Cyndi Lauper Has Nothing on Us!

We’re all familiar with Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, a huge hit. It was an anthem for many, shooting Lauper to the top of the charts. But it was her moving song True Colors that stopped many of us in our tracks. A song so meaningful, thought provoking, and honest inspired many to begin an inward journey.

As artists we’re blessed to have our “true colors” revealed regularly. Our art is the doorway to our soul. It allows us to tap into the deepest emotions, spiritual questions, and unconscious processes. It allows us to reveal happy, sad, and surprised. It challenges us to be authentic and honest because everything we create is beautiful. It’s a reflection of our soul, the most gorgeous creation of all.

Revealing our “true colors” inspires others to show themselves. It blazes a trail for others to show their “true selves”. Can you think of anything more healing both personally and universally than open and honest self-expression? The opportunity to write a song, write a poem, perform a monologue, paint a painting, chisel a sculpture or sew a quilt (just to name a few) adds to our collective consciousness. It is like making a deposit in our collective bank building our resources as spiritual beings having a human experience.

In a world where many feel invisible, ultimate self-expression through art allows us to be seen, heard, and experienced. Our “true colors” are invitations to connection and that’s a catalyst for our immune systems. Our ability and willingness to reveal ourselves through art is freeing. It’s a breath of fresh air for the body, mind, and spirit.

I hope we all give a nod to Cyndi Lauper for providing a platform for self-acceptance. The song True Colors gives us the encouragement and support to put our art, our lives, and our truth out for all to see!

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Why We Like Picture Books!

I spend a lot of time at my local library doing researching, seeking out information, and relishing the quiet (at least most of the time) to feed my curiosity. One of the amusing things to watch are the young kids standing on a stool at the checkout counter with a stack of picture books. The pile of books is almost as tall as these little tikes, and their giggles and joy is undeniable.

Picture books are full of color. They illustrate the author’s idea of what the characters, flora, and fauna would look like from their point of view. The authors create a world allowing the children to make connection. We follow(ed) along matching the aspects of the illustration to the words we’re reading or someone is reading to us. We get lost in the combination of the words and the pictures.

As artists we create our own picture books. When we create anything, although it may not be in book form, we’re creating a story. When we have a piece in an exhibition we write artist statements, or blurbs about the piece for the viewer, don’t’ you think that’s a picture book? We’re connecting with the world taking them on our journey through a visual medium.

I bought a photograph a few years ago. It’s a black and white photo of silk drying in the wind in China. I was mesmerized by the piece and the artist noticed my interest. He took me aside and told me the story of how he had captured the photograph. He went into great detail about the wind, the people unintentionally photo bombing, and the other difficulties associated with capturing the shot. I tell everyone I show the photograph to that I bought a $500 story that came with a free picture. This is the modern day picture book.

What are you looking to illustrate in your life? How will getting the story out visually serve you? How will it lighten you load or punctuate a momentous occasion in your life? How will your picture book heal your body, mind, and spirit?

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What Does Your Medium Teach You?

As artists we’re all looking for inspiration. We got to museums, buy books, and even take classes hoping to trigger our creative energies. We focus on technique, perspective, and design in order to tell our story. Our art is our message. Our art is what we hope to share with others to spread an idea, an experience, or a challenge. That’s what you want to teach the world, what does your medium teach you?

I’m a textile artist, so fabric is my game. I am not the more graceful or careful individual in the world so the idea of using sharp objects repeatedly is a concern for those around me. I have the Costco size container of Band-Aids at the quick and ready. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve cut myself on multiple occasions. What did I learn? My own saliva takes out my own blood from fabric (that’s true for you too). The enzymes in your saliva take your own blood out of fabric. I know this isn’t earth shattering, but is an interesting factoid.

On a more meaningful experience, the medium you choose may hold the key to your inner workings. As an example, if you are an oil painter you know that oil paints take a long time to dry. This being the case, the lesson of patience is quite prominent. The medium also gives you the opportunity to work on multiple pieces simultaneously because they are at different stages of drying. This gives you the gift of telling different parts of the same story making a body of work quite cohesive.

All of our mediums have specific traits that require us to adapt. A watercolor artist may have to focus on how things blend together or prevent things from blending together because water runs. A sculptor (depending on the material) may have to learn chemistry and the properties of fire. A ceramic artist will have to explore their own experience of surprise because how glazes go in is not how glazes come out.

Our medium is not only our method of self-expression, but a key to unlocking the lessons from our unconscious. This is why it’s important to play with other mediums, to unlock those hidden artistic potentials and to learn the answers to the questions the soul is asking!

How Big Is Your Canvas?

I like to work big. As a textile artist I have the ability to add fabric and add more fabric, you get the picture. I don’t think that bigger is better, but I find having a large surface allows me to explore and express more fully. I do find working small a great challenge and when I work small, although challenging, I find it just as rewarding.

