Capturing the Essence of our Being

The Ovation channel is broadcasting an arts competition titled “Portrait Artist of the Year”.  Those chosen to compete submit a self-portrait from which the contestants are chosen.  Each round puts each of nine artists, split into three groups of three painting a model. It’s a fascinating show because we’re getting an insider’s view of the artist’s process. The artists are given four hours to complete their painting.  At the end of the allotted time, the model gets to choose one of the three paintings to keep.

We take portraits throughout our lives.  There’s something unique about watching these artists paint a portrait versus a photograph. There’s a mystery to the process. The artists each have a point-of-view and a style in which they paint.  Their unique qualities and styles provide the model with a sneak peak of how they’re viewed by the world.  It’s like Cooley’s Looking Glass Self.  The idea we have a view of ourselves, a view of how others see us, and finally, a view of how we believe others view us.  Portraiture provides the model with a reflection of the energy they put forth in the world.

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Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

What do you see when you encounter people?  If you were capturing their essence visually what would you include?  What draws you to others and how would you depict that in a visual representation of their being?  How much of you is projected into how we view others.

This is why I believe art is an equalizer.  It gives each of us the opportunity to projects, reflect, and capture the subject both physically and psychically.  It demonstrates how much interpretation plays a role in our everyday lives.  It shows us our strengths and biases.  These artists expose their inner worlds to their subjects.  They expose their passion through creation.

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Podcasts and Lectures and Classes…Oh My!

It doesn’t matter what field you’re in, continued education is a must.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, we’re not born with all the information and skills we’ll need for the rest of our lives.  If you’re not growing, learning, and exploring, everyone around you will leave you in the dust.  The same goes for our physical, emotional, spiritual, and artistic lives.

Truth is, we can’t know everything about everything.  I know a lot about textile art, but I have limited knowledge about other mediums. Listening and learning from others gives me insight into the lives of other artists, while giving me ideas to translate to my own art.  Here are a couple of examples to punctuate my thoughts.

The other evening, I went to a lecture by a photographer who takes people on safari in Tanzania.  He takes those interested in photography on safari shoots.  I’m not a photographer, but I was looking for that one tidbit to add to my creative toolbox. He didn’t disappoint.  He was giving examples of different shots and he said, “Edit before you click”.  Brilliant! His point was too many of us take one hundred pictures, come home and plough through the truckload of shots.  It made me think of Coco Chanel.  She is known for saying (directed to women), “Get dressed and before you leave the house, edit, take off one thing.”

I listen to podcasts every day.  I’m hooked on Daphne Cohn’s The Creative Habit.  After I subscribed, I went back to the beginning and I’ve been listening to them in order. I want to hear the progression of the interviews.  I think of it like collecting building blocks.  The artists she interviews come from all walks of life.  They have different educational backgrounds.  They work in different mediums.  They have unique business models.  The one thing they all have in common is the love, desire, and commitment to creating art.

Last year I decided I wanted to take a class to learn something I’ve never done before.  I have a friend I met in graduate school who is a phenomenal weaver; thanks Sarah Haskell (www.sarahhaskell.com).  I decided to take a weaving class, not with one of those gigantic looms, a small handheld loom.  I wanted to understand the motivation for an artist working in fiber, but differently than me.  I wanted to explore texture.  I wanted to experience something aside from sitting at the sewing machine.  I enjoyed the class and may continue to create weavings, but I’ll stick to art quilts.  What the class did do for me was reinforce the desire to take other classes and expand my repertoire.

I know there aren’t enough hours in the day to explore every class, podcast, magazine, book, exhibition, etc.  Be selective! Be mindful of your priorities! Have an idea of what you want to achieve giving you a direction to expand your interests, abilities, and vision.

How will you apply these ideas to your own areas of expertise, interest, or desires?

Reboot, Renew, Revitalize

Have you noticed the growing number of entertainment reboots currently making it to the big and small screen?  If you listen to the radio, you’ve not doubt heard Weezer’s remake of Toto’s Africa.  Broadway is always reviving musicals and plays with new spins.  I figured I would join the crowd and I’ve just become the president of Front Range Contemporary Quilters (www.artquilters.org) for the second time.   I was president ten years ago, and now it’s time for a reboot.

