The Zen of Doodling

Exploring “Creation Meditation”

Start with a shape, a circle perhaps?  Or maybe begin with a line, straight, zigzag, or a series of turns, twists and loop de loops?  Add onto what you started with maybe a pattern…Circle, line, circle, line, dots.  Punctuate with a triangle- just for fun.  Take those lines for a walk and see where they take you, putting off any specific destination in mind.   Work with in a small area like 2”x 2.”A calendar block, the back of a business card, or a post-it note is perfect.  A small space provides comfort lest you prefer journeying in a vast wilderness of white space. 

Work in pen so you won’t be tempted to erase.  Fill in some shapes if desired. Put letters, numbers, keyboard symbols, and words in your tool box.  Keep working until you feel an end point.  Then leave it.  Come back later and look at it with fresh eyes.  Often you will be charmed by a doodle that you didn’t like initially.

The rules are simple- no erasing, no judgment, no starting over. Let your hand go where it wants to go.  This is merely a creative exploration to see what comes up.  As you progress with this practice, maybe add recognizable objects.  I seem to be fond of birds, teapots and tea cups. Sometime my random shapes become objects without intention.  Odd cars and animals have been known to appear and I delight in building on to them.

 If you are a writer you can doodle with words and letters.  Start with one word and through a stream of consciousness; add more words that might relate.  Feel free to put them upside down, sideways, smaller, bigger, thick or thinner than the original word.

This exercise functions in some ways like Julie Cameron’s morning pages.  Allow your pen to express what it needs to express. Doodling has freed me to examine myself, my fears and my willingness to explore.  It allows me to have a little fun without worrying about outcome.

I started this practice because I no longer had time to do my visual art daily due to all my writing and home improvement projects I had undertaken.  Inspired by the book, If You can Doodle, You Can Paint, by Diane Culhane; I knew I had the time to do at least a daily doodle!  My day planner had an unused square.  First thing in the morning after I planned my day, I started doodling in that square before I got out of bed.

After several months of this, I have fallen in love with these quirky expressions to the point doodling has become a favorite art form.  As with any practice it has evolved.  I have developed more of a style with reoccurring themes.  Some of these have wound up as part of larger art pieces, and some I am going to expand into pieces in their own right.  Some have inspired stories, but the vast majority remains “creation meditations.”  This detachment from outcome can lead me to places I never would have gone.  As a result, I am less inhibited in my creative process. My doodles have gone wild inhabiting my journal, notes, or wherever there is a fallow piece of white space.

I doodled all through high school and university courses to help keep me focused.  Remembering this, when I taught a middle school, I allowed students my doodle during lectures when they did not have to take notes.  For many people like me, lines provide an anchor.  Now much later in life, I have again allowed myself the pleasure. 

Try it!  Buy yourself some special pens.  I am especially fond of the fine line pens from Jet Pens if you don’t have a local art supply store you can visit. 

Happy doodling!

PS- see more doodles on my new instagram feed @almostdailydoodle. I’m also blogging at One Sweet Earth.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing and the Creative Life

This is a repost from 2017.  I have been traveling and have not had the time to create fresh content.  This essay of Gilbert’s is timeless no matter if you are a writer, artist, or musician.  I reread it from time to time just to give myself a reality check!

elizabeth-gilbert2I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert.  She became instantly famous with her novel, Eat, Pray, Love but many readers don’t realize that she was a writer way before that and has published other noteworthy books.  She writes a lot about creativity.  If you haven’t read her book “Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear” it’s a great read on the subject.  Also, she has a riveting TED Talk that is well worth a watch.

A friend forwarded this essay of hers on writing.  I enjoyed this so much and thought I’d share.  You could substitute the words creative, artist, or musician for the word writer and it would still apply.

Thoughts on Writing

(https://www.elizabethgilbert.com/thoughts-on-writing/)

Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It’s all I know.

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

Continue reading “Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing and the Creative Life”

Art Meets Fashion in Juneau, Alaska

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2020 Photo Juneau Daily Empire

I just returned from a week’s visit to Juneau, Alaska. Juneau was one of my residences as a young person as I explored the far North in the late 1970s and early 80s.  Besides visiting friends and seeking better snow for XC skiing than Oregon had to offer, on this itinerary was attending the 20th annual Juneau Wearable Arts Show.  This was my second time for this event after about a 10-year hiatus. The show is put on by the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and all proceeds go to their organization.

