Category: Nature Inspired Art

Fulfilling rewards

This morning I was listening to Macy Gray on a podcast. She said she caught her ideas for her songs when God and angels threw them at her. This isn’t as novel or “out there” as it may seem.  In “Big Magic,” Elizabeth Gilbert says basically the same thing, as does Phil Cousineau in his book “Stoking the Creative Fires.” (note: both books are good reads)

I find the concept fascinating. They’re all basically saying that there are moments when a creative idea comes to you. You can grab it and run with it…or let it pass. Gilbert goes as far to say if you let it pass, the idea might get tossed to someone else. I’ve had moments of “Oh wow! What if I do this?” I find it fascinating.

Creativity isn’t just about making a work of art. Creative expression could be starting a new business or non-profit, deciding to take a trip, inviting friends to start a support group or book club, coming up with an idea to teach a class, or… well you get the idea. The challenge is acting on the inspiration.

I come up with a lot of ideas, but grabbing them and acting on them is a different story. Reading these 2 books and, today, listening to Ms. Gray, I realized you can’t act on everything. You can easily forget an idea if you’re busy with something else or don’t write it down. Maybe you need time to percolate the reality of this creative spark. Maybe it was just an idea that passed by you, but was meant for someone else. If the idea is meant for you, hopefully it will return when you’re ready and bless you with many fulfilling rewards.

 

Back at you

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a “beach person,” but I do love the beach. I don’t like the beaches that are crowded with people. I like walking the beach early in the morning or in cold months when no one else wants to be there. I had some time this past week to stroll barefoot in the sand and I kept running into great blue herons. This one stood still along the coast and pretended not to notice me. I was acting like a Frozen Charlotte and I knew he was watching me. Whenever I made the slightest move, his gaze would change or his body would move to reposition. It was a stand-off of mutual respect.

Had I been with other people, I know this encounter wouldn’t have happened. They likely wouldn’t have been so patient or quiet in waiting. Watching. It was magic. I watched how they interacted with people and tried to survive with the 2-legged trespassers. I watched how they adapted their feeding, as they attempted to steal the fish reeled in by the people fishing the surf. No longer the independent hunter, just a well-adapted opportunistic thief. I walked away emotionally changed.

I knew in just a few hours of my walk, things would be different for them. Instead of an occasional morning walker, they would deal with a steady stream of people passing up and down the coastal sand. They did what they could to survive. One stolen fish at a time.

This is were creative inspiration comes from; Stopping. Observing. Witnessing life around you. Take the time to slow down. The inspiration will probably be there looking right back at you.

 

 

Try and succeed

I’ve been reading “The Storyteller” by David Grohl (lead vocalist for Foo Fighters). If you followed the “grunge” scene of music, you might appreciate his story. Even if you don’t know about much about grunge, its a good read because it’s a story about David’s creative journey. If you’re reading this you are probably on your own creative journey.

As I’m working through the last few chapters, he’s spending a lot of time reflecting on the people he met along the way. He looks back in amazement that a young kid raised in Springfield, Virginia could be living the life he currently has. Many of his idols and inspiration growing up are now counted as friends. He’s humble about his journey and finds it difficult to believe that he stumbled his way to this success. He wasn’t discouraged because there was a challenge ahead. He frequently refers to his journey as “fake it until you make it.”


I know this sounds like a book review; not, something I usually do. But, I’m telling you this because I see something else in the chapters of his story. I see that he showed up!! He had self-doubt and lack of experience, but he looked at opportunities with courage and tried. That to me is the lesson.

How many times have you felt discouraged and gave up, maybe even before trying? Have you ever said, “I’m not good enough, so why bother?” I can remember a few times I did. I also remember a few times I thought it, then convinced myself to generate the courage and try anyway. It is easy to look back in hindsight at the opportunities where we said “yes.” I see that each one of my “say yes” moments placed me farther down the road. That’s especially true when the opportunity turned into a complete failure!! They taught me what worked and didn’t work, making it easier to move forward to the next challenge.

If we give up, we’ll never completely know what we missed. However, I’m confident that when we say “yes,” we will grow. Its scary to take chances, but if you really want something you should try. This is important step to making art. To learn, we must try and fail. If we accept that, then we’ll only be able to try and succeed.

Find our way

So tell me, what’s with that project in your closet? You know, the one that you started ages ago? The one that you want to finish but lost your mojo? Or is it the one that you forgot about and later discovered while you were looking for something else? You know the one I mean…YES! That one! Can you tell me why you haven’t finished it?

I think all creatives have them. And, I must confess, I have my own “healthy” stash of UFOs (UnFinished Objects). Knitting projects, pieced quilts, art quilts and countless fabric tidbits that were suppose to become something.

When I “find” mine in the closet, I think to myself, “I should really finish that.” Then, I proceed to move on to whatever I was initially doing. I occasionally grab them and say…”Now its your turn!” and happily get them completed.

