My Next Thing

It's official! My new website is up and running! That means you won't find me here anymore, but the good news is that I have sooooo much more for you there! The new site is called Hello Heart Journal and while the names are similar, there are a couple of big differences between this blog and my new website. First, Hello Heart Journal is no longer so much about my creative journey.

As I said when I announced the launch:

"Hello HeArt Journal is a collection of resources—a website for art journalers—not a blog and not all about me."

And  while the new website can't help but share all things mixed media—because art journals naturally lead to a multitude of mixed media projects—Hello HeArt Journal is singularly about the practice of art journaling.

The reason for this focus is simple. In my own arting journey (much of which documented on this blog), I have come to understand that an art journal is the foundation for a rich and meaningful creative life.

We are all creative beings, we humans, and we have all kinds of creative work we do in the world. But no matter what that creative work, the practice of art journaling opens us up to our creative selves.

We come to our art journals day after day, week after week, year after year. We play, experiment, express, learn new techniques and find new ways to use new tools. But in the middle of all that, something magical happens.

"Oh," you say. "It's you. Hello Heart..."

In addition to tons of tips, ideas and tutorials, we talk about that over there.

Goodbye Hello Heart.com—but Hello Heart Journal!

I'll meet you there.

2015: My creative plans

I tell you, it's like I've been sitting in that big chair at the Opthomologist's office, chin in that metal frame, for a really long time.  Years now. You know that machine they use to find the right lens to correct your eyesight? It's been like that. Forehead pressed against the cold steel, I've been peering and peering into that lighted interior chamber—trying to see clearly. Click, click.

"This?"

Click.

"or That?"

Click.

"A?"

Click.

"Or B?"

Click.

And suddenly, I don't know, the right lens fell into place.

I know what I want.

As opposed to what I thought I should want...or what others might want me to want...or more likely, what I thought others might want me to want...

Oh my gosh, I know I sound like a mad person. But no. What I want is very simple. Three things, actually:

First, I want a consistent, daily creative art journal practice.

A place where I can experiment, play, build skills, but most importantly meet myself. Like on a yoga mat.

Breathe. Check in. How are you? How's the universe? What should we create today?

Second, I want to gain mastery and build skills.

I want to make things and I want to get better at it so that I can actually create what I conceive.

You know the Ira Glass video, right?  It's true. We aren't that good when we start doing creative work. (I do appreciate having good taste, though!) But the important point is this:

"It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions."

I want to get there someday.

Third, I want to create with more people.

There's something magic that happens when people gather to share, teach and learn. I want more of that in my creative life.

I've been told that when you know what you want...when you know...and then when you do it...take that big leap and actually do the thing  you want?

The net appears.

And that's what seems to have happened.

I crossed virtual paths with a couple of arting people further along the path than me (how do I love the internet? Let me count the ways...) Specifically, Julie Balzer and Karen Grunberg—awesome arting women out there whose blogs I've followed for years.

I know Julie's work, but I finally got around to taking her online class, 30 Days in your Art Journal—which is sooooo from her past, but sooooo finally clarified for me the process of making art journaling a daily practice. And Karen has been launching super ambitious projects for herself for years—I'm continuously amazed at all that she can accomplish—but suddenly, and maybe because she finally seems to have discovered some balance herself, I could see my way to balancing my own projects, too.

And of course, learning has a way of happening when you're ready to learn something. It's magical that way.

So in any event, finally, clarity and focus have clicked into place before my eyes. The work of my creative life—at least for 2015—is clear

Work in my Art Journal every day.  If only for a super brief 5 minutes, or if I have time,  30 minutes or more, but I'm meeting myself there daily.  It takes several days to complete one spread, and then after each one I want to spend time reflecting on how it came together and what I learned. And of course I'll post pictures.

Learn and grow my arting skills.  For 2015, I've set out two projects for myself that will be sure to teach me new skills and develop as an artist.

  1. I will work on a mastery series each month. I'll choose a topic or a skill and play with completing as many pieces as possible until month's end. Notice I'm not committing to creating daily pieces—but wouldn't that be nice? Maybe not practical, though, so I'll be creating as many as possible each month and sharing each series at the end of each month, which will of course include my reflections on what I learned.The monthly series in January is Lettering.
  2. I will create a 3X3 fiber arts collage study each week—52 in all—because I love the possibilities of fiber (and combining it with other media) and I want to explore this medium that calls to me from my childhood. How cool will it be to have 52 little studies by years' end? I'll of course share these fiber collage studies here, too.

Finally, take arting classes, both online an in person—and hopefully grow what has begun with our first local arting circle, too. Classes and groups both feed my need for community and help me develop skills. These are both critical elements of my creative life! I'll be sharing these experiences, for sure.

Whew! It feels so good to have a clear and specific plan. What's really great is that these are in no way new year's resolutions. I don't do resolutions. No. This is me.