This is an extravaganza where a majority of the attendees dress to the nines to enjoy the show in a hall equally dressed up.  There is dazzling lighting, a long curving runway, and img_3380several large monitors placed where you could be sure to have a good view.  The professional emcees also wildly decked out.  This year they had a local drag queen star and a well known local actor running the show.

Juneau is a relatively small town remotely tucked away in the seclusion of Southeastern Alaska’s majestic landscape with the only access being by boat or air.  Still, residents value the arts and know how to come together for a really good time.  The entries are from local artists who strive to use recycled and/or unique materials to assemble the garments to match the year’s theme.

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2017 entrant that was removed- SAD! Photo by Juneau Daily Empire

 

This year’s theme was Joie de Vivre (French for “Joy of Life”).  Unfortunately, the show was smaller than in years past.  Artists have boycotted after an entrant in the 2017 event was accused by a local citizen of cultural appropriation for her geisha themed garment (really???) She was then pulled from the next performance. Still, aside from the politics, I enjoyed the night with all the flair and people watching. I appreciated the fact many of these artists take the better part of a year to fashion their pieces.

Continue reading “Art Meets Fashion in Juneau, Alaska”

Dealing with Your Inner Critic

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If you are any type of creative person you probably have a cheerleader on one shoulder and your inner critic on the other.  My muse is my cheerleader, that voice that feeds me sparky ideas and inspiration.  My muse is the positive force in my life.  My inner critic, in contrast, argues with my muse.  She likes to shout words of discouragement and fear in my ear to the point I quiver with self-doubt.  Unfortunately, she’s an annoying fact of my life.

I have come up with strategies to deal with this bitchy pest that tries to drown out the voice of my sweet muse.  One of them was to give her a name and draw a picture of what she looks like….

Helga, my IC, is an ample pickle-shaped-figure with spiny whiskers protruding all over her grotesque, gelatinous body.  She has a high whiney voice resembling the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.  The only facial expression she has is a grimacing frown of disapproval.

Daphne, my muse is a sprite of a being that emits light from her colorful body.  She dances with joy and speaks to me in cheerful songs of encouragement. Her voice is softer than Helga’s and can be easily drowned out.

I’ve become more adept at isolating those two voices by putting an identity to each.  When Helga gets too annoying I visualize swiping her off my shoulder with a THWACK and then dropkicking her out the door. (So satisfying).

Inner critics tend to love periods of creative inactivity.  The best way to keep the beast off your shoulder is to diligently keep up your work on a daily basis in some form. Even 15 minutes a day of seat time can make a huge difference can add up to a full article in a matter of days, a chapter, a painting. Set a timer and go.

You can read about the creative process and motivation all you want but the only way to have to leave your squawking inner critic behind is to build momentum. The bike won’t go unless you start peddling. The muse loves to feel the wind in her hair.

Best of luck.

MUSE

Come out & play with me

you my best of friends

I am happiest when we hold hands

& dance our secret dance.

Whisper in my ear

& fill my head until it is overflowing

with sparks & flowers

of inspiration.

Let’s bring forth from the cauldron of the ethos

a new incarnation of matter & thought

an offering of our magic

to the altar of the earth.

The Art of Learning Art Online

IMG_3245As a creative soul, it’s important to me to keep a fresh flow of ideas and perspectives entering my psyche so I can continue to grow.  Taking classes is a wonderful way to do so.  In recent years I’ve turned to more to online classes.  Though I appreciate the human component in an actual class, in an online class I don’t have to commute and carve out a substantial chunk of my day to attend one session.  I also have access to the video content so I can watch the lesson over and over again.  In terms of engaging with other students, there has always been a dedicated Facebook page to post and comment on other students’ work.

As I am a non-traditional artist not wedded to just painting and drawing I find there is more of an eclectic selection of classes offered online.  In the past, I have taken Make Monotypes” (Gelli Printing) with Linda Germaine, “A Year of Painting” with Alena Hennessy, & currently, “Words & Pictures” produced by Carla Sondheim and friends.  All these classes have been top-notch and reasonably priced.  I made the mistake with “A Year of Painting” of not researching the artist’s style thoroughly. Though it was well taught ultimately the content was not for me.IMG-3253

If you are interested in taking an art class online, just Google online art classes in your specific media and then do some online research on the reviews as well as the artist’s work.  Instagram is a good one for that.  Also, consider MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) which are FREE.

