • Set a creative goal for the season or the year, and see how far you can get with it. (My goal = 200 paintings. Due to an unforeseen serotonin drought this winter, I don't think I'm going to make it...)

Go after inspiration like our hunter-gather predecessors. Feed that starving inner-artist, and she will have the energy and vitality you need in order to live out your creative dreams.

A gentle word of caution: Those courses on marketing and social media are not necessarily creative fodder... While they do help you understand the business side of creativity, they don't invest in the creative side of your soul. When you consider courses and classesartist, look for experiences that will enrich your *creative process* not your *business process.* I know we have to live in both worlds, but the one that stirs your soul and raises your voice the world is your *creative process.* Focus on feeding your starving inner-—she probably doesn't wake up in the morning craving marketing strategies, she craves the sweetness of inspiration! Give it to her. Regularly.

Want more FREE Creative Resources?

Sign up for Greetings from Mandyland! [nm-mc-form fid="1"]

Do you have a Creativity Manifesto?

Why are manifestos so important? They keep the end in focus. They keep us on track. They supercharge our resolve to go after the things that are important to us. Even Frank Lloyd Wright had one. "In other words, the manifesto is a personal or even handwritten statement intending to shock, inspire, or offend." (here) In this case, we are aiming to inspire ourselves, yes? So, let's steel ourselves. Let's look ourselves in the mirror and tell ourselves to get out there and create because creating makes our world a more beautiful place. You can take a look at instructions for writing your own manifesto:

And if you're curious, here's my creativity manifesto:

"Creating is like breathing – more like exhaling. If I don’t create, my soul suffocates. As I create, I listen to myself. I discover emotions and fears and passions and convictions. I pray soft and subtle prayers—both mine and others'. 

While I create for the sake of my soul and for the sake of the message, I also create for the sake of creating. I enjoy the process, the challenge, the adventure. I hold moments of creating as a discovery, not a job or goal, but as a discovery of what is within me to create.

To maintain a level of creativity, I rely on new inspirations and old routines. I always find novel ways to create, whether it be through new tools of creating, or new mediums. Predictability and routine provide the best environments for my soul to have the energy to create. If life demands adaptation and change (both being very creative endeavors) then I will be depleted of my inner creativity.

To foster my creative edge, I must constantly educate and challenge myself: New books, new lessons, new tools, new goals, new creative endeavors. If I don’t grow, I will lose speed and possibly halt. This development is a monster of a task, and I often feel I am hindered by my own limitations. But I will continue to grow. I will continue to climb upwards to new heights of achievement. I may never ascend to the top of this Everest, but I will strive to get above the snow-line.

Each year I will make a creative goal for myself.  This goal will exist as an end in sight and a way to monitor progress, and will also fuel me to keep a steady pace with new ideas and tools and challenges."

Want more FREE Creative Resources?

Sign up for Greetings from Mandyland! [nm-mc-form fid="1"]

Falling into routine, and rising within it.

The start of school is behind us. Fall is here and I am settling back into the rhythm and flow of full-time artistry. IMG_9784-2.JPGMy creative days are dependent on their start, so I am diligent to give myself the time and input they need. If I don't secure this time for myself, I feel the effects all day: behind and sluggish and uninspired.  The mornings are early, blindingly early. The house is dark, save for my corner of the kitchen, and this is the time when I can see most clearly.

My morning routine includes coffee, silence, journaling, reading, breakfasting, and meditating. These pieces run together like a plate of spaghetti: one whole, but many indiscernible parts. All bring delicious sustenance for a creative day.

By the end of my morning quiet, my pages are full, my soul is full, and my hands are itching to wrap themselves around brush and palette knife.

I've been learning about the creative routines of others (here and here are good examples). Their rhythms are so interesting to me, and shed light on what might be useful for me as well.

I know others of you are voraciously creative and are honing your own routines. I'm curious: What helps you? What do you need to jumpstart your creative days?

 

Creativity Tips: a little big poster from me to you

Need a little inspiration? A little something for your office or studio space to help you remember how to ride those waves of creativity? I've been collecting a list of tips and tricks I've learned along the way, and wanted to share them with you in the hopes that you will go forth and make great things!