Fully, completely, wholey (moley) In.

My Creative Life.

My Creative Life—not blog

2015

This is the year I throw open the doors of my life and step out into the wild of my own creative self.

A little dramatic?

Well...maybe. But that's how it feels at the beginning of such a thing. And if I'm going to step out, I'm going to step all the way out.

I know I've been absent here—again. I'm afraid my heart went into a a little blog hibernation these past few months. I think it was the notice I put up: Hey, I'm going to revamp this little blog and bring "you"—oh, you vast number of potential readers who don't actually exist—all that I think you want.

I think I terrified myself. ;-)

The psychology behind it all will only fascinate my naval gazing self—so I'll spare you. But bottom line,  I set out to repeat the same mistake I've made many times before (ah, those patterns). By announcing that I would create an arting blog to help other arting people, I was setting out to create something (a blog) I wasn't actually that keen to create...for a purpose I couldn't quite get behind.

Took me a while to figure that out...but I guess wisdom comes with age...

I was in fact replacing what I actually wanted with what I thought I should want.

What???!!! Why?

Of course:

Because building a blog for the purpose of helping others was far more acceptable than simply doing what I love (arting) for myself. (Gasp! How selfish!!)

So anyway. Self-aware or not at that  point, I still did what I felt like doing anyway. I ran away.

(From the blog—not from my home, thank goodness, because we all know the whole place would come crumbling down without me!)

I just stopped blogging (again) and I quietly did what I wanted--but secretly. Shhh. So no one would know just how selfish I really am.

I worked in my art journal. I peered under the lid of the fiber arts world—thank you Pinterest—and fell madly in love with creating my own fiber collages. You'll find  some things I created lately in my new art journal and mixed media galleries.

Next post, I'll talk about the mad shifts I've made these last few months and about the super exciting arting plans I have for myself this year.

But you need to know now, because I need to be honest. One of the biggest shifts concerns my blog, Hello Heart.

And let's see, I need to be brief...but you need a little back story too:

I started blogging five years ago.  My first post explained where I was heading at that point (in and out of doors, it seems, even then!) Basically, at that point I was ending a chapter in my life. With my business partner, I had closed a yoga studio turned clothing consignment store (don't ask), stepped down from leading a local education foundation that I and several key people spent nearly eight years creating, and prepared to move my family to a location in the Bay Area that better suited our family. It was a big transition time, and of course, I was trying to figure out what to do next.

And you know, it was 2010. Along with millions of others (actually late to the scene), I discovered blogs.  And I fell madly in love with the blogging world. I couldn't believe the amazing writers and entrepreneurs out there (could any of us?) Soon, I was subscribed to 75, 100 blogs...and I decided I wanted to be a blogger, too.

Just like I thought I wanted to be an entrepreneur and a fiction writer and a teacher at different points in my life, because I basically LOVE engaging my creativity and making things (and helping people). And learning (and what a learning project Wordpress has been!)

There are so many ways to translate the messages we get from our hearts...so easy to get the wrong message...

It took me five years, but I finally figured out that I could not, should not and did not want to show up consistently to my blog.  Because that's the first rule of building readership, right? Blog consistently and often.

The truth is, I could never get that excited about being someone who publishes content to develop a readership. I'm not a blogger publisher. I've spent exactly 0 hours building a readership.

Instead, all that time I wasn't blogging, I was doing what I really wanted to do (there we go—those patterns again!) I had discovered art journaling and all the possibility of creating in different art mediums—and that's mostly what I did instead of blogging.

I'm happiest when I'm making things.

And so here at Hello Heart, instead of blogging to publish (for others, as a publication), I'll be blogging to simply record, document and  and reflect on my making journey...when I can, when I want, how I want.

Because—truth—Hello Heart is my online journal. Nothing else. I'm sharing what I learn along the way of my creative journey because I've always done my best thinking in writing.

And who knows? Maybe others out there can benefit from what I learn.

I know I've benefited immensely from people sharing and I'd be happy to return the favor.

 

 

This Creative Life

Fun in the sun 2014
Fun in the sun 2014

I had some really good time playing this summer. It was a nice break from life.  And all the while, I kind of let my life settle in around me a bit. I let that deep mind push and pull over me, the way it does, tide in, tide out.

This creative life
This creative life

And thought about this creative life. And I thought I'd share:

I love to create and make and learn and share what I learn. These are my passions. Always have been. No matter what age or what phase of my life, I’m always happiest deeply engaged in making and learning and sharing it.

We’re all called to create something, but that something is different for each of us. I know that I need to create to express myself and to help others. Yet, while I enjoy many arts, like music or drama or sculpture, for instance, I am not called to express myself musically, dramatically or with a chisel. I am a visual person, someone who thinks in metaphor, visualizes, and I am a visual learner; I must see (not hear) to comprehend. I cannot believe it’s taken me this long to find arting!