What is it about a reboot, or in my case, a new term that’s so appealing?  First and foremost, I’m familiar with the job.  There is a minimal learning curve.  I know when the newsletter article is due.  I’m familiar with the recruitment practices for membership. I understand the selection process for speakers.  On the flip side, over the past ten years, the membership has changed.  The use of technology has skyrocketed.  I’ve gotten older.

I believe any organization, business, even our own lives need revitalization on a regular basis. Boredom is one of the key components to sadness, lowered productivity, and the numbing of our emotional lives. It dulls our creativity, and as artists, creativity is our lifeline.  I’m not suggesting throwing the baby out with the bath water.  What we know has been working we keep.  Those ideas, practices, and themes not bringing joy to your life gets sent to the trash, literally and figuratively.

I’ve spent the last year regrouping and revitalizing my educational goals and my art practices. I recently completed a graduate certificate program in Health Humanities and Ethics.  This program gave me the energy and impetus to get focused about the art I want to create.  I’ve been in health and healing for thirty years.  Now, with further study I’ve become entrenched, engaged, and energized by the possibilities of the stories I want to tell.  I’m more focused.  My art has a sharper narrative.  My studio time is about storytelling and spiritual practice.  The two combined allow me to serve my community by speaking my truth about the gaps I witness in the world.

My creativity is a way for me to stay connected to my heart and soul.  If I hadn’t delved deeper into my interests, my passion, my purpose, I wouldn’t have achieved this new direction in art.  I feel renewed, I feel revitalized, and I feel reinvigorated.  I believe you will too!  Give it a try and let me know if I can help.  Renewing your vows to yourself improves your creative process!

Not Everything is Black and White…Or is it?

When you hear a story do you jump to take sides?  What prompts you to make the decisions you do?  It’s interesting that this is what I’m choosing to write about today since I started a class in bioethics last night.  In our small groups, one of the things we discussed was having a framework, a common language enabling us to begin dialogues about important issues.  Having a framework for the decisions you make enhances your dedication to the process.  However, it can also lock out options, just look at the news outlets that stand on one side of the aisle or the other.  Do you do this with your creative work?  It’s interesting how our art can punctuate what’s going on around us!

On the creative front, it’s not uncommon for artists to think in extremes.  If you sent a manuscript to a publisher and was rejected, negative self-talk ensues.  When you’re a visual artist and you don’t get accepted to a show, your negative self-talk kicks in high gear.  Why do we believe that it’s all or nothing?

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Black and white thinking can inhibit the creative process.  It prevents us from exploring what’s between the bookends of thought.  It keeps us stuck in the rut of doing the same thing over and over, even if it doesn’t move our creative process forward.  We find comfort in black and white thinking.  The illusion is that black and white thinking keeps us in a place of knowing, when in fact, it keeps us in a narrow tunnel with little or no options.

Leaving our black and white stronghold doesn’t mean you’re abandoning your creative voice, or the principles you live by.  It does mean that you open yourself to possibilities that will either move the needle or confirm your original thoughts.  If it strengthens your beliefs, then you’ll move forward with stronger conviction.

We live in a polarized world.  Why limit yourself creatively?

Time “Warp”

If you were thinking this was an homage to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, I’m sorry to disappoint.  As a side note, I’m sure Dr. Frank-N-Furter would approve of my color choices for this project.

As you know I decided to focus my meditation during the Feast for the Soul on the concept of “protection”.   I’m looking at how the concept and protection is experienced in all walks of my life and those around me.  I’m meditating on how I can better protect those in harm’s way.  Harm can take many forms, and while I’ve been meditating, the thought that keeps floating to the surface is suicide.  This isn’t about my suicidal ideation, but those who are experiencing immense pain with no safety net or protectors in sight.

The piece I’m creating will be based on the design of a shield.  To accomplish this goal, I’ve chosen to weave the fabric that I have cut into strips last week.  The warp for those who aren’t weavers are the long, or longitudinal, strips that are affixed the frame.  It’s the foundation for the weaving, and as you know, we all need a solid foundation.

I met Sarah Haskell (www.sarahhaskell.com) in graduate school.  We both were enrolled in the arts and healing program.  I learned that Sarah is a weaver and during the course I got to see some of her work.  I’m mesmerized by weaving and have considered taking it up for many years.  I may learn to weave on a table loom at some point, but the large looms I’ll leave to Sarah.

Why do I bring up weaving and Sarah’s work?  I’ve followed Sarah for ten years and what I have learned the most from Sarah’s social media posts is the amount of patience it takes to weave.  Setting up the loom takes and enormous amount of time and physical exertion.  The biggest lesson, and that’s what I want to focus on is the amount of patience it takes to be a weaver.

