Friday, February 27, 2009

Secret #8 - empowering alliances

Wow - how can it be Friday already?
The next chapter in my 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Bookgroup is how to select empowering partnerships and alliances.
Collaboration is an interesting way to get energized as an artist, and my last two entries were posts showing work done by an amazing artist with whom I share two journals that travel across the country.
Alliances are often this - a singular project that inspires and moves me forward - I do lots of mail art and artist trading cards, and this builds that sense of community and connection that being alone in the studio doesn't always provide.
I also read and read and read some more - creative authors and story tellers help me feel that I am on the right path - diarists and novelists have so much to say about the creative process.
Of course, like lots of us, I spend time (too much) on line looking at other people's work. This can be a bit sabotaging, also, and can make me feel like I am not original or creative enough. But a bit of on-line connection (like this book group!) is really uplifting and encouraging.

and in my friends, I am very choosy, and can only spend time with those who get me. If someone has no clue what I am about, I find it too tiring to train them. Quirky people seem to need quirky friends, so this tends to be my tribe.

One big key I wish I had known way earlier in my life -- when someone is supportive and positive about your work - HOLD ON TO THEM. I can't recall all the relationships I have let go due to me moving, or starting a new phase, of people who did really care. I wish I had them all in a circle so I could thank them.

An artist partnership is a very creativity building thing, and those of us to have them are lucky! I once had an awesome group with 3 other women and we painted together on large canvases - we ended up having a show in NY (see it here) an d that was a wonderful thing. We ended up growing apart and going our own ways artistically, but I will always be uplifted by the memory of the energy and connection we had while working together.

"No my friends, darkness is not everywhere – for here and there I find a few faces illuminated from within. Paper lanterns swaying among the dark trees." --Carole Ann Borges

Thursday, February 26, 2009

more journal collaboration

So I had to show you one more page from my charming talented friend Laurel, with whom I work on an art journal collaboration.
Two little journals get to fly back and forth across the country, and when we are done, one will live here on the East Coast with me and the other will live there on the West Coast with Lovely Laurel . . . .
I am jealous of all the travel these little books get to do -- would that I could be packaged and mailed around the world so easily as bits of paper.

See more of Laurel's work here:
and you can also read her BLOG

"I’d been reading McEwan that morning on the late John Updike in The New York Review of Books. He quotes Updike describing the facts of life as 'unbearably heavy, weighted as they are with our personal death. Writing, in making the world light — in codifying, distorting, prettifying, verbalizing it — approaches blasphemy.'
But what beautiful, what necessary, blasphemy!"

--Roger Cohen in the New York Times

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

art journal collaboration

I share a journal with a lovely artist, blogger, and gallery owner in Pacific Grove, CA, Laurel Gaylord; and today I am showing you some of her pages in our joint journal.
I love having this art dialog with another soulful person, and it uplifts me every time I get it in the mail. Makes getting the mail a joy instead of a chore.
See more of her work here:
and you can also read her BLOG

"Let's you and I conjure together. You watch me and I'll watch you and I will show you how to show me how to show you how to do our marvelous human tricks together." --Courtney Milne

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the only question is . . . .

What makes you feel most alive?
What makes you feel most yourself?
Is there really any other choice?

"If it doesn't sit right I'm not really saying it.
Getting it to sit right is another thing – complicated, time-consuming, wasteful. It comes around to what is contained in 'sitting right.'
This is what the picture is about." --Richard Diebenkorn

Friday, February 20, 2009

Secret 7 - Consulting with Guides

Has it been a whole week since I posted? Too much other stuff has gotten in the way.
But I can say that I have been consulting with my guides!
This part is very personal for me, and I know my practice is not for everyone, but here goes:
My spiritual path has been a quite circuitous one of exploration of lots of different ideas: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, and Unitarian Universalism.
I have always wanted (and needed) a spiritual support group, and I have been lucky enough here in Princeton to be a member of a very supportive and active congregation in the Unitarian Church. I lead a creative journaling group there, and participate in art shows, have workshops, women's groups, etc.
But my main support, coaching, wisdom, connection to the mystery that is this life has been my private path of Shamanism.
On my website there is a long explanation, so I won't go into it here, but I have to say that the spiritual guidance I get through this practise is why I can make my art and stay sane.
I know connection with Nature Spirits through repetitive drumming is not everyone's way of being in the mystery, but it sure has been mine.
In fact, my art now is done in support of my Shamanic practice, and not the other way around.
Good movies, novels, poems, other inspiring artists also speak to me, but the real information and support comes from this practice of consulting my Spirit Teachers and asking them direct questions, and YES - getting answers.
Human support is also essential and an integral part of connection, and I have some great friends and family who stick by me.
But the true inner voice of the Shamanic teachers I work with are the reason I am here, doing this art.
Read more here if you care to:

"Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of the truth." --Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Secret 6 - Conquering Saboteurs

Here we are on the sixth chapter of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, how to overcome those naysayers who create confusion, self-doubt, negativity.
Guess what - mostly that is ourselves!
The one section at the end that speaks of Cultural Self-Defense was so relevant to me. I just don't get told very often that I am being brave, original, or successful because I go to a studio and try to make self-expressive art every day.
Truthfully, I need to get another part time job to generate some income, but that is okay, too - it's all part of the package to support the creativity.
I know many creative workers need to make their money another way - that is not selling out, it is simply building the structure that allows the creative voice to survive.
I have always connected deeply to artists and storytellers who just had their voice no matter what the world said to them, and often, after they are long gone, the world hears what they were saying and accepts it's value; I think of Georgia O'Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Carr, and many many unknown names who just kept at it.

