Understanding of color

I find inspiration walking outside in nature. I don’t even have to be in some remote, exotic location; I could be in my own backyard or a city garden. I’m always finding interesting plants, animals or landscapes that catch my attention. If I find something really inspiring, I’ll take a quick photo. I try not to be too obsessive about picture taking, because I don’t want to distract from the ultimate experience of being in the moment. Being with nature is an opportunity to have all our senses engaged. What do you see? How do you feel? What are you smelling? How does the air around you feel?

Although I try to limit my photo taking, I do love the collection of images that I’m building. When I flip through them, its like being transported back in time; the memories, the senses, my emotions…I’m there, in that place, once again. Having this collection of images is also a great reference for art making.

Recently one of my blog subscribers, Cindy, wrote to tell me about a quilt teacher she once had. This wise instructor told her, “don’t worry about color; look to nature for combinations.” What a fabulous lesson Cindy learned! And it is so true!! My collection of nature photos work as a color reference too.

In my blog post last week, I questioned the purple and orange combinations in one of my felted bowls. Yes, of course it works! That combination occurs in many flowers, like the purple irises that grow in my backyard.

Flipping through my pictures, I find an amazing sunrise over a salt marsh with beautiful combination of neutrals. What a pretty quilt that would make with its rusty browns, greys, blues, a touch of green, and brilliant orange and yellows! Wowza!

Stunning 2-tone combinations can be found in the pink and green samaras (aka, helicopter or whirlybird seeds) of my Japanese maple. And, the chartreuse and brown of redwood trees could be the colors of wonderfully rich masculine/earthy quilt.

For creatives, mindful observation doesn’t just comfort our mind and soul when we’re in it. It can also open inspire us with new ideas and provide an intuitive understanding of color.

 

Permission to play

Throughout my life, I’ve explored new ideas. I remember as a kid making papier-mâché masks. My mom taught me how to sew and crochet when I was 10 years old. I messed around with paints and drawing. In high school I “minored” in art and had the most wonderful opportunities to study Chicago architecture and stained glass. Special bonus in my youth were field trips to the Art Institute of Chicago, Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, each captivating my creative eye.

Later in my life I became more focused in what I created. You may have even found me through my art; nature-inspired mixed-media textiles. Even though my art is focused, I still dabble in a lot of things. My love of wool is pretty strong. I love to knit and felting is addictive for me too. This week I took some time for creative play and made these felted bowls. (Do you ever take time for creative play?)

Sometimes I forget about the importance of creative play. I get focused on what needs to get done – NOW! I frequently push back on the idea of taking time for fun creativity. Sometimes I almost dread it, because I know I’m going to create a mess, which means I’m going to have to clean up too (more work- ugh!). However, I truly believe its an important activity to add to your life. The easiest way to proceed is to take a class … explore something new with the guidance of a knowledgeable instructor. I do this occasionally. (Pro tip: one of the perks is you won’t have as much clean-up afterward. YAY!)

Playing is a way of learning. And, if you let go of expectations, it can also be a mindful experience. Felting is one of those crafts that you almost have to let go of expectations. As I built the bowls, I chose fibers from my stash that I had no idea how they would react with the process. I also selected colors that I wasn’t confident would work together (e.g. purple and orange?).

My point is by playing without expectations we can be present in the experience. If it fails, so be it. If it works, bravo. But either scenario, we learn and likely improve our skills. Best of all we take time for ourselves and let go of the other junk that consumes our brain. I give you permission to play!

Observe

How do you look at the world? Do you rush through life in a fast-paced race to the “next thing?” Most of the time, I think we all do.

As a creative person, I frequently stop (or at least move slowly) and observe life around me. When you go for a walk, do you smell the air, feel the temperature, hear the wind, see the small details, and check in with your emotions?

I call this mindful observation and its what inspires me to create. Fortunately, I carry my cellphone with me almost everywhere. I love it’s easy to use camera and I’m always taking pictures of interesting finds. The photos are great references when I make a new art piece.

The little details are important. Maybe the sunset colors inspire a quilt. Or, the visit to the mountains inspire you to create a landscape painting. Or, maybe the smells combined with your emotions inspire a sweet poem or song.

Creative inspiration is everywhere. Stop and look close…do you observe?

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Do you see the tiny red floret in the center of the photo of the “Queen Anne’s lace” flower?  Legend says the plant was named after Queen Anne of England who was a lacemaker. She pricked her finger and a bit of blood landed on her lacework. The red floret represents the blood droplet of Queen Anne.

 

Live life to the fullest

My life has been on overload this month. I can’t complain about any of it, but with the past 18 months of not much going on, this month is making me feel tired. Good news is October starts on Friday and I’ll be able to look at September in the rear view mirror and an emptier calendar.

I recently watched a Ted Talk given by Jean Shinoda Bolen. Her discussion of Liminal Time has been heavy on my mind.