According to actor Danny Kaye, “Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can.” Those are words of wisdom to live by and explore on an ongoing basis. Close your eyes and picture a Jackson Pollock painting. He worked large and the large surface gave him not only the ability to use a lot of paint, but it required great physicality. He would run around the canvas or find ways to disperse the pain from above the work.

I think it’s one of the reasons that people enjoy viewing murals, because they’re large. Seeing a work of art on the side of a building or a wall in the lobby of an office building is exhilarating. A graffiti artist often works big because they’re medium, spray paint, is best suited for that surface.

Your life canvas can hold lots of experiences. It can reveal hidden moments from your unconscious and allowing them to emerge is healing. What happens when you transfer the experiences from your life canvas to an actual canvas, how does it translate? Are there hidden ideas, emotions, experiences that emerge more prominently as you remember them? What shows up in the foreground and what recedes to the background?

Live your life as if you’re painting the world’s greatest masterpiece because you are the greatest masterpiece!


When Your Voice Needs to be Heard

We all have thoughts, dreams, and aspirations. We have opinions, tell stories, and share our concerns. Have you ever found yourself at a loss for words? Have you experienced something that doesn’t make sense but later on when you put pen to paper, brush to canvas, or fingers to the keyboard it all comes together? That’s the beauty of art; it gives us the freedom to expand our potential and experience of life.

Georgia O’Keefe said, “I found I could say things with colour and shape that I couldn’t say any other way-things I had no words for.” That’s a powerful statement from one of the country’s most prominent artists. We’re filled with possibility when we expand how we express ourselves. We’re given a lease on life when we multiply the breadth of our personal self-expression.

Think about this, how do you feel when you see two colors adjacent to one another that clash? What do you think or feel about two notes or chords that are discordant to your ears? I find this conflict luscious. Robert Fritz, author of Creating: A practical guide to the creative process and how to use to create anything, shares that creativity is the result of tension. Tension is not just stress we feel, but it can be visual tension, auditory tension, or visceral tension in response to our experiences.

I created a piece a couple of years ago that is fuchsia and white. When I went to add the stitching I wanted to create tension and I chose to do this with thread. I used a fluorescent orange thread against the fuchsia backdrop. It’s stunning and at the same time throws the viewer a bit off kilter. It’s interesting to watch the responses I get when people stand in front of the piece. There’s definitely a level uneasiness, but that’s what I love about it!

Use all of your creative energy to expand your personal vocabulary. Our vocabulary is more than just words, but signs and symbols, sounds, and textures. Give yourself the gift of creative expression and let your voice (whatever that looks or feels like to you) be heard!

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Make Your Mark

I doodle! I love to scribble little designs in notebooks, on post-its, even grocery lists. One of my favorite things is buy packages of colored pens and I’ll write in different colors. I don’t do this with any design, more to differentiate between thought processes. If I’m taking notes I change colors every time I start reading a new book.

As a textile artist I make marks whenever I create. I make marks with my sewing machine and by hand, each time the mark is intentional. I work with a heightened level of consciousness. When making marks I feel the life force course through my veins affirming life!

How important is mark making? According to Anne Lamott, noted author and speaker, mark making is critical for self-expression. It is the root of our message, and provides us with a way to pray without speaking. As an author, Lamott’s recommendation is that you write a sentence every day. It’s this level of commitment and continuity that will expand your world. It doesn’t matter what your medium is, making a mark on a daily basis is important for your health and well being.

One of the things about mark making is that it’s like a snowball rolling down a hill. The more you make your mark, the more you’ll want to make your mark. You’ll find that the more you engage in mark making, the more expressive each one becomes. You’ll see a story taking form; your story! It is the incentive we all need to continue on our journey to ultimate self-expression.

The marks we make eventually get left behind as evidence of our body, mind, and spirit and its impact on the world. The mark is like those doing genealogy accept that the family tree is really your tree of life. It represents all your experiences, wisdom, and philosophies.

Don’t be afraid to make your mark on the world. We need what you have to offer to heal our souls and the Universe!

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Are You a Modern Day “Chicken Little”?

Do you remember the story of Chicken Little? He ran around screaming “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!” I’m not saying that you’re an alarmist, but as artists we have some qualities that mimic Chicken Little. Are you wondering what they are?

The truth is artists are messengers. Fortunately, we’re not here to warn the world of impending doom, but we are here as social observers. We are nouvelle anthropologists and sociologists. We provide a reality check for society in a creative manner.

What is true, but often isn’t discussed is our role as healers. Artists are modern day shamans. We dig deep into the personal and society unconscious and bring it forth for the world to see. We allow healing to commence once we’re able to identify the ills of the world.

There is much to be said about the state of the world and how that impacts our personal lives. As artists we take those cues and allow them to be the backdrop for our creative activity. We give a voice to the voiceless. We make seen that which is invisible. We embrace those who are lonely by providing a sense of connection between the art and the viewer.

