Archives for category: Arts

Reclaim your inner artist!

In her PiBoldMo blog post, Mira Reisberg talks about “accessing that child-like place of curiosity, wonder, and joy” in our work as children’s book creatives. While joy, wonder, and curiosity are three attributes I posses, I am sometimes held back by my inner shadow.

Inspired a new by her post, I pushed doubt aside and dove into a project that I’d been longing to tackle for a while. My version of Matisse’s Cut-Outs, as seen at the Tate Modern exhibit in July, 2014.

I thought it best to start with some colored craft paper so that I could test out a variety of ideas without worrying too much about making mistakes. I cut away, and this is what emerged:

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Once I got the hang of things, it was time to switch to the brightly colored paper I’d painted a few weeks before.

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And then in true Matisse style, I stuck them all over the house 🙂

I thoroughly enjoyed this project, and can totally see why Matisse said that he “found such balance . . . in creating these paper cut-outs.”

I felt a huge sense of achievement at the end of this short project, and would highly recommend picking up a pair of scissors and some colored paper and playing around.

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Aristotle

I recently read this article: The Pace of Productivity and How to Master Your Creative Routine on the Brainpickings Blog. (If you are yet to check out this blog, run as fast as you can to the site. It’s a gem.) In it, Maria Popova discusses Jocelyn K. Glei book, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. My initial reaction to the article split me in half – one side felt that putting the words routine and creative in the same breath was surely an oxymoron. However, the other side grabbed hold of the idea with both hands, desperate for some advice on how to build my own creative routine. The grabbing half won, so I bought the book and dove head first into structuring my own creative routine around its contents.

Most appealing to me were the inspirational quotes that seemed to pour off every page. Words of wisdom from the likes of Gretchen Rubin, Anthony TrollopeScott Belsky, and Seth Godin, to name but a few.

Creativity arises from a constant churn of ideas, and one of the easiest ways to encourage that fertile froth is to keep your mind engaged with your project. When you work regularly, inspiration strikes regularly. Gretchen Rubin

A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules. Over the long run, the unglamorous habit of frequency fosters both productivity and creativity. Anthony Trollope

For almost an entire month, I structured my writing around the following routine:

  • 6:30-7:00am: Morning Pages: An exercise from The Artists Way
  • 7:00-8:00am: Yoga, and or, meditation
  • 9:00-11:00am: Start the day with most important writing project
  • 11:00-12:00pm: Check emails and social media for the first time.
  • 12:00-1:00pm: Lunch followed by a book/article and a walk
  • 1:00-5:00pm: Turn attention to “real” job

Result: A lot of good writing, produced with more focus than I had given in a long, long time. I felt great. I wasn’t multi-tasking, I was actively creating during my brains most productive time of the day, and I was happy.

Until . . . . I got stuck!  I received some feedback about my writing and just could not for the life of me shift gear and re-think my angel. A brick wall emerged and the creative routine I had so carefully built began to feel like a straightjacket.  I actually felt like it was standing in my way. The structure felt rigid and suffocating, and I was angry at it and myself. I pulled hard on the reigns and stepped out of the routine. I instantly relaxed, no longer feeling the pressure to stay within the confines of a routine I had placed myself in. I had given myself permission to stop for a minute, and I recharged my creative juices out in the woods, the beach, an art gallery, and listening to bird song in the back yard.

During this time my “real” job workload increased, and I began putting my writing second. Then it moved to the bottom of the list, and sometimes I didn’t get to it at all.  Days, weeks passed, and I realized that I had let myself spiral into a multi-tasking octopus again. Getting things done, but without the same focus and sense of calm accomplishment. The sense of freedom that had initially felt liberating was beginning to feel like failing.

Eager to find a solution, I looked to the creative routines of others. Close friends, composers, writers, painters, et al. and I began to read.  Articles, books, you name it. Anything and everything I came across about creativity and routines.

Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, was one of them. It has been my close companion ever since. For over a year and a half Currey got up at 5:30am to write about how some of the most fantastical minds of the past 400 years or so organized their days in order to be creative and productive.

Some of my favorites:

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”  W.H. Auden 1958.

Benjamin Franklin worked around a thirteen-week plan in the hope of achieving moral perfection. “Each week was devoted to a particular virtue – temperance, cleanliness, moderation, etc. – and his offence against these virtues were tracked on a calendar. Franklin thought that if he could maintain his devotion to one virtue for an entire week, it would become a habit.”

Beethoven made his own coffee, and prepared it with the utmost care. “There should be 60 beans per cup, and he often counted them out one by one for a precise dose.”

“While I work I leave my body outside the door, the way Muslims take off their shoes before entering the mosque.” Picasso

When Haruki Murakami is writing a novel he wakes a 4:00am and works for five to six hours straight.  In the afernoons he runs, swims, reads, runs errands listens to music. Bedtime is 9:00pm.  “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism.  I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”  I’d recommend reading Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk of Running. Great read!