Liminal time is a transitional period between events. Bolen focuses on our current transition between pre- and post- covid times. This threshold period between the two life events is called liminal time. Its easiest to understand in architectural terms, as the hallway between two buildings (liminal space). As you walk through the passage way, you transition from one building to the other. Its almost like being in limbo as you walk the corridor. Maybe you even have time to gain strength to face what’s in the next room.

This all resonates with me because I am transitioning again. Pre- and Post- covid for sure, but also soon to hit another milestone birthday. The questions on whether I have I lived my life to the fullest are weighing on my mind. I’m re-evaluating and looking for what makes me happy. What do I enjoy doing vs what I am doing? Its healthy to do regular litmus tests on your life. Check in. Are you happy? What could you change? What needs to stay the same?

My bearded dragon thread-sketch reminds me of the journey of the dinosaurs. Did they realize they were becoming extinct? I doubt it. I bet they lived life to the fullest. And, that’s what I plan to do, too; live life to the fullest.

Have faith in your dreams

Last week I wrote about fear and how it may affect us when we make art. Fear is an emotion. It is there or it is not. With fear we can either accept the proverbial lion facing us or take action to change the outcome. That takes courage.

To find the strength to conquer our fears, we must want something bad enough. Courage takes passion. When you work on your art and you feel fear, its important to reflect on where the fear is coming from. Is it fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of succeeding, fear of change? Do you know?

When I face fear in my projects, I’m reminded of the children’s story, “The Little Engine that Could.” Do your remember? The little train engine pulled out all his courage and said, “I think I can!” — That’s faith.

Courage and faith go hand-in-hand. When I face my fears eye-to-eye, I think deeply. Do I have the passion? Do I want this bad enough? Am I willing to put in the time? Am I strong enough to stay focused to complete the project?  I gain courage by deciding to have faith that no matter what the outcome, I WILL BE OK!!

When facing your art challenges, you must believe you will be OK. Don’t worry about what any else thinks or says. Drum up the courage and have faith in your dreams.

Have to keep trying

Fear. Why do we have fear? By definition: fear is a response to perceived danger that leads to a confrontation or escape from the threat we’re facing. In other words, what is approaching us is either something we must fight or flee.

Ok…makes perfect sense. However, I’ve been wondering why the sense of fear arises when making art? I don’t know that everyone has experienced fear while they are working on an art project, but many of us do.

I’ve definitely had times where I felt overwhelming fearful anxiety while creating. My over-thinking shouts at me, “What if, the very next step (process) you do on this piece ruins it?” It’s not like its a life or death situation. Is fear really necessary here?

Well, I guess what’s really happening is the next step in the process is unknown. It could all go wrong. But that’s life, isn’t it? We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I’ve been thinking, I still have 2 choices; fight or flee. I can also chose to do nothing and see what happens.

If I’m facing an art challenge, the choice to do nothing means nothing happens to my artwork either. It will remain incomplete. If incompleteness is OK, the threat goes away to … or, maybe not. It may nag at me every time I look at it.

However, if I’m passionate about what I’m working on … that’s where I have to really make a choice. Am I ready to take a deep breath and get ready to battle the obstacles? This choice is about courage; aka the hero’s journey. I’m ready to fight for my vision. I know what it can be. I also know that if it defeats me and I’ve ruined what I was trying to make, that’s OK, because I tried. What I know is, if you want it bad it enough you have to keep trying.

 

Let’s bring on the challenge

Toadhouse (pottery) made by me. I tried it. I liked it, but I’ll leave this one to the pros.

I recently had some experiences that made me reflect on how artists compare themselves. We all frequently compare things. It’s an important tool when you go shopping for a new car. Even little kids are taught to compare things, like apples and oranges. It’s how they learn. We can easily list the qualities of something that make them different and a number of things that make them the same. But, all things are not the same.

I’ve thinking about all this, because I’m wondering about how we compare ourselves to other people. It’s not so much about the comparison itself. We definitely notice differences between ourselves and other people. It’s a natural human behavior. We look at what kind of car someone drives, how old they are, their body features, etc. And we compare how what we have is different. It’s normal, right?

What I’ve been thinking about is how sometimes we use the comparison as a personal self-judgement.
Am I good enough? Good enough compared to what?

Among artists, I see this comparison going on all the time. Over the years, I’ve witness a lot of self-defeating behaviors. I’m not perfect. In high-school, I remember talking to a friend about going to college. I told her, “I’d like to go to college for art, but I’m not good enough. I’m going to major in science instead.” WOW!! Yes, I started young with this self-defeatist thinking.

While I was finding my artistic voice, I definitely had my share of “I am not good enough” moments. I still have them, but with much less frequency. It’s not that I think I’m “awesome” now — I have a lot of things I want to learn about my art and there is a whole list of ways I want to do to improve on my skills. What’s different is my mindset.

It’s easy to look at someone else’s talents and admire their skills. But, before I start comparing myself and thinking “I could never do that” … STOP! … let’s take the comparison a few steps deeper. I ask myself, “how long have they been doing this?,” “What education/training do they have?” Most likely its more than I have.