Over the course of my meditation, I’ve been feeling, in my body, what patience feels like.  For me, it has become a visceral experience.  It involves some degree of body tension, but it’s counterbalanced with the release when the warp is set.  It shows what time and attention can accomplish.

The tension in my body mirrors the tension a weaver needs when setting the loom.  The warp needs to be tight enough on the loom to allow the weaver to maneuver the weft.  I’m affixing my warp strips to a painting canvas.  It’s sturdy so I can pin the strips to the top and bottom of the frame creating sufficient tension for the design.

What are the takeaways from today’s meditation?  Tension isn’t always a bad thing.  We all need a strong foundation on which to build our ideas and actions in life.  Taking time to focus on one thought, idea, experience allows you to go deeper and experience it on multiple levels.  What are you weaving in your life?

Remove Your Obstacles and Do What You Do Best!

I admit my studio has been a source of pain and confusion.  At the end of last semester, I took on a huge project and created four pieces of art in 9 days.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, as a creative, creating under a tight schedule can lead to overwhelm and anxiety.

When I finished my project, and left the studio and didn’t return for a couple of days as I recovered from the frenzy of creating.  It was an exhilarating time, but now the aftermath of the creativity was chaos.  It has looked like a tornado went through my studio, dislodging and displacing supplies, fabric, and tools.  Unfortunately, that chaos had a lot of negative energy and delayed my return.

Organizing in the house I decided to buy a new piece of furniture.  Previously I had my tools like scissors and rotary cutters hanging from hooks.  It worked for a while until I didn’t return things to their rightful place and scissors disappeared into the abyss.  I was on the hunt for something that would appeal to both my sense of style and function.  Lo and Behold, I found it!

The piece works because it has drawers that are like trays.  I can lay things out and see them all at once.  I’m not digging through drawers hoping to find the needle in the haystack, sometimes I mean that literally.  It has also allowed me to take an inventory of what I have and what I need to continue on my creative path.

It doesn’t matter how you create, finding ways to make creating easier will be a catalyst for your inspiration.  How many of you musicians have sheet music in boxes, in the piano bench, in boxes on the floor?  Painters and colored pencil artists have an abundance of raw materials, canvases, pads of paper, often stacked up in the corner of a room or under the bed.

Your organization levels will free your energy to be directed where it needs to be, focused on your art.  I find this important because telling your story is crucial to our ongoing need to contribute to the world in which we live.  We all have a piece of the “quilt of humanity” and if you’re piece isn’t there our world will be incomplete.

I watched the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards last night and the message was clear, “everyone’s story deserves to be told.”  How will you tell your story?  What can you do to free up your energy from clutter and disorganization to free flowing creative ventures?  I’d love to see what you’ve created to release the chaos and engage your creative energy in an open and fierce way.

Separation Anxiety

Yesterday I shared my venture into cutting strips from a large piece of fabric.  I ran out of strips on my first time through because I didn’t do what they tell carpenters to do, “Measure twice, cut once”.  That was lesson number one today, plenty more on its way.

When cutting fabric to be affixed to a foundation I iron on a fusible web.  It’s like double sided tape, but is used on fabric.  It allows you to iron one fabric to another with a permanent (for the most part) bond.  Even though the pieces are bonded, I still sew the pieces down for a permanent resolution.

Affixing one piece of fabric to another requires peeling the paper off the back.  This is often a time of reckoning because under certain circumstances (older fusible web, not enough heat) the fusible web will not stick to the foundation fabric.  When that happens, it requires the decision-making tree to kick in and begin a process of asking the big question, “What next?”

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Obviously, this is what happens in the fiber world, but in your creative genre the signs and symbols may be different. Think about what may go wrong in your medium, and what actions you take to rectify the situation.  It can be one of the most creative avenues available to you.  When I first started quilting, my teacher told us never buy more than a half yard of fabric because it will force you to exercise your creative muscles.  Don’t get me wrong, the first time I ran out of fabric I felt like I was dropped in the middle of the desert with no compass.  I eventually found my way and have progressed to new and more complex forms of separation anxiety.

Truth be told, we all have scary moments in our lives.  How we handle it depends on our previous preparation protocols.  Think of problem solving in other areas of your life and what your process was to resolve the situation.  This is one of those moments when art imitates life.