I sometimes envy those that don’t have abandonment issues with their art. However, not so much lately, because I’ve discovered a different attitude to take … it isn’t time. I compare it to making bread, the idea or creative energy needs to rest before it can rise.

Our society is so full of productive hurry. Do more, be more, create more … Don’t stop, because you will fall behind!

Maybe art isn’t meant to be created like that. Sure, there are those who crank out new work like they have little mice helping them at night [e.g., Cinderella]. But, it’s tiring to keep up. What if the work needs rest too? If we’re stuck, the pause can bring new insight and inspiration. Giving the work a timeout might be all we need to get the courage and confidence to complete it. Or maybe, the intermission gives us time to learn new things and find our way.

Feeding the soul and growing inspiration

I’ve been video editing a new online course I’m creating. The progress is slow, because there’s only so much intense computer time that I can handle in one day. The creative time for my art is limited and I must admit, I’m stuck.

It would be nice to have a new textile piece in progress on my work table, but I don’t know what I want to do next. My brain wanders between ideas, but nothing is sticking around to say “Start THIS one!” I wonder if you’ve felt stuck, like this. I try not to be too hard on myself. You can’t force art, but you can feed the creative sprite.

Here are some things that I’m doing to encourage a new project idea:

  • Journaling and meditation:  This is a great way to clear the clutter and negativity from your brain.
  • Sketching: – Sometimes an idea arrives, but its not fully developed. Sketch it out anyway. Just a simple drawing is all you need to remember it later. I know, if I don’t sketch it, I will forget it.
  • View artwork: Visit art galleries to see other artist’s work. They might use a theme or technique that inspires a new design idea.
  • Read: Go to the book store or library and look through art books and magazines. Much like viewing art in a gallery, flipping through pages is eye candy. If you buy the books or magazines, you can even rip out, or flag, pages for future reference.
  • Observe nature and take pictures: Even if you don’t create nature-inspired art, the colors or patterns in nature can spark design potential.
  • Experiment: Take classes or just play with some techniques or tools.

I’ve been doing all these things the past 2 weeks. Spring is definitely a time to be outside and exploring. It is also a great time to renew and grow. While encouraging my own growth, I’ve decided I want to jazz up my backgrounds on my art quilts. I’m learning how to use gouache paints to see if there’s a new way I can paint my fabrics. I also plan to experiment with several different fabric collage ideas, one from an idea I saw in a magazine and another a friend showed me. Maybe the two idea will morph into something totally different.

So, right now I’m OK not producing…instead, I’m feeding the soul and growing inspiration.

Because you can

My heart has felt heavy. There’s not much you can do when things are out of your control. So you watch, hold your breath and keep your emotions close to your heart. The weight of the world. History. That’s why it feels heavy.

My grandmother arrived at Ellis Island in November 1920, fleeing her homeland in the midst of the Polish-Soviet War. The boundaries between Poland, Russian and Ukraine where in flux. You see, the Baltic Region is deeply rooted in my ancestry.

I think of Busia and the people of this region. They are my blood.
Is this why it feels so heavy? I don’t know.

I’m an artist here in the US, because of my grandmother. Her struggles are my history and afford me my life.

Its OK to feel all of this in our hearts and minds. To care and have empathy is a beautiful thing. But, be aware of how you’re feeling. Stand tall. When you worry, find outlets that comfort you. Seek opportunities to help those who are hurting. Make art, simply because you can.

To the top

I’m currently reading “The Reluctant Artist” by Karen Kinney. Its a fast read and offers a lot of insight into the creative journey. I highly recommend it. I’m lucky enough to be reading along with a small circle of creative women who work in a variety of mediums. This book seems to speak to all of us at some level.

In her book, Kinney writes about feeding our creativity by consistently showing up which, in turn, creates forward momentum in our creativity. One feeds the other. We always want to be moving forward in our journey, the consistency is what feeds our soul. The problem with this is staying the course. It isn’t easy. Kinney references Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art (another good, quick, read). In it Pressfield writes “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

So, if you’re a creative person, there’s this battle going on. You may realize your creativity is very important to you, but you also find that you’re facing resistance too. Maybe you’re finding excuses and making other things more important (e.g. laundry, cleaning the cupboards, etc.). Maybe you’re critical of yourself, your art or your motivation. Granted some  “excuses” are valid activities that need to be done, but do they have to be the priority all the time? Is there room in your life to make adjustments? Can you hush the inner self-criticism?  Are you willing to change some things to free up extra time and show up for your art practice? The more you show up, the more you’ll accomplish and the more you’ll want to want to show up.

I admit its challenging and I’m always seriously confronting my own resistance. But, I am also showing up. Does it matter if we show up for full day sessions of creative activity? No, small increments of time and attention are equally valuable to conjure momentum.