Now, think about it. It’s very rare to find someone naturally born with talent. They call those prodigies. Most artists have worked to refine their skills. So I tell myself, if I put in the same amount of time I could potentially be as good as they are. OR… I could learn the same skills and run with them in a totally unique way that makes them completely unique to me! Wouldn’t that be awesome?!! OR… I can learn this new skill and decide I don’t like doing it.

Defeatist comparisons can be crushing to finding our own joy. I can personally tell you it is more empowering to compare the differences as a source of inspiration and motivation. Your mindset shifts. Instead of “I could never do that,” I consider standing tall and saying, “I would love to do that! Let’s bring on the challenge.”

 

Which one works best

It’s almost September. The days are rushing by and I wish the cool weather was already here. I also wish things would slow down a little too. My September is going to be a busy month. It feels good to have deadlines to keep me focused, but there’s less room for dawdling.

Our lives go that way, don’t they?  Sometimes we’re streaming through life at a rapid pace. Then there are the occasional pauses for quiet and contemplation. I try to keep a balance, but it’s been a crazy summer of attending to things outside my “work” life. Mental distractions.

Over the course of this year, I’ve been seeking down time to contemplate. What is my purpose?

It’s always a good thing to self-reflect. Are you feeding your soul?

I’ve had some recent “ah-ha” moments that were real revelations. And, soon afterward, affirmations appeared that confirmed I’m on the right track. There will be some changes as I take a few slight detours along my journey. We’ll see how this newest edition of my journey goes.

It’s ok to look at all the options. Think of it as picking thread for a stitching project. You have thousands of colors to choose. Which is the perfect option? Maybe you have to audition a few to see which one works best.

A different road

Imagine you’re driving down the road and you come across a barrier that keeps you from moving forward toward your destination. What would you do?

Life is full of road blocks where we suddenly have to change our plans. Sometimes these blocks are crushing to your character. That one “thing” we so looked forward to is cancelled. Sometimes these detours are like gut punches either sucking all the wind out of us or feel emotionally devastating us. [Hmm? I think we all can relate after this past year.]

So what do you do? The road is closed. You have to re-group and make decisions. Do you find a way around the obstacle? Turn around and go back the way you came? Or, just sit there waiting for the barrier to move? There are choices. You may not be able to change the situation, but you are in control of how you react.

Recently, I’ve felt a step (or 2) off my game. Summers in the south do that to me; even with air conditioning, the heat takes a lot of energy out of me. I’ve kept moving though. I kept showing up. I wasn’t at the pace that I’d like to travel and wasn’t on a road I originally planned. I tried to keep an open mind and I found new opportunities. I made gut decisions, just because I felt like it was the right thing to do. I put faith in myself and headed down paths that could be dead ends. Unexpectedly, I found new directions I never thought about. It’s been an interesting and rewarding few months.

Then, yesterday this lovely book arrived in the mail, “Creative Strength Training Member’s Exhibition”. Proudly standing guard on it’s pages is “The Messenger.” How is it possible that my work is published in a book produced by Jane Dunnewold? Because in January, I decided to sign up for her class. Then, when she opened up the call for entry, I submitted my work. My soul was telling me I needed a new direction. So instead of waiting for my life to change, I grabbed the wheel and I turned down a different road.

Find a new perspective

It’s clear to me that this new-normal is affecting many of us. I definitely feel a different level of anxiety. Things are clearly different than they were 2 years ago. It’s not just about my physical and mental health, there’s also external stressors like access to supplies. I can’t tell you how many things I normally use which have become difficult to find/purchase. Where I live, I frequently find empty shelves and it requires extra diligence to track down that thing I’m looking for. [Honestly, how many stores do I have to go to find my cat’s favorite food?]

Add to all this, the constantly changing procedures. As a teacher/artist, I regularly have to adapt to new policies. All the little things start to add up. Sometimes it’s easier to stay put, than venture out. For some (namely introverts), this might sound like a glorious opportunity to have more creative time alone.

Last week, I was battling this scenario. Do I cancel my trip and stay home or walk through the fire to travel. It took a lot of courage to convince myself that I must face the beast in my mind. I also had to make some modifications on what I was doing to allow myself some down time while I was away. It’s important to listen to what your body/mind needs.

I’m home now. While away, I put myself in situations that felt a bit out of my comfort zone. It’s been almost 2 years since I traveled out of state. I survived. In retrospect, being in a different environment was a healthy change for me.  I was able to come home with a new perspective and appreciation. I saw what I could have had and realize the fortunes I’ve created by taking chances along my life’s journey.

I realized that sometimes you have to step out of the box to see the jewels inside. When you get stuck, go somewhere else. It doesn’t have to be far. When you get there, stop. Listen. Be. Observe. Take mental notes. Sometimes that’s all we need to find a new perspective.