Others among us are not called to creative expression. Instead, they create experiences or relationships or action, for example. Maybe they create structures or new ways of doing things. I strongly believe that everyone is creative. To be a human being is to be a creative being. I know a lot of people don’t think they are creative, but they are.

Whatever we are called to create, it is essential that we listen and do it.

Sometimes we discount this particular calling to be creative artistically, expressively, but it is a special and important calling—and we should honor it. The lucky among us play with their inner artist from a very young age and never lose that connection. Many of us need to recover our creative selves. We need to enter into our own creative recovery.

What I want to create and make and learn continues to evolve. I can look back and see how I much I always loved literature and art, always. I used to feverishly sew into my 20s and write poetry and short stories. Then I mostly let that go and turned to writing and editing commercially and then creating curriculum and then it came to me that designing systems and processes felt pretty creative…earning income may have had something to do with those later choices. From there, I discovered spirituality/yoga and indulged this curious fascination with entrepreneurship, also a creative undertaking...

And then—finally—I found art journaling and mixed media…and this blog. A nice balance between heart and mind.

Art journaling has become part of my almost daily life, and I am more and more in love with collage with all kinds of mixed media. The projects are beginning to stack up and, blissfully, I see no end in sight.

I now work (often feverishly) to learn and grow so that one day I can express myself in the most authentic and truest representation of myself as possible, which I think is a pretty good definition of expertise.

I also blog because I love writing and I think better in writing, and also a blog is something. It is itself a creative project, something I make. And just like any creation, I hope it might also shine light for others. I want this little creation to be useful and interesting for those on their own sparkling path and who share the same interests and questions and who also want to create “somethings”— too.

I see now that what I am always creating is my life. And when I am deeply engaged in what I love to do—which for me is making and learning and sharing it—I am deeply engaged with myself. And that, my friends is the only time when we are good for others, too.

Until next time...

sunset - creative life
sunset - creative life

10 things I learned from ICAD—final wrap up

ICAD2014 all
ICAD2014 all

I've never completed an art challenge until now (and I've tried several other times). And yeah, I'm kind of proud that I created all 61 cards for the Index Card A Day Challenge sponsored by Tammy over at Daisy Yellow.

But you know what? Surprise of all surprises (for this novice challenger, anyway), finishing isn't the reward.

The real takeaway is what I learned both about myself and my creative process. I recommend every creative person try doing some kind of art challenge...if for no other reason than to learn, like I did, that I should not commit to creating something every day!

So here goes:

what I learned from the whole Index Card a Day Challenge experience

1. ICAD proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am seriously challenged by doing anything every day.

Like I've said before, in life I consistently fail at being consistent. It's a wonder I regularly brush my teeth!

I've spent many years trying to figure out why. I could never, for instance, write on a daily basis —yet I have years worth of journals and other writing—that I didn't write every day!

I've never been able to exercise every single day, either. I'm amazed by my current  average (lifelong record) of four days per week (um at least before vacation...), and I've never made breakfast every morning for the family. Pah! Cereal is one of the best inventions of the modern world.

future city
future city

I think ICAD has shown me once and for all that committing to almost anything every single day just doesn't work for me. And you know what? That's okay!

2. I've always been very good at meeting deadlines imposed by others, but now I know I can meet my own deadlines to reach my own goals.

I may not work every day on a project, but I never miss a deadline— if other people rely on me. Doing ICAD proved that I can commit and follow through on something that is "just" for me.

astractblueandorange
astractblueandorange
3. Creating a "body" of exercises taught me more about my preferences and my style.

I like deep and dark colors.

I enjoy abstract collage—any collage, really.

I love shaded edges of papers, textures and images—added dimension.

I like to draw images.

ICAD suggests that maybe my best work will be come when I marry all those together.

4. I also see areas in vast need of improvement.

By working through the ICAD Challenge, I'm better able to see where I need to focus my learning next. Two areas stand out.

COLOR. When I first started this arting adventure, I had no idea how much I had to learn about color—how much there is to learn! Color theory is complex, and while I naturally love color in my work, I need a better grasp of how to develop palettes and mix colors, and to use color for greater effect.

LAYERING. Oh my gosh, layering is really a tough nut to crack. It's so difficult to cover up elements I like, to keep going, and to add dimension and contrast rather than make mud or chaos. I clearly see improvement since last year—but I still have a way to go.

ICAD2013and14
ICAD2013and14
5. I think I improved!

A first when I looked at all 61 cards this year and compared them to last year, I didn't think so. But you know what? A very interesting thing happened at the point I decided to throw out the themes/prompts this year and just work from my gut. As it turns out, I created 29 more cards—the exact number of cards I created last year before I stopped doing ICAD mid-challenge.