The advice to just be deeply rooted in who you are - this is key for me. I actually avoid lots of connection and interaction with the world - it doesn't help me at all to know myself or to do my creative work.
The journaling is all about that, and it helps me the most. . . .
and of course, this on line book group!

"To follow without halt, one aim; there is the secret of success. And success? What is it? I do not find it in the applause of the theater. It lies rather in the satisfaction of accomplishment." --Anna Pavlova

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

a youtube video of some of the latest journal pages

because sometimes it's nice to see how the book actually looks -- I flip through the pages really fast so you won't get bored - you can pause if you want to examine a page closer:

Keeping at It

In the studio this morning, I realized how important ritual is for me.
I get up in the morning and pretty much just grab my stuff and get myself here. I do best if I just make my body go, then think later.
I have breakfast here in the studio, I make coffee here, I do e-mails and all that here. I long ago learned if I didn't, it would be three hours out of the morning, and that the morning is my most productive time. (I am writing this in the morning!)
And even the things like the car drive to clear my mind, hanging the coat, turning on all the lights and computers, setting up my space. . . . the ritual of doing this gets me jump started.
I also light a candle, stretch, do a little yoga. . . . all of this gets my creative brain turned on - my brain has learned that this means it is time to create.
Ritual really helps me keep at it.
It is hard work, to face a blank book, a blank page, a blank screen, a blank canvas every day and keep at it, not knowing if the result will even be pleasing.
In fact, to be experimental and to find one's own personal voice in creative work means the exploration might mean lots and lots of failures.
But the failures aren't failures, they are steps toward success.
Thomas Edison said "I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work."

So this work involves belief in the process. Belief that it is worth spending time creating something new, even if it doesn't create income or fame or prestige, that it still is worth doing.

Now to face those blank pages. . . .

"The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one often comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won't."
--Henry Ward Beecher

Monday, February 9, 2009

Keeping the Big Picture

Finally - some warm sunlight.
and yes, some mud comes along with the melting snow -- ask my puppy who played at the dog park yesterday and came home covered in mud!
but I am working on keeping the big picture - seeing the context of things.
In this economy where everyone is freaking out about the "meltdown" I see it rather as things finally adjusting to where they should be -- less consumerism, less focus on things and more on the larger truth that all life is connected . . . .
I try to be relentlessly positive here, but I have to admit for me, this is real work. I can get very engrossed in fear and uncertainty - in our family, we have serious economic adjustments we are making right now (my husband has a job interview today, and I have one next Monday). We have three kids, two who still need to be put through college, so I know money is something we need to be aware of.
But I refuse to give up my vision of abundance or the calling that I am to do this work of creativity even if it is not making any money. . . .
I am hoping the job I am interviewing for will be part time, I am not sure yet, and if it is full time I will face a big decision about this studio.
But for now - Spring.
New Life.
Sun and fresh air and warm weather.

and life is good.
Even with these daily struggles, as long as we keep the big picture.

Tibetan Buddhist teacher Trungpa Rinpoche used to include a simple drawing in his talks. On a large white sheet of paper, he would draw a little tiny “v.” Then he would ask students to tell him what the “v” was.
A hand would quickly shoot up, “It’s a bird.”
More hands would go up, each person echoing—it’s a bird.
He would finally look at his audience and say, “No. It’s a picture of the sky with a bird flying through it.”

Thursday, February 5, 2009

WWFD - What Would Frida Do?

Secret 5 - Committing to Self-Focus
from the 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women:
This chapter is a doozy, isn't it?
How in the world do we commit to self focus when there are children, husbands, parents, friends, work colleagues, all who want our listening ear, our helping hand, our sympathy and TIME?
It is a constant, constant thing with me to work at keeping my boundaries - my three kids are still at home (ages 13, 19 and 23) and my husband works long long hours. So of course, I have lots of caretaking to do.
But I, very slowly and with much much struggle, have been learning to do what I need to do - I have a studio separate from my house, I do very very little housework or cooking (sadly - because I love a clean house and a beautiful home-cooked meal, but I love nurturing my own artistic voice more).
I have people who need me, and I do what I have to do to help them, but I have to be very very careful to not make that circle larger than I can handle.
and I take myself to the studio and do the work.
I don't get money for it.
I don't get a lot of praise for it.
My family doesn't always even understand why I am in the studio.
but I am doing what I feel called to do.
and let's not even start with the pressure to earn money . . . .
It's taken me a long long time to get here, but I am so glad I am here.
and it still is work every day to make sure I stay here - there is so much guilt about not doing more for my family, friends, all the others in my life. . . .
and I have just come off of a two weeks of solitude retreat - I managed it by doing a dog sitting favor for my brother - and it was awesome.
So I know there are creative ways to get what we need - I am learning to have clear intention with my goals, and not let the many many demands on my time eat away at those intentions.
I loved that bio pic about Frida Kahlo - she did her art. Through illness and relationship tragedy, she just did her art. Her body failed, but she did her art.
I use her example to quiet that nagging voice that asks "What the hell are you doing messing around with collage and paint? There is REAL work out there to be done."
To that voice I say:
so I dedicate this journal page to Frida:

"I am the co-creator. I am my own authority." --Gretchen Little

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

back home

Two weeks away did wonders.
I am back in my studio, and although I have books to get into the mail, e-mails and letters to answer, errands and errands and more errands, I still have the centered peaceful feeling I built up with those two weeks of art time.
Sometimes we just need to retreat from the world for a bit to be able to enter it again with openness, patience, gratitude.
Not having something is a wonderful way to really be grateful for it.
Loving husband, three wonderful kids, cute cuddly dog, yes, chaotic house, but full of activity and love and growth and learning.
I am happy for my life.
I hope you are, too.

"Caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within.
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is."