creativity

Love your Limitations

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For the past week, I’ve attempted to live in too many worlds—the paint and podcasts of my studio world, the domestic duties of my family world, and the scanning and sketching that comes with the Analogue world. Pile on top of that a micro-obsession over edible plants living in my yard, and a newfound paper-mentor in Parker Palmer, and my inner landscape has been saturated, flooded by so many sources at once.

I cannot. There is only so much of me to go around.

So I am shifting my focus, pulling in to what is required of me right now. I’m deep-diving into the journal pages of last spring, to complete the pages and prompts and illustrations of Issue 2. And I’m immersing my mornings in that world until the draft is strong enough to be reviewed by other eyes.

I’m choosing to settle into my limitations, seeing this need for focus for what it is: an invitation to immerse my attention in something. And my attention will hold. There will be fresh ideas in the pickup line. I will keep my journal on hand when stirring tonight’s meal. And more will come to me before bedtime. This is how I do my best work, and I’m learning to lean into it rather than run away.

We are who we are, y’all. And we can only do what we can do. When we learn to love these limitations, our life becomes our own.

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.

Speed-Painting: How do these paintings come to life?

A little video on a big painting that I completed as a commission, filmed over the course of a few days. I am mainly working with acrylics on a pre-textured gallery wrap canvas. I send images to my patron through out the process, to get instant feedback on progress. This is how the painting process goes, from start to finish. Well, sans dancing. That was an exceptional moment. For more info on custom work, you can read details HERE.

http://youtu.be/HCg-9F4xgRw

How you can force creative inspiration...

muse headline Y’all are going to think I’m crazy. Force inspiration?

But I *know by experience* that it can be done. The pursuit of my creative dreams depend on this.

And so does yours.

You can force inspiration by creating a list of regular wells that you draw from. You already know these wells, you just may not have realized it: They spark your brain and give you that "OOH I wanna go create something!" feeling.

Otherwise, we are fatigued and feel little motivation and usually end up flipping through the internet or wandering around aimlessly.

Who has time to wait for the muse???

What makes a good well of inspiration? Easy access, immediate resonance, inspires you to action, fuels you with ideas.

You know these wells, you already have them. Now you get to use them strategically!

I'll give you some of go-to wells of inspiration:

  • Pinterest, after tweaking incoming boards and pins. (Quiet the noise, y'all.)
  • My favorite artists' online galleries. (I want to be like them when I grow up.)
  • Mixed Media digital magazines. (Ideas ideas!)
  • Podcasts and how-to-videos. GREAT place for ideas!
  • Gasp: My own work. (Sometimes I can flip through my own pages and my brain goes “oh remember how fun this is!?” and I’m right back in the groove.)
  • The right kind of music. (Naturally, my music-of-choice depends on the mood.)

So, what are some of your go-to wells of inspiration? Share some here, and plan to visit them the next time you're feeling a little low on inspiration.

...because we don't have time to wait for the muse.

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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:

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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!)

 

 

Flow: "Free of Time"

"Most artists are aware that during our deepest moments of that creation they are out on the other side of themselves and so are free from time, with the same joyousness that comes in the greatest moments of prayer." L'Engle

Abandoned.

20130728-151528.jpg After seeing the photograph of an abandoned mannequin, I knew I had to paint her. I begged, actually. I could do that with these friends, in that bratty way of "oh please oh please can I have her and paint her?"

They asked permission to rescue her from the alley, and then agreed to let me paint her on the grounds that they could keep her. This was a relief, because where would I put a life-sized mannequin bust?

The next hurdle was the question of "how" to paint her? With that, this project came alive. When someone asks me to create a work of art that speaks to pain and struggle, well... That's pretty much what I'm most passionate about painting.

At my friend's request, she would carry The Lord's prayer. And I knew she would have to have wings. She simply must. And those wings would carry Breast Cancer Awareness ribbons.

I wanted her symbolism to be a representation of strength and hope for them. And because of all that hope, she would have to have a red heart on her chest just like Sue Monk Kidd's "Our Lady" in Secret Life of Bees. And, with permission, she would proudly carry that heart of hope.

I consulted with a local art instructor, brushed up on my paper mache and paste skills, and stole my husband's drill. Then I got to work on those wings, which proved to be both strong and delicate. Then came the layers of mache and paste, and glue, styrofoam, and paint -- earthy, fleshy, light. And she came alive.