Ah, synchronicity. Chance or divine direction? At the least, I figured I should compare just those sets of 29 from 2013 and 2014.

ICAD2014 last 29
ICAD2014 last 29

First, as a group, this last set of 29 this year are more cohesive than the whole bunch, and as a whole I do think I began to move in the direction of more complex compositions and, yes, greater layering.  Like all of us, I hope to improve the longer and harder I work so I was glad to see that.

6. Wait, look closer at this synchronicity thing.

I admit I became curious about that number 29. I don't know a lot about discovering divine truth from coinciding numbers—otherwise known as numerology—but I see all human attempts to know the mysteries of the universe (including most religious teachings) as a whole collection of possible clues. I'm open to possibilities and tend to give greatest weight to repeating patterns and collective human experiences across disciplines (spirituality, art and science).

So anyway, I love that numerology draws from ancient and diverse cultures around the globe, from Babylonia, Pythagoras and the Greeks, Christian mysticism, the Hebrew Kabbalah, The Hindu Vedas, and the Chinese I Ching, among others. Who are we modern people to dismiss the potential truths found in numbers?

Not me. And besides, I absolutely love this interpretation of my affinity for the number 29. So as a hypothesis, anyway, I'm going with it!

"...29 is a message to have faith and trust in your intuitive messages and impressions as these messages and promptings are urging you towards and along your Divine life path and soul mission."

Blackbird
Blackbird
7.  ICAD helped me come to terms a little more with "failing".

I'm pretty sure all the cards that turned out to be less successful—what a certain uncharitable inner critic might call "failures"—were necessary. For instance, while I churned out tons of duds those first weeks (in my opinion), I did come out with nine I like very much. I wouldn't have created those without also creating the "bad" ones.

ninefirstfavs
ninefirstfavs

Not only that, but of all the cards I created for the ICAD Challenge this year, Camera Collage and Blackbird from this first half are among my favorites.

camera collage
camera collage
8. I also see what the "failures" have to teach me.

I don't keep going far enough.I stop before I get something I like.

I stop too soon when it comes to generating ideas. Too often, I with the first idea because I secretly believed I could only come up with one idea!

Finally—and this is where I go deep:

I think the prompts turned into expectations I used to disappoint myself.

These days I'm better at trusting my intuition when facing the blank page. I now like to start out with just color, line and form and see what comes next and next. It didn't used to be this way. When I was first starting out, I was terrified of facing the blank page and letting out whatever came to me.

With the prompts, though, I guess I was afraid again. Why? Because "I" had to perform. "I" had to come up with ideas on the spot. And as I said, I didn't trust that I could. (And I often proved myself right.)

gellifish
gellifish
9. So I have to ask myself, what is the difference between "my" intuition and, well, "my"creativity? (I told you I was going deep!)

Intuition comes to me like feelings. I'm not sure where ideas come from—maybe from my subconscious or from outside of myself altogether (or a mix of both). But when I work intuitively, I feel the next way to go and then the next.

When I was faced with thinking of a good idea with all those prompts, it definitely felt like it was all coming from "me"—my creativity. My ideas.

I abandoned intuition.

Interesting.

10. My final takeaway from ICAD going forward
reinventing
reinventing

ICAD is another form of art journaling. I may not have completed index cards in a book, but I was still doing what I do when I art journal:  experiment and play and create compositions that come from a place of quiet give and take with my inner artist.

Now that the ICAD challenge is completed for the year, I'm more committed than ever to continuing this practice back in my art journal (regularly, though not daily because that's how I roll).

And maybe I've gained some clarity. I've always known I use my art journal to both learn skills and express myself creatively. In my art journal going forward, I'll be working on how to use color, how to build layers and I'll be shooting for that marriage between images, abstracts and collage in my work. I'll also continue the journey of trusting my intuition and my feelings.

But I think ICAD has shown me more than ever that art journaling is very much a practice of using visual language to communicate as spiritual beings.

With ourselves and with others.

I hope if you've read all the way to the end of this long post that my passion will ignite your own creative journey, too.

My first Art Journal is complete!

AJ1 Cover
AJ1 Cover

Working in this art journal was an amazing adventure. While I have several journals in various stages of completion, this is the journal where I made the most progress—and actually finished—from beginning to end.

When I started this journal in Fall 2012, I had worked in other journals but I hadn't found my stride. I really didn't know what I was doing. By the end, though—actually, sometime in the middle—I made a shift.

I guess you could say I went from someone who was learning how to keep an art journal to someone who keeps one.

Big shift.

Today, I'd like to share some of the progress and some of the pages in my first completed art journal. I had hopes of learning how to videotape (and upload) a "flip" of the entire journal, but alas, that kind of project must be saved for a later day. We'll have to settle for the highlights...

First of all, here are the first couple of pages in the journal and I'm showing them because...ugh, they are really not very good!

AJ first pages
AJ first pages

There are more bad pages—I'll spare you!