Think of it as climbing a hill; its steep and you’re tired. If we stop moving our feet, our movement stops. The longer the pause, the more time it will take to get to the top. BUT! we will still be traveling, just not as quickly if we forced our way up. It is the consistency of stepping one foot, then the other, that will get us to the top.

What you make others see

Recently someone asked me “What does it mean to you when someone says ‘artist’?” I thought I knew, but then as I thought some more I questioned my ingrained beliefs. My first thought was a creative person, but is that really what I thought? I have always been a creative person, but there definitely was a time that I truly wished I was an artist!

I think society leads us to believe that a true artist is much grander than just someone who creates. I’ve definitely remember carrying the imposter syndrome with me when I’ve attended some art shows. I’ve have felt a level of snobbery when someone looked at my art work, turned up their nose and walked away. I have even experienced rejection from art guilds which outwardly excluded certain media (e.g., photography or textiles) from their exhibits.

I guess this is why I’m so proud of Bisa Butler and her textile portraits. This past year her colorful fabric portraits hung in 3 gallery rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work proudly displayed near artwork of the world’s masters, Matisse, Rembrandt, Picasso, Kahlo, etc. Bravo for breaking (many) barriers!

So is it the media or the perceived skill level? Some might argue that Jackson Pollock didn’t use skill making his paint splattered canvases. But, Pollock is a highly regarded “artist.” So perceived skill is not what it takes to make someone an artist.

Another issue is that many people think the word “artist” means painter or visual artist. When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m an artist. Do you know that a good majority of the time their response is “What do you paint?” Hmmm? What limits their view? Why aren’t they including musicians, potters, photographers, authors, cooks, etc?

Awhile back, I wrote about the limitation of classifying an artist based only if they sold work or not. Using “professional artist” as the definition is another argument that has little value in defining the word.

Its a lot to think about, but my lesson is that we must embrace and encourage a wider view of the word. As a dear friend said, there’s a spectrum to all of this. We have big name artists who we recognize as masters and a range of artists that are lesser known. There’s also the artist that no one ever thinks of or knows; the one who creates amazing art and never shows it to anyone.

I guess there never will be an agreeable definition, but I say embrace them all because:

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”   (Edgar Degas)

Roller coaster of life.

Why do we create? I believe it is because we have to. There is an intrinsic drive calling to us. Some don’t feel it as strongly as others. I’m of the latter population; I can’t remember when I didn’t have the calling.

So you create something, then what do you do with it? Years ago, after making so many things and gifting them away, I decided I had saturated my pool of recipients. In order to have another outlet, I decided to make a business from my art and sell my work. Its been a journey of twists and turns with feelings of great motivation and other times great disappointments. This is the path I signed up for.

Art has a way of connecting with people, so I also like to get it seen. Last month I had the honor to send “The Messenger” on a road trip to La Connor, Washington. I was excited packing it up and, after paying a goodly amount on shipping, I sent it on a truck ride across country. The box was suppose to arrive one day before the deadline, … however, it didn’t.

This is the ups and downs of being an artist. While the box was in transit you can’t tell where it is. I kept pulling up the tracking number and … waiting. A couple days after the delivery deadline, I decided to inquire with the shipper. Thankfully, I received a quick response back that the box was safely sitting at the distribution center –  20 minute drive from the museum! They were short staffed and had to wait to send the shipment on to its final destination. What a relief that it was safe, but would it get there in time for hanging?

I can say prior to calling, my worst fears were running through my head. I envisioned the box and quilt destroyed. Or maybe lost or stolen. My anxiety was high. I notified the museum and … we waited.

The thing is we have to have faith that everything will be OK. When my brain moved to worried thinking, I had to pull myself back from the edge by calmly thinking “be patient, it will be ok!”

You can see from the photos that it did make it on time. Deep breath. The lesson learned is hang tight, everything will be alright, this is just another roller coaster of life.


See “The Messenger” at the
5th Annual Birds of a Fiber Exhibit at
Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum
Jan 26 – Feb 27, 2022
La Conner, Washington

Process of learning

Part of what I have to do to create my artwork is to take photos of birds. I have some drawing skills but not enough to feel confident about drawing freehand. My college education is in wildlife biology. So, I personally like what I do to be as accurate as possible in representing the species I’m featuring. This is why I rely on a camera so much.

The screech owl piece I finished last week was generated using this photo as a starting point. I took the photo during a public event for an animal rehabilitation facility. These events are great ways to raise awareness and money for the organizations. But, they are also great opportunities to get photographs of animals you may never see in the wild. You don’t even have to be that great of photographer or need a fancy camera. This photo was taken using my cell phone.

Judges/jurors of art shows don’t take to kindly to artists submitting work where a photo by someone else was used to inspire the art (yes, even if the photographer gave permission). It falls within the messy business of copyright law. Copyrights are a tricky thing. This is why I’ve decided to source my own reference photos.

Its just another layer to the art I create. I have to practice/improve my photo skills and seek out opportunities to capture the images. It is all part of the process of learning.