I am having loads of fun at the moment with “Words and Pictures.”  This class is currently getting me out of my comfort zone to explore lots of great ideas.  A friend of mine signed up for the class as well which makes it even better. The current lessons are being taught by the infamous Martha Rich.  We are quick sketching life around us and the conversations we hear (including internally).  I have my first ones with this post.

Never taken an art class before?  Go online.  There is nobody to be self -conscious around but yourself!

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The Art of Creative Problem Solving

Somewhere overr the rainbowThere are times you will find yourself mired in a quandary. Sometimes the solution becomes clear in a relatively short amount of time and in others it takes a while to get clarity.  Making art is a great metaphor for life in this regard.

I’ve had two art pieces that were finished – but not.  Some things were missing and I did not know what.  So I let them sit for weeks revisiting them from time to time.  I had to let the questions percolate within me for months and be patient.  Recently, I finished both pieces.  All that mulling worked out in the long run.

Somewhere over the Rainbow draft
First draft- can’t find the second!

 

The collage (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) piece pictured was mounted on a cradled (dimensional) board.  Over the weeks I added more marks and contrast but it still wasn’t enough.  I finally came to the realization that it needed a more definite frame around it. Thus I purchased a bigger cradled board, flipped it around, painted it a deep plum, and then mounted the collage board within it.  Voila- closure!

Sprit mask draftThe ceramic mask was the same way as I tried bits of this and that over weeks.  In the end, I replaced the headdress of wheat with two lovely feathers, mounted a piece of an old earring on the forehead, and then glued brass nails around the neck area.  That last step made the formerly boring piece really shine.

In both cases, it took me about three months to get resolution.  The muse can be slow.  Rushing won’t work. I do this same process with my writing.  Put it away and let it stew for a while.  There is nothing like having fresh eyes when looking upon a problem.

Solutions will come. Sometimes you just have to slow down and be patient!Sprit mask final

The Art of Garlic

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Susanville Garlic

“Stop and smell the garlic.  That’s all you have to do” William Shattner”

Lately, while others have been inside baking Christmas cookies these chilly Oregon Days, I have been outside planting garlic for the next year.  Some of my friends know me as the “Garlic Queen,” for having developed an obsession for tasty, huge, and beautiful garlic. It’s become an art form for me.  Yes, self-expression in growing garlic!

Being a garlic lover, I became very frustrated with the quality of garlic available in the grocery store.  It turns out IMG-3085that most of the garlic in the USA comes from China! Surprising since garlic is a fairly easy crop to grow that most of it is imported. Thus some years back I began my education in garlic and garlic cultivation.

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Photo by Erin Patterson

Originally from the middle east, 700 species of garlic are now grown around the world.

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Musica garlic

There are two main types, hardneck & softneck . The hardneck garlic has a hard woody stem and puts out a flowering scape (that is used for also used for culinary purposes).  They have fewer cloves than softnecks but are all fairly uniformly large in size. I find they have a longer shelf life than softneck which contradicts other sources. Softneck or “artichoke” style garlic have lots more cloves that get smaller towards the middle.  These are the garlics that can be braided. Each variety of garlic all has their unique flavors and storage life.

I grow Susanville (softneck)  for their “wow” factor. They often can get quite large and have a pretty purple tinge to them.  They make great gifts. For the hardnecks I grow “Musica” for the huge cloves, stronger taste. They also keep a month or so longer.

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The Jacob & Churro sheep of Bide A Wee Farm (photo courtesy Bide A Wee Farm)

I have to give credit to the folks who raise Jacob and Churro sheep up the road at Bide A Wee Farm which I affectionately call “Poo Corner.” The composted manure from these furry darlings makes for great garlic as well as anything I grow in the garden.  I also invested years ago in decent garlic seed from Hood River Garlic. I save the best heads from the img_3077years’ crop for the next. The bigger the clove planted equals the biggest bulb for the next year.  Also worthwhile was purchasing the book Growing Great Garlic:The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers by Ron Engeland which is the bible of garlic growing.

The cloves are all tucked away now in their winter bed with a generous covering of straw mulch They will appear again come summer with the turn of the shovel as delightful bulbs- Christmas in July!