And then came this page which I shared in another post. It was the first page I actually liked—and loved doing. I was inspired by another artist's painted rocks and I loved how it just came together.

flowerfartaround
flowerfartaround

It was about then that I started branching out and actively learning new techniques. Sometimes I got inspiration from tutorials. Basically, an artist online (who I no longer remember—my apologies) gave step by step instructions for how she layered a background. I did it and then decided that I would turn the steps into "recipe book" - see the recipe stand?

recipe and present
recipe and present

Much later, I decided to wrap it up as a present to myself—this was the page I learned that I didn't need a recipe! And I don't think I like super messy backgrounds, either...

Abstract Collage pages
Abstract Collage pages

Other times, I played with abstract collage. These two pages were fun to make, although I still have a long way to go to master the fine art of composition in abstract art:

And plenty of pages found me sketching and journaling—capturing ideas and moments—like these:

sketching collage
sketching collage

(I'm especially proud of my feet there...I can't say enough about how anyone can draw (if I can), with practice...)

I did a lot of experimenting in this journal, learning techniques but also learning to let go—to allow the colors and forms and ideas to come out even if I didn't know where I was going with them or why. Like on this spread, which is one of my favorites:

Free painting
Free painting

(Do you see a circle of women dancing?)

It was about this time in my journal that I started to make pages that I ended up loving. Even if the subject was sad, like when I captured the week of Halloween and my mother's memorial service:

mom
mom

That was a really tough week, but creating the images that captured so many of the pieces of it was very healing. I love this page.

And you know what, it seems almost after that I started liking almost every page I made. Not that my inner critic wasn't barking orders all the time, but I became better at letting go and trusting my intuition. Often, strange things happened. For instance, on one spread which I won't share because the journaling is a little personal, I pulled out two images from a box of images I keep for use someday--two winter white birds and a snowy road filled with people going toward a mountain. I didn't know how they related, but as I worked I began to see a very clear connection with what I had been thinking about for days!

I will close with the final pages of my art journal:

art retreat
art retreat

Those are real eucalyptus leaves preserved in matte medium and painted—and a wonderful arting day with my friend Laura, preserved too.

too many hats
too many hats

I hand drew and cut out each one of those hats. That was fun.

And on this page, I learned the power of dark, black ink:

trees
trees

Finally, we have the last page of the book. I'm pleased with it because for me it captures where I think I'm headed with this art journaling thing:

As you wish
As you wish

Anywhere I want to go. And that's what I learned most from my first, completed art journal.

Your creative trek

Well stocked pond
Well stocked pond

"Art is an image-using system. In order to create, we draw fro our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond...an abundance of artistic fish to fry. As artists, we must realize that we have to maintain this artistic ecosystem...we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them--to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well."

You spent the greater part of your life neglecting the part of you that needs to create and express and make things.

You pretty much denied and pushed aside that impulse to create—yet you seemed to regularly spend those rare spare moments and even career moments making something (a valance here, a writing course there, a collage here, a newsletter there, a poem here, a business venture there…) — or wishing you were making something.  Or wishing that you could make something someone else made. But you believed you could not.

In her life changing book, the Artist's Way, Julia Cameron reaches out through her pages to identify just who you are, now. You are in fact called to create and express and make things. Yet, for one reason or another…time, fear, caregiving, upbringing…you haven’t created much.

You are a recovering creative.

And there comes a point when you...

Just.

Must.

Despite the fear and anxiety and insecurity. Despite that lizard hissing in the background of your brain.

You can’t.

You aren’t.

Don’t be silly.

You know what you need.

Time and space and permission (mostly from yourself) to explore and play and create.

Companionship and encouragement from others who share the same journey.

Some serendipitous direction - you have a lot of learning to do and a lot of time to make up for!

Reflection and healing as you forgive yourself for self-neglect.

And finally, you need...

To share and celebrate the breakthroughs as you dip into the "inner well".

So you begin (beginning is always the hardest part).

You're going to hit the road - travel through all that foreign terrain where "real" artists live. Do it. Create. Make things. And explore those features of the creative landscape like Uncertainty and Play and Fear and Abandon - and so many other seeming obstacles, vistas and points of interest.

You don't know yet what you want to create so much. The locals of this wild place have cleared land and built gardens. They can answer questions, like:

In what medium do you work?

What's your style?

What are you making?

And here's a particularly thorny patch to clear:

Why?

These questions are not for you to answer yet. There will be time for homesteading.

For now, you are making a trek, taking a long journey to "pull [y]our overextended and misplaced creative energy back into [y]our own core," as Cameron points out in your guidebook.

Into your art journal you go.

The power of art journaling

Butterfly page
Butterfly page

I'm not sure why it took so long for it to occur to me how deeply I respond to the visual and the tactile.  In art. in nature. In day to day living.