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In all the layers and drying time, I thought about struggles, and how they bring us to life. I thought about those I love who have lived with the unbearable. When they feel abandoned by life, love, fate, God, good fortune. And we wonder how do they do it? How do we do it? These impossible moments force us to decide to truly live, don't they? You've heard the stories where lives are barely hanging on: terminal illness, sudden and unforeseeable financial hardship, natural disasters... The list feels so cliche, but those are the things that make or break our lives -- that happen TO us, that we can't control or avoid, no matter how hard we fight.

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And here's the thing... Here's the thing. Even when we feel abandoned, when it feels like The End, it doesn't mean we should stop living. Even when it feels unbearable, we still have a choice.

Baring our heart on our chest, with a wing and a prayer, we can still choose to live.

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(If you're interested in commissioning custom work, take a look at my details here.)

Painting past the panic: Refuge

The thing that touches me the deepest is the invitation to create a piece that will sit in someone's personal meditation space. This has happened multiple times, and came at a moment where I dreamt of designing a chapel, a la Rothko in Houston. So someone says that they'd like me to interpret a concept in "my style" that will hang in an area of their house where they will have their spiritual reflection time. These people with their dedicated spaces, they are serious about this environment. And they invite me in. And we work together to craft a piece that gives them hope and keeps their eyes looking forward.

It's the greatest honor: to speak into that space.

My first piece centered around Psalm 46. The one with "be still and know that I am God..." Such a familiar and hope-giving passage. And I knew her reasons for requesting this. I knew the concept of this want for stillness and knowing. I knew the reach for peace, and I wanted to reflect that in the painting. I dug deep into the psalm, peeling back the layers of meaning, and found utter turmoil. Nations are crumbling, mountains are giving way, enemies are encroaching.

Not the "feel good" stuff.

But REFUGE was there, in the beginning middle and end of the psalm. Book-ending the meaning, and sitting at the heart of it. Refuge. Refuge in the storm. The river that makes glad the city of our God. And the fortress. And Martin Luther writing "A Mighty Fortress" in response to this psalm. It's all there. The good and the bad. The calm and the storm. The protection and the war.

This was not what she wanted. In turn, this was my first moment of panic in this process...

I warned my patron that my handling of this psalm might not be as sunshiny as she'd like. Still, she trusted me with the process, so I put paint to canvas and began the stormy but serene process of capturing the truth of this tumultuous passage.

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I started with the mountains, knowing I would weave fog throughout. This fog being a "fortress" in its own right, both concealing the hunted, but also making it difficult to see the impending dangers. Layers of fog and layers of trees, pushing into the foreground.

And of course: the river making glad... And there's the tiny fortress, nestled in the farthest mountain, barely visible except through its strong reflection in the water.

And then I laid awake that night and panicked. Panicked at the messy flat elementary look of it all. It needed more: more grit, more truth, more layers. But how? It's so cold, stale, sterile.

Destruction rushed in me. To bury it all and start over. I imagined a thick layer of gesso over it, a new beginning. But, then came the pattern paper. Warm. Engulfing. Thinly covering over those layers of fog and mountain and tree and fog. Bringing a dynamic depth to the painting, while also reflecting motherly love, caregiving, nurturing. Sewing, making, building. All wrapped in that pattern paper.

This was the foundation it needed. And in big strokes and splashes of energy, I pulled the foreground, with heavy blacks and shadows and layers. Splatters and details and messes, and the piece came to life.

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My emotions were high at this point; I was taken in by the intensity of what was building before me. But yet, I couldn't take my mind from the word "refuge." Throughout the process, I kept in my mind the intent to include the hebrew word for "refuge" in the painting--prominent and demanding. Overpowering the rest of the painting. Sitting in it. Resting in it. But where would it go?

Panic again...

I buried a layer of soft blue in the mountain, and stacked "refuge" on top of it. It settled in, declaring piece over the harsh conditions of the painting.

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I stepped back and asked myself if it was done. NO. And then came a fresh wave of panic. The blacks were too black. The look was too "complete" -- I felt a sense of destruction roll over me again. Strong. I grabbed the watery white, used in creating the fog. I buried my brush in the milk mixture and started slinging. And the storm came. The torrent of rain.

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I knew that this was it: the final layer of the painting. Refuge from the storms of life.

 

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