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Of Tide Pools, Art, & Math Scores

IMG_0602I am captivated by tide pools.  They are little worlds unto themselves full of creatures and plants of all sorts that seem to thrive at the restless edge of the ocean. Some organisms are attached like anemones, barnacles, rock fucus and, mussels. Some move slowly like starfish, urchins, and chitons, Then there are the quick and nimble tiny crabs and fish.  Always there is a palette of color full of glowing greens, oranges, and reds.

Recently I gave myself the challenge to capture the wonder of tide pools in my art process.

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Unfortunately, all my prints like the one pictured on the right either wound up in the recycling or in my collage box to be cut up for later use.  Rather than doing more of the same, I knew I had to come up with a different creative solution.  Instead of interpreting a tide pool in a literal sense I decided to capture the essence of one as I felt viscerally- that is in terms of color shape, texture, and feeling.

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final piece

 

This piece on the left as pictured is what I came up with using that other creative solution.  I collaged bits of my failed prints into this finished piece giving them a bit of reverence.  Without those “mistakes” I would not have been ultimately successful.  Overall I am very pleased with this print- it conveys what I feel.

So what does all of this have to do with math scores?  After I finished this piece was finished a blurb came up on the radio about Oregon’s math scores being among the lowest in the nation.  I stopped what I was doing, listened and pondered that information. Memories of teaching 6th-grade math for 2 years came flooding back and all its frustrations.  A majority of my students entered my classroom without a clear grasp of basic math facts yet they were pushed onto higher-level math prematurely.  Because of that many struggled, especially with fractions and division with the designer, scientifically based curriculum we were given to teach. (Not one of my 6th-grade students knew how to measure correctly with a ruler at first yet most could operate a smartphone).  Yet the powers above pushed harder with more rigor and more color-4503279_1920testing.

So back to art.  There is an amazing amount of problem-solving and creative thinking that occurs in the artistic process.  In my baby boomer education, I started using a ruler in first grade for art projects (think required margins) on up through the higher grades We played the recorder and learned music.  In secondary school, there was required cooking, sewing and shop classes.  All of these required applied math in terms of measurement and understanding of rhythm in music. We understood fractions.  In today’s educational environment the arts have been cut in favor of the core subjects, especially math.

My “out of the tide pool” solution to low math scores? Look for a less literal solution. Put the arts back in education on a daily basis and give students something to apply their math too. Oh…and let them have a little fun.  Children need creative outlets!  And to that old adage I heard so many times, “You can’t make a living as an artist” I say right back, “Most can’t make a living as a mathematician either!”  Maybe have students visit tide pools too.  Who knows what that kind of experience might inspire?

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courtesy Pixabay

The Anatomy of an Open Studio Tour

img_3017Every October the Art Harvest Studio Tour provides an opportunity for local artists to open up their studios for the public to get an intimate look at their work and process. Thirty or so juried artists about Yamhill County, Oregon participate. Studios are open for the first two three day weekends in October. Some artists are clustered in the local towns and others, like me, are peppered about the wine country in quaint settings. Art Harvest is in its 27th year.  To visit studios there is an $8.00 fee for a button which acts as a wearable ticket to gain entry to the studios

For some Art Harvest is a purely recreational experience, making a fun day with friends, buying a few small items and going out for a nice lunch in between.  Others are serious art buyers looking for unique pieces to purchase directly from the artist. Some drive as far as 200 miles away to make a weekend of it or fly from across the country to visit relatives during tour time.

For artists, it’s a chance to have a more interactive experience with people while avoiding the commissions and control that galleries levy.  Often being on the studio tour can lead to other sales and contacts.  I made sure I had items such as magnets and notecards of my prints that were only $5.00 for “takeaways” and for gifts.  Most of my things were in the $20 to $50 range on up to a sculpture for $380.

Spring Migration

I was on the tour 20 years ago and then had a hiatus for a teaching career and raising my son.  Now in retirement, I thought I would give it one more shot. It’s a huge undertaking and expensive for the artist.  The entry fee is $300 which pays for the glossy catalogs, advertising, buttons and a part-time coordinator. Artists must also volunteer on one of the many committees to make the tour function.  On top of that, I had expenses of at least $200 for art supplies and display materials.  That means I had to earn $500 before I would start to make any type of profit (For anyone wondering why art can be expensive, this is why!) Here is a timeline of the tour experience for the artist…

March– Submit application, images, and fees

April– juried in. Continue to amass a volume of work in ceramics and mixed media monoprints.