Yet when it came to expressing myself - I relied on words. I never for a moment considered that I could express in image. Only artists do that!

When I discovered art journaling, I knew I found my way around words into image. And then often back to words.

I am learning what so many others before me know — that the method of journaling through image making rather than word making is both satisfying (fun!) AND useful.  Like its counterpart in words, expressing with image heals.

Art journaling has allowed me to “think” in a different right-side-of-the-brain way. As I play with line, form, color, texture, images arrive and then these gifts of thoughts—insights and ideas—come up too.

As a relatively new art-maker, my first encounters are with myself.  More and more, I see how I approach life just like I do the page—too often with resistance and fear, but with joy, too. I have come up against control issues, for sure (who, me?), and there’s this thing I do, this rushing…what’s that all about, anyway?

In short, through art journaling I think I’ve entered a personal creative recovery. I've blasted through the steel ceiling of my own fear — pushed off the shore into completely unknown visual art-making territory — and I’m ready to explore more...

...To learn what it means to commit to creating every day…how will what I create change? How will I change?

...To see what happens when I give myself permission to create without judgment or even a practical plan to “do” something with it—just create.

...To dive into the cosmic sea of imagery and ideas and come out with..well, with whatever I come out with — and to be okay with that (no control issues here, uh uh).

...To examine, finally, what some of those big blocks I threw in the road to myself all those years really mean.

...To see – finally — where art takes me.

And I do hope what I share and learn helps others who might also need some creative recovery too.

How I finally found art making via SoulCollage©

Full Circle
Full Circle

After the amazing collage encounter the other day, I had another realization.

I credit SoulCollage© for launching me into this whole art making direction and this is a story I'd like to share.

As I've mentioned before) up until about four years ago I simply did not make visual anything. I did not believe I could draw. Or paint. Or play, artistically. I had never taken one art class in my life. I did not believe I could express myself in visual mediums of any kind. I didn't even know I had the desire!

All I knew about my own creativity was that I was very crafty as a kid and enjoying sewing (and in fact actually went into sewing frenzies during finals in college to relieve to my stress.) I have been intensely attracted to art and creative people all my life. I have always been aware of this huge, undefined yearning to create.

I spent a lot of years trying to scratch that itch like it was a mosquito bite. I scratched circles around and around, trying to relieve the itch, but nothing worked. The itch was still there. I wrote stuff and built stuff and created DIY home projects. It never occurred to me that I could or even wanted to create in the visual and tactile realms.

Yet intuitively of course I knew. Why else did I get so darn excited every time I visited an art museum or art gallery, an art faire or just when I’ve wandered around New York City? How much did I love DIY design shows (like The Christopher Lowell Show back in the day or Project Runway or any of these shows now)? A lot.

When I found Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way over 10 years ago, I recognized myself as a shadow artist and this yearning to a create as a spiritual impulse. But I still operated on the assumption that I was an unrealized writer.

Years went by.

And then in a series of astonishing and transforming encounters, I discovered this thing called SoulCollage©.

First Meeting—I mean, Meetup.

I saw a posting for a SoulCollage© Workshop on meetups.com about four years ago. I had no idea what that was exactly, but I clicked on that “will attend” button like a moth. I was just drawn to it.

Several days later I was stepping into a small community room and I have to admit that when I looked around my heart dropped. Several tables for four were set up in a square around the room and most of the seats were already taken. Worse, I took a swift glance around and made an instant judgment. All women. Seem kind of…crafty. “Not my people.” I sighed when I sat down across from the woman in her eighties dressed in black. “Of course I get the old woman.” (shame on me!)

The workshop leader, I think her name was Susan, soon gave us a quick overview, including the work of SoulCollage© founder, Seena Frost, and explained that she (Susan) was a licensed facilitator.

My ears perked.

Next, we got to work. I completed my first SoulCollage© card but I was filled with fear and uncertainty every step of the way. I worried that I was doing it wrong and that I didn’t have intuition.

But I made the card anyway – which I have since misplaced or I’d show it to you. From what I can remember, that collage featured flower pots on a ledge of a window in the background lush trees and a cat sitting on the path.

I was relieved that it didn’t look too bad (despite Susan’s repeated warnings that it didn’t matter what they looked like). Still, I thought the other cards at my table were much better.

Yes, I looked and compared.

Next, we were given paper and pens and we were asked to consult the cards. This as I explained the other day is a matter of letting the card “speak” by sitting quietly in front of it and completing “I am one who…” statements from the point of view of the image(s) in the piece. The trick is to keep repeating the statement and to record whatever comes up until it feels complete.

I wish I had that card and my statements. All I can remember now is that what came out totally surprised me…especially at the end.

“I am one who” left the keys on the ledge.

I looked again. All that time I had failed to notice that the image of the windowsill had keys sitting on it.

I was shocked. I had to ask myself what other keys have I left or overlooked?