So I made you a big and bright poster that you can print or share or use however you'd like!

To download the pdf, clickity-click the poster, or HERE:

Creativity Tips Thumbnail

 

My Four Step Creative Process

20140611-113325-41605500.jpg  

It's simple, really. And it needs to be. The act of creating is daunting enough. Who needs a complicated process to get it done?

My four step creative process:

  1. Input: I am constantly gathering visual material. Harvesting. Studying. They come through many venues. My eyes stay open to things that grab me.
  2. Ideas: If something grabs me, it often inspires a new painting idea. I collect these ideas in a spark file that I can access at any moment.
  3. Go: If steps one and two have been regularly attended to, I will not have a shortage of inspirational energy when it comes time to step foot in the studio. I chose a "next thing" and I go with it.
  4. Flow: Given the proper conditions, my concentration will slip into the flow state. This is ideal, as this facilitates peak creativity and concentration. And when this happens, the creative process is magical. Powerful. Tantalizing.

To confess, I have most definitely simplified these stages for you so you could fill in the blanks with your own preferences. For instance: What are the venues of my visual input? See? That part doesn't matter. What matters is that my eyes are on the look out. The point of #1 is for you to keep your eyes on the look out as well.

And, to be honest, I need these to be in a simple, memorable format, so that when I feel blocked, I can search through these steps to discover where I need to place more energy and time. Sort of a mental cliff-note reference card that I can flip through when I'm stuck. There's always a step waiting for me. Always some stage of this process that I can easily insert myself into and regain momentum.

It's not such a mystery, really. It's about keeping myself somewhere in these steps. This is how I get it done.

Weapons of Choice

20140123-095614.jpg I like to think of my hippie-fabulous painting smock as more of a cape, if you want to know the truth. It is thick and I feel like I can fly through the studio when I wear it! I also like to think of my art (and mess) making supplies as weapons, to be wielded bravely and boldly.

I slay the dragon of perfectionism with splats and splatters, with rough textured backgrounds and NO ruler or flat-edge with which to create straight lines. My lines are straight enough. They don't have to be perfect.

The more expressive, the better. Life is messy and scratched up and flawed, yet it is still so very beautiful. I believe art should be the same!

Among my weapons of choice you will see many mess-makers and a few cleaner-uppers. You will also see chalk and a dry-erase marker, as I believe preparing for battle is as much as your efforts during the battle (to continue the metaphor). Also: essential comfort items are on hand to keep me feeling energized and focused.

You won't see music speakers or headphones because it's loud enough in my head. As I showed you earlier, I love to work in silence.

You also won't see paintbrushes, although I do in fact use them. The problem is that I think paintbrushes pull me towards perfectionism, so I use them only when necessary. And when I use them, I often use them in unconventional ways. How? Oh, I can't give away all my secrets, now can I?

I know many of you are heroes in your own day to day activities. What are some of your weapons of choice? (Yes, sticky-notes can be a great weapon -- an effective shield against procrastination.)

So share some of your weapons with us! And wield them with bravery and boldness!

(Wait, don't wield them *at* us, necessarily. Wield them at work. K? Thanks!)

 

 

The Shadow Side Series

Too Much to Ask I've come to accept that there is always a both/and to life.

  • Joy and Sorrow.
  • Pain and Contentment.
  • Light and Dark.

And The Shadow Side Series reflects the darker side of what I have struggled to accept in faith and life. These are not declarations as much as they are admittances. The truths sit on a dark watercolor paper background, with the high contrast of red, blue, and white pushes the truths of these darker sides to light. They are simple, but strong. Much like truth, when it stares us in the eyes in an undeniable way. It's there. It's not ornate or flashy. But it's so very unmistakable.

At seven, I feel that this series is at a place of rightness. I am not sure if I will continue to create more "shadow sides," so I wanted to offer a collector's cut for this piece: 25% off the purchase of all seven prints. You can see the full collection HERE.

Just let me know and I will set up the purchasing details for you. Comment or email works for me: mandy@mandythompson.com