Summer– attend committee meetings.  I served on the education committee to facilitate school children visiting participating studios.  Make more art!

StandingMaskAugust– drop off two pieces of work to be in the Chehalem Cultural Center show running for the months of September and October.  (Many stop by this exhibit first to decide which studios to visit). Be filmed by a local cable access show Wild Geese mary oliver tributecalled Arts Alive.  (See video here.  My spot starts about 15 minutes in)

September– distribute signs and programs to local businesses and organizations.  Get work framed.  Clean out the studio with a dear friend who offered to help me.  Drape tables, add lighting, hang wall pieces and arrange ceramics on the tables. It’s a huge undertaking to get a studio from a workspace to a display area!

October– Price all work. Place bright yellow At Harvest signs along the routes leading to my studio. Oct. 4-6 AM and Oct 11-13 open my studio from 10 am to 5 PM.

Black Sheep 3Fridays were very slow so I had time to finish up items not yet completed. Saturday & Sunday could get quite busy.  I tried to spend as much time with people as I could to visit and answer questions.  In between weekends I made a new herd of ceramic sheep as the first one was almost sold out. The following week was spent in recovery mode.  I’m not used to that much talking and being “on” since I taught middle school!

Overall, the studio tour was a great success.  Beyond making a respectable profit, it was so sweet to get such validation of my work.  I had numerous visitors make a beeline for my studio after seeing my pieces at the Cultural Center show or seeing my page in the program.  My new work is quite eclectic and unusual.  Working alone as most artists do, I

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Tea Time 2

have to work hard at times to keep my insecurities at bay so having such positive feedback was food for my soul.  Thematically I range from whimsical to spiritual depending on what needs to manifest.  It’s not for all but there were a fair number of people that resonated with it and gave me positive feedback.   It was a great time to  make new friends and connect with old ones

I let a few favorite pieces go during the sale.  Thes beautiful pieces were kept in storage as I had no place to put them in my house.  I was surprised at the twinges I felt as some of these were purchased and left the studio with happy customers.  But art should be seen and enjoyed, not hidden away so they needed a new home.  I was especially pleased when they were adopted by friends.

If you have not participated in a local open studio tour, try it!  Lookup for them online in your area or afar.  It will take you on a mind-opening adventure with not much expense.

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Beyond the Studio Door

“Failure is success in process”- Albert Einstein

Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”  ― Salvador Dali

img_2951So you walk into an art gallery or an art festival and there is the fruit of the artist in all of its magical glory, looking like it was created effortlessly.  What you don’t see is the plethora of mistakes and sometimes heartaches that go into making art.  It’s a part of the process.  If you aren’t willing to fail, you are not going to learn.  This is especially true in the medium of ceramics.  There’s no way you can work with mud and transform it into permanent objects without running into some challenges.  There are so many variables to contend with in the making- construction, drying, firing, glazing, and firing again at a temperature around 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.

img_2950This week before my open studio on the Art Harvest Studio Tour of Yamhill County I img_2960opened my kiln to find my share of disappointments.  The beautiful grape leaf plate on the upper left (traced from one of my grapevines leaves) has a crack down from the notch of the leaf shape.  It’s still lovely but not saleable.  I’ll use it though.  No one will notice under a pile of carrot sticks.  Those three lovely bowls with incised grape leaves rubbed with iron oxide all cracked.  This was a img_2961puzzle.  Maybe they got jostled when I removed them from the press mold?  These will become part of a mosaic on my future walkway. Then there was the barn owl sculpture with hairline cracks in two places – maybe from cooling too quickly in the pit fire?  I love this piece though and I am not sad to keep it.

The failed prints I have cut up and am using in other img_2962incarnations such as “quote blocks,” little sculptural pieces with collages.

Thankfully, there will be plenty of other lovely things to look at my studio sale-  but the invisible mistakes will be just as much a part of it for me.

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Beautiful Failures

They are the cracked

The not quite right

Products of my hands

And soul

Victims of experimentation

Poor judgment

Or forces beyond my understanding

 

Sometimes their enduring beauty breaks my heart

Their fatal flaw rendering them undesirable to others

Then sometimes their glaring shortcomings

Are so embarrassing

They are destroyed or reincarnated

Taking on a new form that will touch my soul

Or someone elses

 

The buyer will never know

That my work is built on beautiful failures

Marveling at my wonderful talent

Wishing they could have it too

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