(aside: I think I have a better idea now then I did then.)

I was deeply moved by that experience, but as it turns out the final activity that night made an even greater impact.

The Russian Beauty

As a final activity, we were all asked to stand up one at a time, hold our cards out in front of us, and read our statements. And right there all those women in that room – the ones I judged so harshly – one at a time they shape-shifted before my eyes. No matter the images on their cards (babies, plants, animals, children, adults), as they read their statements I no longer saw them as they looked on the outside—baggy clothes or grey hair or a lot of make up or whatever. I suddenly saw…who they really were, I think, each a beautiful being.

It’s hard to describe. But here’s one example. The older woman in her eighties who sat across from me? Her card featured a dark haired young woman in a red cape and hood, and as she read, I suddenly I saw her as a young and beautiful Russian girl.

Afterwards we talked and I felt real regret that I hadn’t made more of an effort or had more time to get to know this raven beauty. She was delightful! And nothing like a tired old woman I imagined I saw in the beginning.

I left that workshop totally stoked (as we used to say). Immediately, I got online, learned more about Frost and her work, and ordered and read the book. Then I jumped back online to see how to become a SoulCollage© facilitator. I know it sounds crazy. After just one workshop I wanted to lead others through the process.

It just felt really important to immerse myself in this thing, whatever it was, that somehow married creativity and spirit. I’m not sure at that point that I was yet convinced that my intuition was alive and kicking, but I should have been.

Second Encounter—with myself.

Just months later, I found myself at a weekend facilitator training in Santa Cruz, California, and this second experience transformed me—but not exactly how I would have expected.

SC Abstract
SC Abstract

The training was thorough and thought-provoking. Seena Frost presided over the group of about 40 women and it was a huge honor, really, to learn from this elder woman with such a deep background in theology, psychotherapy and creativity. SoulCollage© is truly a process to “tend soul and explore psyche” and boy, did I ever encounter myself that weekend.

First, I felt entirely intimidated by the other trainees—all women who all seemed to be artists or art therapists (in actuality, some were, some weren’t). I instantly questioned my qualifications to even be in the room.

Second, as we made cards, consulted them, shared them in small groups and then debriefed with the larger group (for benefit of learning facilitation skills)—I came up hard against my own walls and insecurities, and especially my uneasy relationship with my intuition. I questioned whether or not I could help others until I worked out a few of my own issues.

But more than anything...as I coaxed my inferiority monster back down to pint-size...I realized that I. Wanted. To. Make. Art.

  So many of the other women did make art and – to my surprise – few as professional artists. As I talked with more attendees as the weekend progressed I learned that a whole lot of them just created stuff in their free time.

Imagine that! Collage. Sketches. Postcards. Sculptures. Mixed Media pieces. Quilts. And of course SoulCollage cards for their growing decks. There was one woman, particularly, who made a big impact. Liz Monaghan made art journals—something I had never heard of before—and she had one to show me.

And I was astounded. I wanted to do that.

All that.

Seena Frost SC Training
Seena Frost SC Training

So that’s how SoulCollage© launched me into the art making world. After the training, I continued to make cards (although I have not yet facilitated workshops). Also, Liz was kind enough after that weekend to invite me to join a group of other women who did both SoulCollage© and made art in their spare moments near where I lived.

While I moved away shortly after, the stage was set. It would take me another year or so to make my first art journal page, and a few more years of delight-filled exploring to get back in touch with my intuition and find my way into art-making. But SoulCollage cracked me wide open to the colorful world of art making and the creative and spiritual electricity to be found there.

I think the best way to describe where I’m at now is in blissful scratch.

***** So what about you? How did you get into art making? I'd love to hear in the comments below or if you posted your art making story on your own blog already, give us a link in the comments section and we'll check it out!

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Lost! Artist Within

21heads
21heads

Description

She loves stories and color and textures. She often falls into mountains and vistas and seas  – literally falls into them, intuitively sensing with all her physical senses other dimensions of time and space and life.

ojairiver2
ojairiver2

Beauty stops her in her tracks because she sees the truth there —in natur-al pieces of the world (out the window, down the path, in a rock, in the unguarded facial expression), or in similar encounters in form of art (performance, sculpture, poems, story, in the lines and planes of visual and three dimensional art). She has many encounters to share – but has remained mostly silent for decades.

Lost somewhere in the thickets of errands and tasks and finance, in the serious business of living.

Last seen

Me
Me

As a young child skipping stones, catching polliwogs, writing poems and stories...and even older, always making one often poorly constructed but highly satisfying thing after another with fabric or decoupage or some such stuff. Her voice often surfaces in fleeting moments when writing.

If you see her

She's probably with your artist, too.