What message are you bringing forth? How are you delivering your message? How are you promoting ultimate self-expression? What do you hope to accomplish by serving as a societal messenger? These are important things to consider being a messenger holds enormous responsibility. It requires a commitment to expressing truth and authenticity. This is the most healing element of creating art.

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Finding Your Tribe

We all have a need to belong. Our affiliations are not only social, but they provide us with a context for our lives. The tribe is often an extension of us. The groups are projections of our essence and often, in these groups, we seek parts of ourselves we feel we’re missing. As artists we want to belong, but in a culture of isolation that’s often difficult.

I was watching the HBO documentary about Robert DeNiro Sr., a painter who never felt like he belonged. He struggled with many things, but a huge struggle was his self-exclusionary nature. He didn’t like art dealers despite his success with people such as Peggy Guggenheim. His self-imposed exile was a struggle and caused tremendous pain. He left a set of journals that his son, Robert DeNiro (the actor) read from throughout the documentary.

The art community can be filled with cliques and breaking in can be very difficult.   However, the act of creation, connecting with your gift, and thanking the divine is healing. It can lessen your feeling of loneliness and provide you with an outlet for continuing your narrative.

When you’re creative expression is authentic, you will attract those who are inspired by your work or who have been triggered by your work. The work will draw those who need to see it if and when you show it to the world. The healing gift of your voice not only allows you to break out in the art world, but in other arenas of your life.

It doesn’t matter the challenge you’re facing, having a tribe where you feel connected to something bigger than yourself is healing. Knowing there are people who feel the same way you do about healing and creativity is monumental. It affirms your passion and ignites imagination.

Find your tribe and let the healing magic begin!


Balancing Information and Imagination

We all face adversity at one time or another in our lives. Our natural inclination is to reach for our smart phone or computer and search on Google seeking answers. We’ve been conditioned to seek information to solve problems instead of accessing our imagination.

What would it mean to access your imagination? It means you connect with the creative right side of your brain. You access inventive ways of problem solving. When you activate your imagination you are open to any and all possibilities. You avail yourself of potential alternatives for each question you’re asking.

Art personifies imagination. What if you were to ask a question and then create a work of process art? Process art is not about design or perspective, but a reflection of you soul in the moment. It’s like taking a snapshot of your soul affording you a clear representation of where you’re headed on your quest.

Information is important when seeking resolution to life’s questions. However, its impact is exponentially magnified when coupled with imagination. It’s imperative that we combine information and imagination because one informs the other. Our imagination gives rise to a sense of freedom. Freedom is crucial when making tough decisions in life because it provides you with a feeling of control in a world that may seem out of control.

Allowing your imagination to flourish when faced with challenges gives those negative thoughts and negative energy an escape hatch to exit your being. When we rid ourselves of negative thoughts and negative energy we ignite our immune systems giving us the boost we need when facing any challenge, in particular the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness.

Information and imagination are two sides of the same coin. Information often influences imagination. Information is the black and white outline and imagination is the color added to the pictures of our lives. When the two combine we get a more holistic view of our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves.

How will your attainment of information influence your imagination or vise versa? What will the dance between the two look like? How will adapting imagination as part of your solution seeking strategies impact your life?

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The Playful and Technological Side of Art and Healing

Technology is changing fast and artists have joined the bandwagon of using it in their art. Recently I attended the annual conference of the Global Alliance for Art and Health. One of the sessions I attended was on art in the hospice and palliative are arena. An artist, one of the presenters shared her use of technology for using technology with patients, and how it impacts her own work.

The iPad has given many individuals and agencies a new medium for creating art. The apps available on electronic devices provide us with new ways not only to create art, but also to save it and print it. Our iPads can be the new incarnation of the sketchbook, the canvas, or even the portfolio.

I was introduced to the app Paper 53. It gives you the opportunity to create journals with a host of tools. The app gives us all the opportunity to play with art. It’s almost like the adult version of an Etch-A-Sketch. You can create pictures (without the knobs and more fluid lines) and if you don’t like it simply erase what you’ve designed. What’s also great about art apps is the opportunity to print your masterpieces.

Artist Sheila Elias is an artist who uses her iPad for the basis of many of her works. A critic says that Elias is painting the optimism of life when most are painting about pessimism in life. This is important because even if you are facing adversity, such as a health challenge, you can still come from a place of optimism. If you were painting “hope” what would it look like?

Hospices are beginning to provide iPads for patients so they can create art allowing them to tell their stories and share their experiences. It’s easy because all you need is an iPad and your finger. There is no mess and you don’t need a lot of supplies. It’s giving palliative care units and hospices new avenues for alleviating stress and fear. It allows patients to create for joy, meditation, and stress reduction.

Many of the apps are free and this makes it accessible. The more ways we have to create is healing for all of us. It provides one more outlet for our personal self-expression!

**Note: If you’re a musician, there are apps for composing music, tuning your instruments, and recording**

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