The one that made me laugh out loud the most was Victor Hugo’s. “He wrote each morning, standing at a small desk in front of a mirror.  He rose at dawn, awakened by the daily gunshot from a nearby fort, and received a pot of freshly brewed coffee and his morning letter from Juliette Drouet, his mistress, whom he had instilled on Guernsey just nine doors down from Hauteville House.  After reading the passionate words of “Juju” to her “beloved Christ”, Hugo swallowed two raw eggs, enclosed himself in his lookout, and wrote until 11:00am.  Then he stepped out onto the rooftop and washed from a tub of water left out overnight, pouring the icy liquid over himself and rubbing his body with a horsehair glove.  Townspeople passing by could watch the spectacle from the street – as could Juliette, looking out the window of her room.”

So, while I, like Mason Currey, still regularly feel that I barely manage to get the laundry done on a weekly basis, let alone sit down to write, and while I’m not totally convinced I’ve found my own creative routine yet, what I do know is this . . .

The daily routine that seems to work best for me involves the great outdoors, meditation, mornings, my cat, and a new mantra, “What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while. “ (Gretchen Rubin).

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Photo curtesy of Luxirare.

“Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away … Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.’” Hugh MacLeod

I haven’t been in kindergarten for nearly 30 years, but I challenge anyone to take my crayons away from me and live to tell the tale. In the past few months, I have rediscovered just how important they are, and I wouldn’t want to lose them again.

Up until 2009, I was training to be an opera singer in London, and as such, was actively engaged in workshops, classes, and productions, exploring the multi-disciplinary art forms that combine to make opera. Creative outlets were in abundance, and my artistic life was rich and full.

Still in the arts, but a new career focus

Guided by an unwavering belief that the arts play an important role in a child’s education, my singing career took a back seat, and my focus shifted – I set my sights on a future in the field of arts education, and moved to New York to work at the Metropolitan Opera Guild as a trainee arts education administrator. While there, my brain literally doubled in size, and I was involved in some of the most interesting projects and conversations imaginable.  I could not have asked for a better introduction to the field.  (Thank you MOG!).

While I am still dedicated to providing creative opportunities for children, particularly those who might otherwise not have access to the arts, through my work as an arts education professional, I have recently been reflecting deeply on the absence of creation in my own daily routine.  It’s been almost 5 years since I stepped away from the classical music world with aspirations of making my living as an opera singer, and I have begun to feel the void more acutely each day.

Enter the wonderful man in my life, and two inspiring friends! Not only have they, and are they actively engaged in daily creation, but it is clear that creation is a core life value, the absence of which is non-negotiable.

Reunited with the Creative Bug!

I now live in San Francisco, and am surrounded by people creating for fun! It’s incredible.

The original home of the Burning Man Festival, the city of San Francisco and the people I have met here are a continual source of inspiration and encouragement.  The can do, anything goes attitude is infectious, and it has driven me to explore creative possibilities that I might otherwise have shied away from.  Just a few weeks ago, my boyfriend bought some giant paper, pulled out the acrylics that he hadn’t used in years, popped on some tunes, and we just painted. It felt good to create without guidelines, limitations, or a deadline. Result: A fun afternoon in the garden and a cool painting.

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The joy I got from this experience was incredible, and it took me back to a few years prior when I would come home from work, set up the sewing machine on the kitchen table and happily make weird and wonderful costumes. I am clearly happiest when I am creating, so why have I not been doing it on a more regular basis? I have always thought creatively about my work as an arts educator, and am inspired by innovative, forward thinking ideas in the worlds of arts education, education, fundraising, etc.  I actively apply my creative brain to my 9-5 job, but have not been carving out time for myself and my personal artistic needs.

We have the Holstee Manifesto poster on the bathroom wall at home that bares the quote, “Life is about the people you meet and what you create together.” I’ve been staring at it for over a year, and while it has always resonated with me, it is only now that I have decided that creativity and creative outlets are also non-negotiable entities for me.

Not sure how I survived this long without them, but now is the time to find them again.

I believe that making time for my own creativity can only feed my work as an arts education professional, writer, and musician, and I am looking forward to having some fun!!! 

What will you create next? 

To bring us nicely back to the quote at the start of this post, watch this awesomely illustrated Youtube of Sir Ken Robinson talking about Changing Education Paradigms. 

SFMOMA recently shared a LIFE link on twitter, and I couldn’t resist posting it on my own blog – the images are spectacular!

Gjon Mili, a technical prodigy and lighting innovator, visited Pablo Picasso in the South of France in 1949.

In a series of photographs, known ever since as Picasso’s “light drawings,” visuals were made with a small electric light in a darkened room; in effect, the images vanished as soon as they were created, but Gjon was able to capture and preserve them.

Read and see more of the series of 14 here: http://life.time.com/culture/picasso-drawing-with-light/#ixzz1uZkSyM4l

Ballet dancers in ultra-slow-motion, at 1000 frames per second, to the sound of Radiohead.

via: Maria Popova

Big Thought, The Wallace Foundation, and WolfBrown have launched a new initiative called Creating Quality.  My reaction after a quick read and click about is, WOW!

Creating Quality is a hands-on, participatory resource for teachers, community educators, artists, principals, researchers, nonprofit and civic leaders, policymakers, and others to learn about, collaborate on, and share strategies for ensuring that our children receive the best possible education.

ENGAGE – DEFINE – ASSESS – ADVANCE