"I am a part of all that I have met;/Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'/Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades/For ever and forever when I move."
Ulysses Alfred Lord Tennyson

A studio of her own

I think back to years of rooms filled with roommates, then spouse, and then children…sharing dining room tables with sewing projects, reading and writing on couches, working in rooms strewn with plastic toys.  Those years were good years, filled with people I loved and still love.

roomfilledwithkids
roomfilledwithkids

But I never had an art studio.  A place to create.

 I like to say there wasn’t a room to spare. But the truth is, there wasn’t focus to spare. Or, truer: I didn’t spare the focus.

I simply squeezed art supplies into cubbies and cupboards and we worked on art projects at the kitchen table.  I wrote on my computer at my desk (in the bedroom or family room, depending on the house, near the kids). I collected all kinds of media for some reason I couldn’t ever figure out (I have buckets filled with clippings and pictures, fabric and miscellaneous things) And I remember so many home projects – curtains, valances, recovered furniture, wallpaper and painted walls - that took place, well, somewhere in the home.

Art studios are for artists who paint or make things. I certainly didn’t make art. Or so I guess I thought — though I don’t recall thinking much about it. There was just this low grade yearn…this funny daydream to have a studio one day.

Anyway, having moved recently, I finally get a space that may become an art studio! Maybe. Right now, it’s a folding table, a few plastic bins and some corkboards.

emptystudio
emptystudio

Which is fitting, I think.  My life is a whole bunch of blank surfaces right now.

1blankcorkboard
1blankcorkboard

New(old) house. New community. New Blog. New journey.

blankstudio
blankstudio

No. Not new journey – old journey, just a new leg of a journey that feels more on course.

 ♦♦♦

What about you? Do you have an art studio? Do you think you deserve an art studio?  I know I didn't. (Feel free to share in the comments below! I’d love to know what others have done with space – or lack of space – to make things, or to not make things.)

In the meantime, tomorrow I’ll post an interview with myself about my new studio (Hey, this is my blog. Why not?)

Striking Out on My Own

 

I closed the door to the shop for the last time. Done. Business: over. Partnership: free. Dream: dead.

Yet instead of regret I felt satisfaction. Owning a small yoga studio turned consignment retail business was one great learning experience. What I learned about launching and running a business and about my own skills (and weaknesses)? Worth it all.

Best lesson: Hitching on to someone else’s dream just doesn’t work. You gotta travel on your own.

If you're at a similar stage in your life, you can probably relate. Especially if you're also a Gen Joneser like me. I'm coming of age! I'm energetic, enthusiastic--and empowered. A generation or two ago, middle aged was old. I remember my grandmother when I was a young child: Grey hair and jiggly arms. She must have been in her forties. She actually lived to be 92 but she spent forty years before she died being old!

Not us. We cover the grey and cover up, work out and move out into the world. I think Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures has it right. It used to be life expectancy (at least in America) was 70. Now, on average, we're closing in on 100 year life spans!

We spent our first age growing experience and wisdom (growing ourselves and our children) and now we are entering a second age of productivity and creativity. Barring illness (and even then), this second age presents unlimited opportunities in a changing world.

So this is the truth about where I'm going - and maybe you're going there too. I closed the last door knowing I'd move on, but this time I don't think it will be to the "next" thing, as in one more in a long series of things. I think it will be The Thing.

Some people know from the start what they will do with their lives. Their brains must come with a a Kodak-like snapshot embedded in the right cortex of their brains: Doctor. Carpenter. Scientist. Teacher. Politician. Engineer. Designer. I am not one of those people.

Instead of a Kodak moment, I got a damn door lodged somewhere between my brain and my heart. One that I kept opening--and closing (see above). I step out a bit, but always come back. No. Not there. Not going there after all.

My generation has held an average of 11 jobs over their lifetimes so far, so I know I'm not alone.

People who know me know I’ve been looking for more than self-fulfilling work. I've been looking for that thing - that place, that opportunity to do what I'm supposed to do, to change the world for the better in some way.

It’s been kind of like a door to and from a cosmic roulette table swirling brightly colored careers and jobs and projects. I'd close the door and start blowing on the dice as the wheel of time and circumstance spun. It would stop. I'd get out to explore and each time it was a whole new world.

I've worked for large bureaucratic organizations and small autocratic businesses. I've worked for causes. I've worked for myself. I've managed projects, I've taught students, I've raised funds, I've raised (three great) kids.

Door opened, door closed, wheel spun. Again and again. I wrote stuff and edited stuff, organized and planned, designed and executed. I read a lot and dreamed a whole lot more. Back and forth through the door as I offered this skill and that to his problem or hers. Because that's what I did, searching for that thing I was supposed to do:

Oh, I'll help them because I'm good at ____ (fill in the blank with a subset of my skills) and they need my help.

But this is my point. Not the next but The Thing I need to do - finally - is all about helping people because I am wired to help people. But this time, I'm going to choose what--and how. So bring it on. Next!